Yoga, Pilates & Barre: The Key Differences And Benefits

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May 21, 2021

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Yoga, Pilates and barre are all low-impact disciplines that are great options for at-home workouts.

They can all help to improve your flexibility, balance and posture while strengthening muscles to prevent the risk of injury.

While there are some similarities between these three training styles — for instance, you might find yourself doing planks in a yoga, barre or Pilates class — they each have distinct qualities. Find out more about each discipline so you can decide which one is right for you.

How to compare and choose between yoga, Pilates and barre

If you’re thinking about trying a yoga, Pilates or barre class and wondering which is the best choice for you, it pays to know the key differences – and benefits – before you roll out your mat.

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Feel grounded with yoga

Yoga is a total mind and body workout that requires flowing through a set series of exercises – called poses – while using the breath to focus the mind. The practice originated in India and each yoga pose has an English or Sanskrit name. 

There are many different styles of yoga, from dynamic Vinyasa yoga to gentle and restorative yin, making it a great option for everyone.  

If you’re a beginner looking to get started with yoga, the good news is that you don’t need any fancy equipment – although you may want a non-slip mat if you decide to start an at-home yoga practice.

Sweat instructor Phyllicia Bonanno’s Yoga with Phyllicia classes on the Sweat app are a gentle, accessible way to learn the fundamentals, with a focus on slower flows that help you find stability in each pose or posture. If you’re ready for a challenge, try Ania Tippkemper’s Yoga with Ania or Sjana Elise’s Body And Mind (BAM) programs which both follow a powerful and dynamic Vinyasa style.

Why you should try yoga

Yoga is a great option as both a standalone practice or to complement your existing workout routine. According to the American Osteopathic Association, it can help increase strength and flexibility and decrease the risk of injury. The restorative nature of yoga can also have a positive impact on your overall wellbeing, with the Mayo Clinic highlighting that a yoga practice can help you manage anxiety and stress.

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Strengthen your core with Pilates

Created by German gymnast Joseph Pilates in the early 20th century, the origins of Pilates are rooted in rehabilitation and building strength. Pilates consists of a series of controlled, sustained exercises that concentrate on form, rather than trying to hit a set number of reps. 

The fundamentals of Pilates are based around stabilising the spine and pelvis, activating the abdominals, and using equipment such as resistance bands and rubber rings to build in levels of resistance or tension. 

In a typical Pilates class you’ll perform a series of simple, repetitive exercises with an emphasis on muscular exertion in the abdominals, lower back, hips, thighs and glutes. You’ll find yourself focusing on smaller movements that require you to stabilise your back and core to complete the exercises. 

No matter your age or fitness level, Pilates can be modified to suit everyone – even if you’ve just started working out. Sweat’s Pilates instructor Sara Colqhhoun’s Pilates with Sara program blends traditional and contemporary Pilates with elements of functional movement training to increase flexibility, core strength and improve full-body muscle definition.

Why you should try Pilates

Including regular Pilates classes in your fitness routine will promote plenty of physical and mental benefits, including stronger muscles in your back, core and hips, better pelvis and hip alignment, increased flexibility, better balance, and a greater range of motion.

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Build muscular endurance with barre

Barre is based on a movement style originated by dancer Lotte Berk, who began teaching it in London in 1959. Barre combines ballet-inspired movements (the barre that gives this training style its name is used as a support for some ballet exercises which are typically done in a barre class) with functional strength exercises. 

Think of barre as a fusion of Pilates, classical ballet moves and dynamic stretching. You'll use just the barre (you can also use a sturdy chair) for support, and your body weight or small pieces of equipment such as ankle weights or low-weight dumbbells to add resistance while you perform a muscle-burning number of reps — the goal is to work the muscles to the point of fatigue. 

Sweat instructor Britany Williams will challenge you in her Barre with Britany program, building strength and endurance. You’ll be working your muscles with minimal rest, learning new positions and proper form while simultaneously keeping up with your workout! It will get your heart rate up, but as barre is low-impact, it’s great for all fitness levels!

Why you should try barre

As a low-impact exercise, barre delivers similar benefits to both yoga and Pilates, including enhanced flexibility, improved posture and body alignment, and activated core muscles. The key difference is a barre workout teaches muscular control and endurance specifically in the hips and shoulders while integrating core stability by working your muscles to the point of fatigue.

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Yoga vs Pilates vs barre: Which is right for you?

Whether you love the flow of yoga, the control of Pilates or the technical aspect of barre work, you can’t go wrong by incorporating these low-impact exercises into your workout schedule. Commit to at least one of these classes each week and you’ll see improved strength, balance and flexibility. 

You’re far more likely to stick to something if you enjoy it, so try a couple of classes to find the exercise that works for you. You might be surprised at what gets those endorphins flowing!

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A more empowered you starts with Sweat, and our editorial team is here to bring you the latest fitness tips, trainer recommendations, wellbeing news, nutritional advice, nourishing recipes and free workouts.

* Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. Sweat assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.

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