Pilates vs. Yoga: What’s the Difference and Why Are They Effective for Cross-Training?

July 11, 2019

Pilates and yoga are low-impact exercise practices that are commonly utilized for their stretching, toning and strengthening benefits and as part of a cross-training workout program. Pilates and yoga are practiced at a slower pace than weightlifting or other high-intensity strength workouts. Whether you’re a runner, a weightlifter or an avid cycler, Pilates or yoga can help improve your performance and allow you to take a break from your normal fast-paced activity.

While these two forms of exercise have many similar characteristics, their differences may influence which workout you choose to implement into your cross-training schedule.


Pilates traditionally focuses on small movements that require stabilization of the back, core, buttocks and hips. Pilates can be done on a mat or on specialized equipment, such as a reformer. A reformer utilizes a pulley and spring system to provide a more challenging strength workout than a Pilates mat class offers. Though there are numerous benefits to a Pilates workout, some most commonly seen include:

  • Increased muscle strength and endurance
  • Improved flexibility and posture
  • Better balance
  • Improved joint mobility
  • Protection against muscle injuries

Most runners understand that a strong, balanced body helps you maintain proper form as you start to experience fatigue. Pilates helps you loosen your hips, back and legs to create a more fluid stride. With a regular Pilates routine, your body will be able to run, or even weight train, with better alignment, greater range of motion and improved focus.


Mindfulness and deep breathing are two key components in a yoga practice. There are many different types of yoga, including hot yoga, meditative yoga, restorative yoga and basic or beginner flow yoga classes. Although there are a wide range of classes to choose from, holding various poses and flowing through different movements is standard to most yoga classes. While Pilates focuses on engaging, toning and strengthening your body’s muscles, yoga primarily focuses on improving the flexibility of broad muscle groups. It’s often seen as a form of mind-body exercise that slows down your breathing and re-centers your mind.

 Yoga may:

  • Increase your flexibility
  • Improve your energy
  • Help you regulate your breathing
  • Increase muscle strength and tone
  • Produce positive thinking and meditation

Breathing patterns are essential to performing yoga movements correctly, and such practice easily translates into running, weight lifting or any other high-intensity workout. Yoga teaches you to fill your lungs more fully, engage your diaphragm more consciously and use your breathing to assist each movement your body makes.

Cross-Training Appeal

Many athletes and frequent exercisers choose to implement both Pilates and yoga in their weekly cross-training programs. So, don’t feel like you have to choose just one. With a greater understanding of the differences and benefits of each practice, you might feel ready to implement one or both into your normal workout routine.

Talk to your doctor before you make any final decisions. If you’re looking for more guidance to determine which practice would be best for you, schedule an appointment at Campbell Clinic today.


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