We’re spoilt for choice when it comes to exercise options and only have so much time. Barnet-based yoga teacher and pilates practitioner Anthea Sweet explains the different benefits of the two and recommends some local classes.
They do seem quite similar, but to compare pilates and yoga, pilates is generally perceived to be more for fitness and strength. Yoga, however, is better for mobility and flexibility with the spiritual aspect giving it a broader lifestyle element. Yoga also has more emphasis on body awareness and breathing, although there is a great deal of crossover and they complement each other.
Both are growing in popularity, as people realise that fitness is not all about jogging, and that the mind and body work together. Current research reveals the importance of strength training, particularly as we age, and how it helps maintain good function and boosts immunity.
There are many different forms of yoga, from the faster more athletic examples (eg Ashtanga, Vinyasa) to the slower and deeper (Hatha, Yin/Restorative), so there’s plenty of choice. You can often find specialist classes eg pregnancy/post-natal, over 50s, and those with mobility challenges and specific health issues. Doctors are increasingly recommending yoga for general mobility, rehabilitation (especially for back injury) and for stress and anxiety. There’s also a big trend for hot yoga (ie yoga in rooms heated to around 30 degrees).
Pilates is a system of exercises developed in the early 20th century by Joseph Pilates with two main forms: mat-work and machine work (including the fashionable Reformer Pilates).
According to Chris Richardson, co-founder of Zero Gravity (with branches in Potters Bar and Mill Hill) “Our Pilates Reformers are pioneering and state of the art. The classes we offer are dynamic, innovative and offer many more exercise options than traditional mat work. The classes are small, so you get as much attention as a personal training session. Expect to sculpt and tone the body; iron out any aches and pains; increase flexibility and improve posture in all of our 55 minute classes.”
For yoga they usually last 60 to 90 minutes and 45 to 60 minutes for pilates. Some pilates instructors insist on one to one sessions before joining a class. Yoga is often available on termly bookings as well as drop-in, and pilates is generally termly for matwork. Pilates studios usually operate an online booking system with discounts for class “passes”.
Pilates has given me structural stability, essential for anyone with a physical job, and has been instrumental in rehab from a back injury. Yoga has helped me to manage stress and deal with challenges in my life.
Nearest yoga studios: Yogabalance in North Finchley, Twisted Yoga in Moxon Street, Barnet and Yogavani in Potters Bar – the latter two offer hot yoga. Triyoga in Camden offers a particularly comprehensive range of classes.
For private classes a good place to start is the British Wheel of Yoga website (UK governing body for yoga) and search by postcode.
Daytime weekday classes in yoga are harder to find than evening classes: a new one is just starting now for a 6-week block at You Can Yoga.
Reformer studios: Zero Gravity in Potters Bar and Mill Hill.
Anthea Sweet runs the popular Bodysense yoga sessions and also does therapeutic massage. (She’s too modest to mention her own classes but I will. They are highly recommended, but get booked up quickly.)
Images courtesy of Zero Gravity Pilates (main pic) and The Resident (Tri Yoga, above).