Recently I have take up Pilates. And you may know that I am qualified Dru yoga teacher. So, why am I practicing Pilates? Am I no longer practicing yoga? What's up with all this? A couple of you have been asking the questions, so I am here to give you my views on the differences between yoga and Pilates. Hopefully this can help you make a decision as to which one to try if you haven't tried either, and maybe inspire you to try something new.
I would like to note that I have only been practicing Pilates for a few months, I am by no means an expert. If you are a Pilates instructor and have more to add to what I am saying, please feel free to let me know what I may not understand about Pilates.
I trained for 3 years to become a Dru yoga teacher. It is a very comprehensive course that covers many aspects of wellbeing - yoga means union. It is a science that works on unifying the mind, body and spirit. Dru yoga is a very gentle and flowing form of yoga. It is not the type of yoga where we contort ourselves into pretzels. It is totally accessible to everyone, no matter your age, size or physical capabilities. Here is a video of my graduation to give you a sense of what it feels like to practice Dru yoga.
Dru yoga was a saviour in my life when I was in a really bad place. I was a lonely, stay at home mum in a new country with many wounds to heal. It helped me to release layers and layers of trauma and taught me to open my heart, be kind to myself and to dream big again. In short, it transformed my spirit and my mind. It also taught me about my body and how to honour it deeply.
Pilates, however, is transforming my body. I am finding that Pilates is a very physical practice. Thanks to the healing I have done, I feel strong enough to practice it. The years and years of Dru yoga have prepared me for the benefits I am gaining from Pilates. I understand the different layers of our being and how that translates into the physical body. This is giving me a much deeper experience in Pilates, other than just a workout.
Here are four things to consider when deciding whether to choose a Dru yoga or a Pilates class:
Dru yoga has taught me that a flexible spine leads to a flexible mind. All the practices we do in Dru yoga originate from the spine. If the spine is supple, the intervertebral discs are hydrated and this allows energy to flow efficiently through the nervous system. This leads to a long and healthy life. The movements we do are always soft and flowing to support the spine and the body.
I have found that Pilates has very similar moves to Dru yoga, like the cat, the bridge and the tiger (called four point kneeling in Pilates). They have the same principles as Dru yoga, which are to bring flexibility and suppleness into the spine.
The difference in Dru yoga is that we also work on the energy that moves through the spine, we also use visualisations and affirmations for health and healing. Pilates only focuses on the physical aspect. Both modalities bring health and suppleness to the spine and Pilates indirectly creates healing on an emotional and mental level, but that healing is more direct in Dru yoga.
I came to Pilates, because I wanted to strengthen my core as I learned how important it is from my yoga training. I did some introductory classes online and found that the way core strength is taught is very similar with both modalities. In Dru yoga, students are taught how to engage the deep abdominal muscles to bring stability to the whole system. My understanding is that Pilates is teaching the same.
However, I have found that Dru yoga only takes core strengthening to a certain level, where Pilates works much deeper. Pilates is a much more physical practice, so it makes sense that the core work goes deeper. I am noticing that my abdominal muscles are becoming more pronounced. In Dru yoga, I felt them becoming internally stronger, and in Pilates, I feel them becoming internally and externally stronger.
Dru yoga is extremely safe. As teachers, we modify everything we can to make our students safe and comfortable. I have not seen injuries in Dru yoga, the way I have seen in other types of yoga. Dru yoga taught me to really really listen to my body. It taught me that pain is not a good thing and that the body knows how to slowly release and strengthen and it does not need to push itself in order to do that. It taught me to love and accept my body exactly as it is and never to force it to do anything it is not ready for.
When I started practicing Pilates, I noticed that the instructors are very knowledgeable of the body and know how to align the body to keep it safe. Because of my training, I am very aware of keeping my body in alignment and keeping it safe. However, I do not hear instructors telling students to listen to their bodies, although they do always give modifications and give students adjustments where necessary.
I believe that Pilates taught in a small studio space can be very safe for students if they have the right level of attention. However, I am not sure how safe it can be in a large setting where instructors are not able to support students and notice where they may potentially injure themselves. If people do not understand the limits of their bodies, there is a very real chance that they can injure themselves.
Dru yoga is a mind, body and spirit experience. When you leave a class, you feel like you have been on a delicious river boat cruise, complete with deep friendships, a delicious meal and fireworks at the end. Your mind feels calm, your body feels relaxed and your heart is open. You feel like you can navigate your life and you feel a sense of unconditional love in your whole being.
Pilates is more like you have been on an exhilarating jet ski. It is quick and really challenging. You wave at friends along the way, but you don't really connect with them. You have to really focus on your body to stay put on the jet ski. Sometimes you wonder if you will fall off and you have to dig really deep to make it. It ends as abruptly as it starts. You leave feeling really proud of yourself, sometimes a little bit sore, but with a surprising amount of energy that makes you feel really alive.
So, the question is whether you want a long river boat cruise or a fun ride on the jet ski. They are both amazing, you get to decide which one you feel like. I love both.
I would say though, that if your nervous system is weak, Dru yoga is perfect. If you need to be lifted up and nurtured, Dru yoga is for you. If you feel strong and ready to sculpt your body into a gorgeous piece of art, Pilates may be a perfect addition to your yoga practice.
I would love to hear your thoughts. Have you tried either of these modalities? What has been your experience?