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Yogalites (Yoga and Pilates) unite!

ashleypilates2.jpgPhoto: Ashley Cooley doing the swan Pilates movement with her 2-year-old Zooey Bella
Yoga and Pilates...competitors? Yes, but also a great team with a lot in common. Do they attract different personalities? Yes! The stereotype Pilates person is a regimented perfectionist (this was Joseph Pilates to the T). The stereotype yoga person is a free spirit! Yoga compliments Pilates with breath, flexibility, balance, concentration, and meditation. The two marry well together. As a certified Pilates instructor and dancer who practices both yoga and Pilates regularly, does that make me a type-A/ hippy? I think I am "middle of the road"! Maybe because I do both!

You may have heard of "yogalites" (yoga and Pilates combined) classes. I sometimes find myself teaching a Pilates class and transitioning with a yoga pose just because it feels natural to me. Many of the poses are similar. This past year, I had a student whose mom is a yoga instructor. My student, Collin, noticed when we were doing swan that it was just like cobra! He was correct in that observation because when you compare the yoga pose, "cobra" to the Pilates, "swan"; you are doing the same movement! Both are even named after animals! Similar, yes! The same, no! If you practice something for a long time, you are able to pick up on the differences. I'm not a certified yoga instructor, put some things just feel natural to my body. I like to try to stay true to the teachings of Joseph Pilates but sometimes like to experiment doing just what feels good.

Pilates benefits yoga practice by teaching you how to organize your body. This is one of the reasons I started implementing Pilates in the classroom. I noticed something missing in my 2nd grade class. The kids who can't organize their desks, can't organize their bodies! We need the structure of Pilates and concentration of yoga. Kids can benefit from both these exercises! Believe me, I've seen it work!

In both yoga and Pilates, the idea is to find balance. The concentration you have to have in yoga means your body is aware of: its senses, mind, memory, consciousness... I find I get more out of Pilates with yoga under my belt because I can relax while at the same time be present and feel the flow of my exercises.

What I love about yoga is that it's open to how you feel that day. The regimented type-A Pilates person can tend to find fault with the little intricate parts. We can always do something better, but why not take a cue from yoga and just be who we are today. There are so many details to focus on when practicing Pilates! When teaching my Pilates for kids class I tried to give very small corrections so not to overwhelm the children. I had a Pilates instructor tell me once, sometimes a good teacher is silent and just observes the person while they find the movement in their body. I myself am a kinesthenic learner. I need to move to learn! I try to be aware of what kind of learners my children and clients are so I can meet their needs. You almost need a 6th sense to be a teacher (any kind of teacher)!!!

I find that the core strength I have from Pilates supports me in daily activities like chasing after a toddler and baby, and the yoga provides me with balance and harmony I need after what ever kind of day I've had!

Pilates and yoga both have a lot in common but are also quite different from each other; this is part of what makes them a great team! Pilates focuses more on strength and yoga focuses more on stretch. Breath is important in both exercises. Breath is a fabulous cleanser for the body! It helps to get rid of the toxins! In both systems you are encouraged to develop a conscious breathing. When I think about the labor with my two children, the pain was so horrific it was as if I was removed from my body and hovering up overhead. What kept me focused was breath. Because breathing links physical activity with attention of the mind, children who learn to focus on their breath stay more relaxed and centered. There are times in my classroom we just stop to breathe. Joseph Pilates wanted children learning his exercises so they would know how to take care of themselves for the rest of their lives. Joseph Pilates said at the age of 86, "I must be right! Never an aspirin. Never sick a day in my life. The whole country, the whole world should do my exercises. They'd be happier."

Pilates and yoga are both known to develop long, strong, graceful bodies that move efficiently without creating bulky muscles. They help reduce stress and increase well being. And both are used as rehabilitative systems.

Yoga and Pilates support the achievement of the body, mind, and spirit. There is a meditative spiritual feeling I have when I'm practicing Pilates and yoga. I find my peace, balance, and calm. Each are very satisfying disciplines. We all need to breathe!

So which to do? My hippy/type-A answer is: Do Both!

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