Yoga is a 5,000 year old philosophy that originated from India. More than a form of exercise, it encompasses an entire lifestyle and aims to unite body, mind, and soul. Because Power Yoga incorporates mind and spirit as well as an intense rhythmic workout, it is a therapeutic practice that help practitioners to become more aware of his or her postures, alignment, patterns of movement, and balance (in both mind and body).
Yoga in general has a more holistic approach, which emphasizes balance in all areas - it equally supports and strengthens all muscle groups while it creates mental clarity and physical balance. Pilates focuses on building core muscles, and although it also stimulates mental balance, the principals behind Power Yoga involves uniting body and mind.
The physical differences between the two are vast. Power Yoga is an intense, upbeat, high-energy practice where poses flow smoothly into one another, targeting the entire body from head to toe. Its benefits are endless - lengthens and leans out muscles, increases metabolism, decreases stress, and enhances mental clarity and focus. The practice of pilates on the other hand (whether machine or mat based), is significantly lower in impact and concentrates more on non-repeated movement patterns and stretches.
Both Power Yoga and Pilates place a strong emphasis on coordinated breathing; however, with different approaches. Pilates incorporates a basic style of breathing with the purpose to stabilize and protect the spine. Coordinated breathing is integral to the Power Yoga practice. It incorporates "ujjayi breathing" meaning "victoriously uprising" which refers to the upward expansion of the energy of the breath. Ujjayi breathing is an intense, smooth, even, and controlled breathing technique that helps to calm and relax the mind. The deeper "ujjayi" nose breathing practiced during Power Yoga classes also increase power and breath strength throughout the heart and lungs. It is this combination of breath and movement in Power Yoga that connects mind with body, and creates balance and stability.
Power Yoga and Pilates certainly share their similarities and are both very popular, but the key differences rest within their core objectives. Power Yoga is a complete balance and holistic exercise that increases flexibility and strengthens both muscle power and mental stability, where pilates simply focuses on the body's core strengths.