Yoga and Pilates are two terms that you’ve probably already heard of. You may think they're not for you, but they can have benefits to both your physical and mental health, and can be done from the comfort of your own home. 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 wellbeing. There are many different 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.
What's great about yoga is that anyone can practice it. It doesn't matter how old you are, or your level of physical ability, there's always a way for you to get involved. Best of all, there's loads of physical and mental benefits that you can get from practising yoga, as we’ll see further down.
What is Pilates?
The roots of Pilates are more modern than those of yoga. It was started in the early 20th century by a German anatomist and, like yoga, the focus is on connection with, and control of, the body. The initial goal was to help athletes and dancers return to fitness after injury, but now it's 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 exercises. Much of these are focused on developing your core strength, which has a number of benefits, as we'll see.
How yoga and Pilates can help you
So, now you know a little more about these practices. However, you may still be wondering how they could benefit you. Well, strap in, because we’re about to give you some science.
Practising yoga and/or Pilates can:
- 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 your 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 suggested that those practising Pilates had increased mindfulness and more belief in their abilities, lower stress, and better mood.
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 these benefits.
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 put together some tips and resources to help you on your way:
- Know what you need. At the beginner level, you’ll only need a mat and some comfortable clothes.
- Follow a beginner exercise routine. You can find loads of beginner yoga and Pilates videos on YouTube that you can do in your own home. Once you've got to grips with the basics, you can find more advanced classes.
- Consistency is key. It’s unlikely that you’ll be amazingly flexible, elegant, and balanced when you first start out. Don’t be discouraged though – both practices are all about regular exercise and gradual improvements.