The Intersection of Yoga & Pilates


Although much has been said about this topic, people I meet are always asking me which do I like better – yoga or Pilates? Of course I chose Pilates as my profession and I do prefer that method but I also believe that Pilates owes a great deal to yoga which came thousands of years before it. So many of the principles and body positions in classic Pilates repertoire seem to derive from yoga. Both are profound mind body systems and impart increased focus, concentration and body awareness.

For me the foremost difference is that Pilates is dynamic. We move through every position rather than hold it. So we are achieving functional range of motion and articulation without some of the potential joint, ligament and tendon strain that could result from maintaining a pose. Pilates on the apparatus also has the benefit of the spring loaded resistance so we are increasing strength as well as flexibility and coordination.

Here are just a few of the intersections of yoga categories and Pilates exercises:

  • Yoga:
    • Seated and Twist
  • Pilates:
    • Spine twist (mat)
    • Saw and Circle Saw (mat, cadillac)
    • Mermaid (chair, reformer, cadillac, step barrel)
    • Mermaid rotation (cadillac, chair, reformer, step barrel)
  • Yoga:
    • Standing
  • Pilates:
    • Stepdowns (chair)
    • Lunge, Eve’s lunge (reformer, chair)
    • Splits on ledge – forwards and sideways (reformer)
    • Split (reformer)
    • Ballet stretches (cadillac, ladder barrel)
  • Yoga:
    • Arm Balances
  • Pilates:
    • Tendon Stretch (reformer, chair)
    • Pushups (mat, step barrel)
    • Inverted Pushups (ladder barrel, reformer, chair)
    • Handstand (chair)
    • Plank (mat)
    • Control Stretch (reformer, mat)
    • Long Stretch (reformer, mat)
  • Yoga:
    • Core
  • Pilates:
    • Hundreds (mat, reformer)
    • V-Sit (barrel, mat)
    • Criss Cross (mat, cadillac)
    • Single/Double Leg Stretch (mat, reformer)
    • Strap Work with Curls (reformer)
    • Climb a tree (ladder barrel, reformer)
    • Teaser (mat, reformer, cadillac)
    • Semi Circle (reformer)
  • Yoga:
    • Forward Bends
  • Pilates:
    • Rollback (cadillac, step barrel, ladder barrel)
    • Rollup (mat, chair)
    • Push Through (cadillac)
    • Cat (cadillac)
    • Stomach massage (reformer)
    • Rowing Back (reformer)
    • Monkey (cadillac)  JPEG
    • Rolling Like a Ball (mat)
    • Knee Stretch (reformer)
  • Yoga:
    • Backbends
  • Pilates:
    • Bridge (mat, cadillac, reformer)  JPEG
    • Extension (ladder barrel, step barrel)  JPEG
    • Scooch (cadillac)
    • Swan & Flying Swan (chair, mat, reformer, cadillac)
    • Basket (mat)
    • Pulling Straps (reformer)
    • Swimming (mat, reformer)
    • Flight/Tricep Extension (chair)
    • Hanging Up (cadillac)
  • Yoga:
    • Inversions
  • Pilates:
    • Rollover (mat)
    • Shoulder Stand (mat, cadillac)DSCN0777
    • Short Spine (reformer)
    • Long Spine (reformer)
    • Seal (mat)
    • Bicycle (mat)
    • Upstretch (reformer)
    • Elephant (reformer)
  • Yoga:
    • Restorativejewel2
  • Pilates:
    • Pelvic Clock (mat)
    • Coccyx Curl (mat)
    • Roller Relaxation
    • Legwork (reformer)
    • Sling Work for Breathing (cadillac)
    • Psoas Stretch (roller)

If a client is free of serious spinal issues that would limit which movements they can safely do (such as osteoporosis or stenosis), a well rounded Pilates session could include movements from each of these groups.

Workout of the month (Variety – Intermediate Level)

  • Mat –
    • Coccyx Curl with Roller
    • Psoas Stretch with Roller
    • Criss Cross – 2 sets of 8 – repeat 2X
  • Cadillac –
    • Rollback with Extension
    • Around the World
    • Hanging Up – 4 reps
  • Step Barrel-
    • Rollback With Extension
    • V-Sit – 2 -3 reps
  • Chair-
    • Step Downs – 8 reps each side
    • Lunges – 8 reps each side – repeat 2X
    • Mermaid – 2-4 reps each side
    • Mermaid with Rotation – 4 reps each side
  • Reformer
    • Shortspine – 5 reps
    • Leg & Footwork – 8 reps in each position
    • Running – 16 reps, 4X
    • Downstretch – 8 reps
    • Tendon Stretch – 8 reps

Tight Hamstrings – Exercises


Some clients and especially men have a pre-disposition to tight hamstrings.

Almost everyone can achieve improvement.

These exercises are ones that most clients can do successfully.

Against the wall:

  • Stand on slant board with heels against the wall. Slowly bend to flat back from the hip crease.

6” Roller:

  • Marching and dead bug.
  • Foot as a fish
  • Bridging
  • Psoas stretch
  • Tissue release/massage (sitting with weight on hands)


Cadillac/trap table:

  • Shoulder stand
  • Hamstring tower
  • Monkey
  • Parakeet
  • Sissors
  • Legsprings
  • Ballet stretches in sling
  • Bridging in sling (straight knees)

Ladder Barrel:

  • Climb a tree
  • Ballet stretches

Step Barrel

  • V-sit
  • Shoulder stand
  • Leg circles
  • Airplane
  • Can can


  • Legwork
  • Releves and running
  • Leg circles in straps
  • Shortspine
  • Stomach massage 1 & 2
  • Ham stretch in straps
  • Bridging
  • Side lying legwork
  • Psoas stretch (Eve’s lunge)
  • Scooter
  • Climb a tree
  • Split
  • Elephant
  • Upstretch
  • Arabesque
  • Tendon Stretch


  • Stretch with theraband or fitness band
  • Rollup
  • Sitz bone walk
  • V-sit

Pilates Chair:

  • Ham stretch 1 & 2
  • Tendon stretch
  • Upstretch
  • Foot and Legwork

Tight Hamstrings – Evaluation


Check standing alignment.

  • Weight should be placed between the front of the heel to the back of the ball of the foot.
  • Standing with weight at the back of the heel with locked knees stresses hamstrings.

Check sitting alignment:

  • Cue client to keep seated weight on between the front and mid sitz bones.
  • Recommend ergonomic seating for the computer-bound and use pillows and wedges to help during seated exercises.
  • Many clients learn to find their sitz bones while seated on a fitness ball.

Tight hamstrings are not necessarily strong and you must remember to work on strengthening and stretching at the same time.

For instance: cramping during a bridging exercise might mean that the hamstrings are tired and stressed or that they are very weak.

Remember to continue stretching and strengthening the quads, calves, IT band, ankes and feet as you address the hamstrings. It all works together.

Tight Hamstrings – Reminders

Tight hamstrings are a very common complaint among many different kinds of clients – the super athletic to the sedentary. It is extremely important to keep the hamstrings long and supple. The muscle shortness can indicate not just overuse but the even more serious issue of an extremely tucked pelvis which can lead to low back complications.

Posture — both sitting and standing — is often the cause of the problem.

Core exercises are vital to improvement.

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