Yoga and Pilates are often confused, but in actuality, they are two different exercise techniques and each offers different benefits.

If you’re looking to start an exercise class or tone up without a sweaty and high impact spin or kickboxing class, yoga and pilates are excellent options. Though both emphasize stretching and balance, the classes and the benefits are different. Here’s a guide to figuring out which is best for you — not that you have to choose. The two can complement each other and both can be a healthy part of your regular exercise regimen.

Yoga

What is it: Yoga is an ancient discipline with more than 100 different types or schools. Most classes include meditation, breathing exercises and assuming and holding postures (sometimes called asana or poses) that stretch and flex various muscle groups, according to the American Osteopathic Association. Some have a spiritual component, including chanting, often at the beginning or end of class.

What are its benefits:

Yoga has many proven benefits, including:

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Any downsides?

The spiritual component of yoga can be a turn off for some, as can its slower pace. That said, there are so many different types of classes, it’s likely you can find one that works for you with little or no spiritual component and as fast or slow as you would like.

Pilates

What is it: The exercise technique was created by Joseph Pilates, who admits to being influenced by yoga and aspired to include yoga’s unification of mind, body and spirit in his new discipline, says The Chopra Center. Pilates can be done on a mat, which often requires props, including blocks and a Pilates ring, or Pilates machines.

What are its benefits?

Pilates has many benefits including:

  • Strengthening your core
  • Longer and leaner muscle development
  • Improving flexibility
  • Exercising your body evenly and completely
  • Being beneficial for injury recovery

“I love doing Pilates!” says Jennifer Rose Boozer, DO, clinical assistant professor of family medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

“It is a great way to both stretch and strengthen the body without the high impact of some other types of exercise,” expresses Dr. Boozer, who is also a family medicine physician at Keck Medicine of USCGlendale and Pasadena. “I have had many patients with conditions such as fibromyalgia or degenerative disc disease show amazing improvement after beginning Pilates.”

Any downsides?

Pilates classes, especially those on the reformer, can be expensive. While more advanced students may be able to do a mat class at home, beginners should take classes at a studio until they learn and understand how to do the subtle movements that are signature to Pilates.

By Anne Fritz

If you are in the Los Angeles area and are looking for exceptional care from some of the top physicians in the world, be sure to schedule an appointment by calling (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or by visiting keckmedicine.org/request-an-appointment.