Activity requiring physical effort, carried out to sustain or improve health and fitness is referred to as exercise. This was mentioned in a previous post to get you active and enjoy the benefits of exercise. However, it is performed for various reasons, including development, increasing growth, preventing aging, perfecting athletic skills, weight loss or maintenance, strengthening muscles and the cardiovascular system, also just for enjoyment. Here Anna Kessel, TheGuardian.com, reflects on the benefits of yoga and pilates:
“Yoga may have taken 5,000 years to evolve into a western phenomenon, but its 21st-century profile has rocketed at lightning speed. The number of US practitioners has doubled in just a few years, reaching 37 million in 2016, while there are half a million in the UK. The global market is estimated at $80bn (£62bn).
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Pilates, yoga’s more modern associate, has seen similarly rapid growth since it was devised almost 100 years ago. Increasing stress levels, coupled with a greater focus on physical health and wellbeing, are cited as factors in the growth of both, as well as celebrity endorsements – Madonna and Geri Halliwell have long sworn allegiance to yoga, while Beyoncé and Emma Stone fly the flag for pilates.
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But despite the longevity and global popularity, confusion persists about yoga and pilates, compounded by the increasing variety of classes offered in each discipline. Ashtanga, iyengar and vinyasa are all considered relatively modern incarnations of yoga; inevitably new variants of pilates have sprung up, too, as the market has become more commercialised. Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, whose mother, Doria Ragland, is a yoga teacher, is a fan of Megaformer – a souped-up version of reformer pilates – while gyrotonic yoga is credited with helping Andy Murray with his longstanding back issues.
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Teachers of both yoga and pilates say they are routinely asked to explain the difference between them. “The simple answer is that they’re both low intensity, low impact and inclusive, unlike many other forms of exercise,” says Prof Greg Whyte, a former Olympian and now leading authority on sports science. “Generally speaking, yoga is much more about flexibility and stability, pilates is strength and stability.”
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But, for every flashy gym offering yoga classes to burn calories and sculpt bodies, there are many more teachers committed to its traditional spiritual principles. Yoga was originally practised by holy ascetics in India, its aim to focus the mind, connect with a higher consciousness and, through this newfound compassion, end suffering in the world.
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For Lily Silverton, a fashion editor turned yoga teacher, it is a way of life that demands she practise social value. “I strongly believe that in yoga, you’re in service,” she says, giving as an example her voluntary work with mental-health and refugee charities, homeless people and children with special needs.
Jonelle Lewis, this month’s Om Yoga magazine cover star, describes teaching yoga as a form of stewardship. “These are not my teachings,” she says. “These are lineage teachings that we have the honour to pass on to people.”
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Although pilates is not a spiritual pursuit, its origins are rooted in healing and rehabilitation. Its German inventor, Joseph Pilates, relocated to England in 1912 and, as war broke out, was interned with other Germans working in a hospital on the Isle of Man. It was here that he invented the beginnings of his reformer, cadillac and chair equipment, using springs to help bed-bound patients develop their muscles.”
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