Can Pilates Make your Yoga Better?

Can Pilates Make your Yoga Better? Exercise #1

As a lifetime Pilates practitioner and an enthusiastic Ashtanga  Yoga student I can attest to the parallels between Pilates and Yoga. I also find the dissimilarities in the two bodies of work to be significant. For me the Pilates Mat works as a safety net. You warm up the core of the body initially focusing on abdominal and back musculature as well as skeletal alignment and breath. From there, the rest of the practice simply unfolds. While it's true in Pilates, as it is in Yoga that many practitioners remain solidly rooted in a basic practice, for those who progress, the Pilates warm up supports an adventurous, complex and invigorating routine.

I've become attached to several of the basic moves in Joseph Pilates historical Mat routine. On days when I can't fit in a full workout I make sure to take five minutes to work these moves cleanly and deeply.  And on days when my body is craving Yoga, I still warm up with these key Pilates moves.

The Hundred

Why it helps your Yoga?

Any proper Pilates practice warms up the body with this brisk circulatory exercise. We work the stabilization of the torso by anchoring the body in one space and pumping the arms to challenge the core and motivate the bloodstream. The coordinated breath of the Hundred sets the tone for the full workout. When sun salutation seems like a bit much to start with, the Hundred can ease me into it.

Can Pilates Make your Yoga Better? Exercise #2

The Roll Up

Why it helps your Yoga?

With the rhythm of the Hundred still in our bodies, the Roll Up graduates the work to the core or “Powerhouse” as Pilates devotees call it. For this move, we stabilize the lower body and work the torso smoothly with maximum control . The focus is on articulating the spinal segments through each part of the motion.  We control the tempo and fluidity with the contraction of our abdominals. In our Yoga practice abdominals can get left to the later part of the practice. If you want to turn on your core a bit earlier, the Roll Up can kick off your routine with a healthy dose of abdominal control.

Can Pilates Make your Yoga Better? Exercise #3

Rolling Like a Ball

Why it helps your Yoga?

Human development is modeled on the principles of stability before mobility, and so is the Pilates Mat. Having stabilized the body for what’s to come, we can freely mobilize the spine with a complete rolling exercise. Locking the body into a compact position allows us to roll back and forth with control and concentration. Concentration is a key component of any solid Yoga practice. Rolling is a great way to turn on your mind and set up the rest of your practice.

Can Pilates Make your Yoga Better? Exercise #4

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Why it helps your Yoga?

The first 3 moves in this warmup are intended to help you find and activate your abdominals. Having accomplished that, we can safely work into extension and open the chest and trunk by strengthening the spinal muscles from top to bottom. Work carefully at your own level and finish in child’s pose before moving on with your day or the rest of your workout. Once you've made it to Swan, any Sun Salutation series you choose should be smooth sailing. 

We often refer to the Pilates Mat as the base of the method and the crown of the method. Let these exercises serve that purpose as well. They are the moves you begin with no matter your level. But they are also the moves you come back to again and again to perfect and grow your practice.

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