Two disciplines for total fitness
When I was introduced to yoga twenty-four years ago, a love affair began. Yoga was my introduction to mind-body connection. At the time I was not exceptionally good at any type of physical endeavor, but yoga changed that. The breath work, strength, stamina, and spirituality in yoga gave me a foundation to enjoy many physical activities. What’s more, I will never forget my first Pilates class. We used the Magic Circle, a flexible yet sturdy ring you hold and squeeze to deepen core strength. I was smitten! The breath work, strength, and stamina (sound familiar?) blew me away. I felt muscles in my body I had no idea existed. After starting
Pilates my physical body got stronger, more coordinated, and more graceful than it had ever been.
I continued with both yoga and Pilates, so much in fact, I chose one as my career. I’ve been teaching Pilates since 2004. Integrating the two has spawned a deep knowledge and love of movement that comprised my own body awareness,
as well as fueled my devotion to teaching. Inherently different, there are many ways Pilates and yoga complement each other to support mind, body, and spirit. Realize, I cannot begin to name all the ways which these disciplines work together, but here is a small taste of what I’ve experienced.
Yoga mainly uses a mat, blocks, bolsters, and straps. Pilates apparatus can include the Reformer, Cadillac, Mat, Chair, Pedi-pull, Spine Corrector, Barrels, Magic Circle, and Foot Corrector. Pilates equipment is spring loaded, which provides assistance and resistance. Imagine your yoga strap attached to a wall. Not only do you reach for it, but it pushes back into you. This is somewhat how the spring works as it trains strength, grounding, and opposition. The shapes and sizes of the equipment dictate exact placement for the spine and limbs.
Take the Spine Corrector, it is a large arc used for bending and sequencing your spine forward, backwards, sideways, and in rotation. Executing exercises on equipment like the Spine Corrector, I’ve been able to achieve supported and elongated back bending, twisting, and more in my yoga practice.
Balance, grounding, and flexibility are all rooted in yoga and Pilates. Using the Pilates Reformer, there are many different versions of “splits” that resemble yoga poses. Doing these splits on the Reformer you apply core and leg strength to move the springs while staying stable and balanced. Yoga poses fuse moments of hold and deep stretch while you engage your core and balance. Using imagery when doing these types of exercises, I try to blend the sensation of the Pilates spring resistance and the stretch from yoga.
In Pilates details from fingers to toes are focused on to develop deep core strength and sharp mind-body awareness. Spiritually based, yoga is not only physical, it integrates the whole person and collective consciousness. Combing the details of Pilates and the spirituality of yoga keeps me seeking new insight in both practices regarding mind, body, and spirit.
Fundamental in both disciplines is breathing. Although you breathe in and out of the nose in yoga, and in through the nose and out of the mouth in Pilates, the concept of accompanying breath with movement is equivalent. Coupling the two breathing techniques of exhaling—letting go of tension in yoga, and engaging the core and spinal decompression in Pilates—makes the body strong and supple. When I practice I stay attuned to the many layers of breath work.
The Pilates method classically follows an order, whereas yoga postures can be combined in limitless ways. Knowing what comes next, I can settle in to the routine and focus on proper execution of the exercise. With the guidance of the teacher, yoga encourages presence and demands internal focus. Although you are meant to move through each Pilates exercise with vigor and precision, yoga inspires me to pursue internal stillness and a quiet mind.
We finish a Pilates class standing upright as a reset, while yoga closes with corpse pose to solidify the benefits of the practice. I find harmony in, and benefit from both types of send offs. For me, combining Pilates and yoga encourages balance, self-awareness, physical strength, flexibility, and gratitude for both disciplines.
Bridget Crowe is the owner of Body Essentials Pilates in Dillon. She has more than 2,000 hours of training from the Pilates Center in Boulder, Colorado and works extensively with her mentor Kim Haroche. Bridget has completed her Master training
and is a host advisor for the Pilates Center. In 2014, Bridget was trained as a ballet barre instructor and in 2016 became certified to teach aerial yoga. Pilates, ballet barre, and aerial yoga have helped shape Bridget’s unique and comprehensive teaching style. (970) 468-1607 or visit BodyEssentialsPilates.com