Pilates vs Yoga: Their differences and 5 easy ways to tell them apart

Pilates or yoga, yoga or Pilates – what are the differences, really? Stumbled upon article and article and only to get even more confused?

Avenue One may just have the definitive guide – here are five key differences between yoga and Pilates, and hopefully these can help you figure out which will be more suited for your needs.

1. Pilates vs. yoga: Which is better for weight loss?


Let’s get the big elephant in the room out of the way: weight loss. Something that (most) people want to, first and foremost, achieve when they are starting a new fitness routine.

Pilates: A 50-minute beginner workout is expected to burn around 175 calories; an advanced class, an estimated 255 calories.

Yoga: A 50-minute beginner workout like a hatha class is expected to burn around 145 calories; an advanced power class, an estimated 250 calories.

Conclusion: If we were to do a direct comparison here, Pilates wins by a very small margin. But is the difference significant? Not really.

Livestrong estimates a minimum of 500 calories should be burned per day in a week in order to lose 1kg per week. In other words, it means that the weight loss benefits for both Pilates and yoga are… well, not very significant, if at all.

What is the main takeaway from this? If you’re looking to burn calories, perhaps jogging, which burns an estimated 550 calories per 50-minute workout might be a better alternative.

That being said, it doesn’t mean that celebrities with awesome bods are necessarily lying about the weight loss benefits, it just manifests in the form of increased body awareness from the workouts, and putting better, more well-balanced diets.

The age-old advice of: the less calories you consume, the more weight you lose; the healthier you eat, the better you feel. Voila.

The (very) condensed summary of weight loss in Pilates vs. yoga:

Pilates: It helps to build and tone core muscles such as the back, thighs, midsection and the hips. This means, better body alignment and posture, which thus creates the impression of a leaner, more defined body, and an increased metabolism due to the strengthening of the spinal muscles.

Yoga: It helps improve mental-physical connect of the body and mind in addition to reduced stress and hence, a better understanding of their body’s signals of satiation and prevents overeating, which is how weight loss comes about.

Here, the weight loss comes from an awareness of your physicality which might encourage you to eat less.

For those wanting to achieve #bodygoals like a flat stomach, toned abs and a leaner body, this is for you.

2. For overall strength: Is Pilates or yoga better?pilatesyoga5

While both Pilates and yoga complement cardio-exercise by training muscular strength and balance, as well as acting as a preventive measure to counter muscle injuries, they differ in their approach.

Pilates: Pilates only trains the core muscles such as those along the spine, calves, abdominal and back muscles, with breathing techniques aimed at maintaining abdominal contraction and keep the core engaged and hence, a better posture and stronger core.

Yoga: To put it simply, yoga trains all muscles – be it smaller muscle groups like finger, toe muscles or hamstrings and internal muscles like the skeletal, cardiovascular muscles and internal organs. This promotes better circulation and thus, improved respiration, energy and vitality through yogic breathwork, coined as “belly breathing”.

Conclusion: While both complement cardio-activities perfectly well, perhaps yoga would be better if you are interested in increasing your overall well-being and in having a more balanced body exercise, or if you do activities which require large amounts of stamina, such as marathons or triathlons.

3. Should you choose Pilates or yoga if you’re interested in working out to manage stress?pilatesyoga


Pilates: Pilates focuses on one’s physicality, purposefully putting one’s muscles in strenuous, awkward positions in order to strengthen them, ensure better muscular control and flexibility, with little to do with spirituality or one’s mental space. Of course, the endorphins that are produced during the workout can help release tensions, especially if you’re someone who is perked up when you sweat it out.

Yoga: In Yoga, there is more focus on the mind-body connect  – meditation is an important aspect of yoga in which it is based on Eastern philosophy of being more mentally present and balanced.

Conclusion: As with all physical activities, both can help relieve tensions and stress. However, if you’re really looking to reduce stress and feel more relaxed, yoga has a stronger focus on these aspects and is said to be therapeutic for people who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), insomnia, anxiety, etc.

4. What are the different branches of Pilates and yoga?pilatesyoga2

Another defining feature that differentiates Pilates and yoga is that yoga has multiple interpretations and forms, in contrast to Pilates, which only has one form, which is aimed at strengthening muscle resistance.


Pilates: It uses only two forms of exercise – mat-based Pilates and equipment-based Pilates, both of which are focused on strengthening muscle resistance. It also doesn’t make use of ambience, preferring to keep distractions to a minimum.

Yoga: There are many different branches of yoga, from those that are fast-paced such as Vinyasa yoga, which synchronise breathing, music and movement in a dance-like way.

It also has branches that are more relaxed and slow-paced like the Restorative yoga, which makes use of a variety of props like blankets, bolsters, yoga blocks with relaxing music, aimed at people who have trouble “slowing down” such as people who struggle with insomnia or anxiety.

Conclusion: if you’re more interested in something more vibrant and less structured, or something calming and meditative to take you away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, yoga is the one for you. However, if you’re looking for something more structured and orderly with little interest in the spiritual aspect, then Pilates is for you.

5. What types of equipment are used in Pilates and yoga?


As we very briefly mentioned earlier about the two different forms of Pilates – the mat-based one and the equipment-based one, the equipment used for both yoga and Pilates – while similar looking, are deceptively different.

If you thought you could do yoga and Pilates on a yoga mat interchangeably to save a little cash, that is sadly, a misconception that is often made.

Pilates: As mentioned, Pilates require back support (due to it strengthening the spinal core muscles) and thus, require a thicker mat, around ½ inch thick. Other equipment such as gym balls are also used in Pilates in addition to the mats.

Yoga: Yoga typically only uses the yoga mat with no other equipment, unlike Pilates. Yoga mats also tend to be thinner (around ¼ – ⅛ inch thick) so that balancing and standing in different poses (due to gravity) is easier. Pilates often involve activities which require having one’s back on the floor, and thus, more cushion support which the thin yoga mat just isn’t able to provide.

I’m interested, what now?

For beginners: We recommend taking up Hatha yoga, which is great for beginners as it is relatively slow-paced but also corrects form and body posture while also focusing on mental relaxation, sort of a basic 101 into yoga.

For those who don’t like to commit but are interested in trying out yoga, we recommend going for trial lessons, such as Nikam Guruji Yoga Kutir who provides free (yes, you heard that right!) basic yoga lessons over a 12-week period at various places across the island. Check it out here.

Unfortunately, for those who want to test the waters of Pilates, hoping to also score an entire basic score, no such luck. However, places like Platinum Yoga and FitnessFirst are providing one trial lesson for basic Pilates course, which is good enough, if you just want to have a feel for it.

For advanced learners (or those who want to get ahead), we recommend aerial yoga. That means you’ll be exercising in mid-air (sort of). How cool is that? We’ve already previously curated a list of aerial yoga studios in Singapore, so go check it out.

Or maybe you might be interested in having your kids get involved in the wonderful benefits of yoga, check out these previously curated places in our yoga studios for kids.

Of course, there is no need to necessarily pick between the two. If you’re still undecided, why not try out both Pilates and yoga for yourself to see which you prefer?