By Lexy Stauffer
If you’ve been exposed to yoga only once in your life, you know that it’s really one of the best favors you can do for your body. It helps improve flexibility, breathing, posture, anxiety relief, and a lot more—but you already knew all that. What you may not know, though, is that the two are pretty excellent complements. First, let’s get a clearer idea of what Pilates is all about.
Pilates is a full body workout that focuses on the core (abdominals and back) muscles. For the sake of comparing Pilates and yoga we will just focus on mat Pilates, even though a large component of Pilates also includes equipment.
Mat Pilates leaves you with simply the resistance and support of your own body weight, strength, and flexibility. In Pilates, we aim to mobilize the spine in all directions using our core muscles first, and allow the surrounding muscles to either support or challenge those motions.
What does this have to do with yoga? More than you might think! Since Pilates is all about engaging the core, it enhances your ability to go into any yoga pose more safely and effectively. Consider pigeon pose. It’s easy to just “hang out” on your hip and thigh muscles and to just feel the stretch; but without engaging the core, you’re just putting unnecessary weight on those joints and ligaments, risking injury.
When you are able to engage your core and pelvic floor muscles, the weight is lifted off of the joints and resistance is transferred to the muscles that should be engaging in order to stretch those quadriceps, open those hips, and keep your chest rotating forward all at the same time. You are, therefore, reaping greater benefits from the pose and reducing chances of injury.
A more engaged core can help you stand a little taller in tree pose, have consistently strong chaturanga poses, and stabilize your half moon pose, to name only a few. A lot of yoga is about flexibility, but flexibility is nothing without stability and mobility, which is where the two practices intersect.
To be a strong yogi you do not have to do Pilates, of course. However, those students who do practice Pilates regularly will have a quicker, easier, safer, and more pleasant time progressing in their yoga practice, simply because they have been taught through Pilates how to properly engage the core muscles in every type of situation—from getting into a very first downward dog to being able to hold forearm stand for five minutes.
The stronger you are from the center, the stronger you will feel everywhere else and, incidentally, the more pain-free your life will be.
Joseph H. Pilates, the founder of Pilates, said it best: “I must be right. Never an aspirin. Never injured a day in my life. The whole country, the whole world, should be doing my exercises. They’d be happier.” (In 1965, age 86.)
We at Venture Yoga are excited to introduce a new instructor, although, if you’ve ever been to our studio, chances are you probably already know who she is. Victoria Chamberlin, one of the friendly faces behind our desk, will be teaching Mat Pilates every Saturday morning.
Victoria is certified with Pilates Academy International through Pilates on Fifth NYC, a studio that’s recognized as one of the best in New York City. She is excited to share with you what she believes is a really great workout, and a true complement to a regular yoga practice. So, yogis—we’re talking to you!
Victoria’s class is every Saturday, and Peggy Lyons also offers a class on Thursday mornings. See you on the mat!