Pilates vs Yoga: What Classes Should You Offer?

Pilates and yoga– they’re often referred to as a pair, but while related they’re certainly not the same. As a studio owner, it can be tricky to know exactly what classes to offer. The two forms of exercise are both so popular now that your studio won’t stand out unless you create class offerings with intention to reach a specific market. 

So, to stand out in the saturated studio exercise market, what should you offer? Pilates or yoga? 

Your answer can be found by identifying the needs and goals of your ideal customer and matching them with classes that fulfill those goals. To know whether your answer falls into the category of either pilates or yoga requires a knowledge of the similarities and differences of the two activities.

Let’s first discuss similarities... 


Similarities Between Pilates and Yoga

Both pilates and yoga help with alignment, balance, flexibility, and core strength. Both activities can be performed on a mat. Neither activity is highly aerobic– meaning there’s a low cardio intensity and low calorie expenditure with both. Even hot yoga, which physically forces a higher rate of calorie burn, is relatively low in calorie-burning as compared to other sports. 

Here are some other similarities:

  • Both are intended to cultivate greater awareness and connection between the mind and body

  • Both encourage presence in the moment and mindful movement

  • Both focus on incremental progress rather than achieving an end goal

  • Both improve circulation and oxygen levels in the body

Now let’s get into the differences and how they can determine what you’ll offer.


Pilates is a workout method created by Joseph Pilates in the mid-1900s that involves movement through slow, methodical strength exercises paired with breath control. Pilates has many of the same goals in mind as yoga but the major difference between the two is that, in addition to mat work, Pilates can involve exercise machines. 

The workout focuses heavily on core strength and stability, and it tends to be faster paced than yoga. There’s also less of a focus on mindfulness. 

Here are some other characteristics that distinguish Pilates from yoga:

  • Pilates focuses on first building abdominal strength, then secondarily focuses on symmetrical musculature and flexibility

  • Every movement in Pilates originates from your core and extends through the limbs

  • In Pilates, the precision of movement is the biggest concern and breath control comes second

  • Breathing patterns in Pilates are generally slow and controlled from your diaphragm

  • Most exercises in Pilates are performed lying down with the intention to defy gravity and engage core so you can lengthen your muscles

Pilates makes for a great workout for dancers especially, but is great for any person– athlete or otherwise –who wants to strengthen their core and lengthen their muscles. 


Yoga originated 5,000 years ago in India and has evolved and morphed over the years as it made its way west. The ultimate goal in yoga is to unite the mind, body, and spirit as not just an exercise, but a therapeutic activity. Yoga is more meditative than Pilates and is meant to promote relaxation and flexibility. Like Pilates, yoga can be conducted on a mat but there are sometimes props used such as blocks, straps, or pillows. 

In yoga, the weight of the body is often used as a resistance for the exercise and the movements are more slow, mindful transitions in between poses. Most yoga classes involve flowing through a series of poses that focus on improving balance, flexibility, and mindful breathing. 

Here are some other characteristics that distinguish yoga from Pilates:

  • Yoga is concerned with breathing first and deepening a pose second

  • The primary goal in yoga is to stay connected to the breath and in proper alignment

  • Breathing is either ujjayi– deep, smooth and heat-inducing breath –or kapalabhati– rapid breathing that generates greater internal heat 

  • In yoga, there are a combination of standing poses, seated poses, and poses lying down

  • Some yoga poses involve inversions (upside down)

So knowing the differences between the two workouts, how do you know which to offer?

Nick DennisComment