Yoga and Pilates are two terms that you’ve most likely heard about. You probably associate them with incredible flexibility, man buns, green smoothies, and hippies. But these two practices have much more to offer and are suitable for just about everyone. We take a look at what exactly yoga and Pilates are, and how they could help you.
What is yoga?
Yoga is an ancient practice that originated thousands of years ago in India. It focuses on physical as well as mental and spiritual elements. There are many different branches and types of yoga, each with a slightly different focus. Perhaps the most common form in the west is hatha yoga, which centres on postures, breathing, relaxation, and meditation.
Part of the beauty of yoga is that anyone can practice it. Regardless of your age or physical abilities, there is always a way for you to get involved. Best of all, there is a host of physical and mental benefits that you can gain from practising yoga, as we’ll see further down.
What is Pilates?
The roots of Pilates are rather more modern than those of yoga. The practice was first conceived in the early 20th century by a German anatomist. Again, the focus is on connection with and control of the body. The initial goal was to help athletes and dancers return to fitness, yet it has been adapted for people of all abilities.
The aim of Pilates isn’t to work your muscles to exhaustion – it’s not the sweat and strain of other forms of exercise. Instead, you’ll need deep concentration to perform a series of low-repetition exercises. Much of these are focused on developing core strength, but there are a number of benefits of Pilates.
How yoga and Pilates can help you
So, now you know a little about these two awesome practices. However, you may be wondering how they could benefit you. Well, strap in, because we’re about to give you some science.
Practising yoga and/or Pilates could:
- Improve your academic performance. A couple of recent studies have shown that students who practised yoga had decreased stress levels and higher academic performance.
- Increase your strength, balance, flexibility, and improve posture. Both activities can help with your core strength and other areas, no matter what level of ability you’re at.
- Decrease stress, anxiety, and depression. Studies have shown that regular yoga can help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety and help manage stress.
- Increase mindfulness and wellbeing. One study demonstrated that those practising Pilates increased mindfulness and had more belief in their abilities, lower stress, and better mood.
Admittedly that’s a lot of science, and we could go on, but you get the gist. Pilates and yoga can have many positive impacts on your physical and mental health. The best part is that just about anyone can experience the benefits of these practices.
How to get started
The best way to get into either yoga or Pilates (or both) is to give them a go. Obviously, that’s easier said than done, so we’ve assembled some tips and resources to help you on your way:
- Know what you need. At the beginner level, you’ll usually only need a mat and some comfortable clothes. As you advance, you may need more equipment to get the most from your routines.
- Follow a beginner exercise routine. You can find tons of these online for both practices. This Pilates website outlines everything you need to do and how to do it. For yoga, you can find free video workouts (you just need to sign up with your email). You can practice both at home. There are also many YouTube channels that can help.
- Find a class. Both of these activities are incredibly popular, so you’ll be able to find beginner classes with relative ease. A simple search for ‘Pilates/yoga class near me’ should yield plenty of results. Do your research, find one you think is suitable, and get in touch with the instructor.
- Consistency is key. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that you’ll be amazingly flexible, elegant, and balanced when you first start these. Don’t be discouraged though – it’s all about regular exercise and gradual improvements.
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