Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Yoga vs Pilates “Controversy?”

A week ago a client came into the studio outraged.  She had read a New York Times blogpost that said that Yoga made you stronger than Pilates…I smiled and told her that it was okay because we knew the truth.  I didn’t seek out the article.  I’ve read enough articles that compare Pilates to Yoga, and in general I find that the authors are looking at the practices from the outside, passing judgment without all of the information (Seriously type Pilates vs Yoga into your favorite search engine and see the litany.)

The next day a few more clients mentioned the article, and I still found myself uninterested in finding it.  Then a client with quite an appreciation for the satiric happenings of the world (which is why we get along so well) came in and said, “You are a part of a HUGE controversy,” He had a grin on his face and I immediately knew what he was referring to.

I said, “I’ve already heard about the article.” 

“It’s not the article that is interesting it’s the comments.”

I immediately remembered a course I took from Tom Myers.  This course was intended to teach yoga and pilates instructors myofascial anatomy.  At one point we were discussing the “very controversial” shoulder blades, and it became an all out argument between 40 yoga and pilates instructors.  It was Pilates vs Yoga and the question was “Where should the shoulder blades be in downward facing dog?” Opinions differed and passions flew. People were behaving as if the “correct” placement of the shoulder blades would literally save the world from utter destruction.  There were some of us on the sidelines that did not participate in the argument.  I think that we really just wanted to get back to the fascial connections between the rhomboids and the serratus anterior.  I remember at one point leaning over to my friend and whispering, “Can’t we all just get along…”

As I was reminiscing I decided that I had to see some of these comments even if it was for the mere entertainment of Yoga Instructors arguing with Pilates Instructors. I’ve always wondered why we do that.  I can almost envision the SNL sketch now.  The next day I searched for the article and I found several links but each one led me to a blank web page that said article unavailable check back later.  I thought to myself, “Did a ridiculous article comparing Yoga to Pilates create so much web traffic that it brought down the servers at The New York Times…Now that would be funny!”  Wouldn’t Tina Fey make a great Pilates Instructor for a shoulder blade smack down?

But alas today, I searched for the article again and it popped up.  I finally got to read the article that has infuriated so many of my clients.  And as I suspected the article was short on information, and quite inaccurate at least on the Pilates End…And as my client said there were a lot of comments.  It took me an hour to read them all.  What can be learned from this…People that teach Pilates and Yoga are passionate about their work and an ill informed, poorly written article will bring everyone out of the woodwork to take down the servers of the New York Times  (Okay I don’t know that that was the reason that I couldn’t find the article originally, but it makes me smile to think that it was.)

But then I read my favorite comment, which came from Brent Anderson founder and president of Polestar Pilates Education.

“There is now ample research that is evidence based for both yoga and Pilates that support mind-body work as a valid intervention for cancer, pre-postpartum, balance dysfunctions, neurological impairments, orthopedic injuries, post-surgical, geriatric, performance enhancement and much more. Over the past 25 years we have been collaborating with researchers of movement from around the world to discover what it is that makes these mind-body works so different from traditional exercise and rehabilitation. 

This article talked about strengthening the core and large muscles. The reality is that this is a very Western approach to movement. Those of us that practice Yoga, Pilates, Gyrotonic, and Tai Chi find something much greater than just strength in muscles. The majority of research shows that strength and flexibility have weak correlations with functional improvement.
What does seem to make a significant difference is the change in perception of one’s ability to have successful movement experiences. When these practices, any of them, are taught correctly they shift the individual's paradigm of how they see themselves. It is an alignment process. It is great that strength and flexibility are natural side effects of these practices, but should not be the primary focus. What the next article should focus on are the similarities that exist between these movement forms and what makes a great teacher of mind-body movement.


Brent Anderson PhD, PT

At the beginning of the month I got to witness Brent Anderson teach a Pilates Mat class to Pilates Instructors and Special Olympians at The Polestar Life Conference in San Diego… The Special
Getting ready for the mat class
Olympic Athletes were paired with Pilates Instructors, and I can’t tell you when I’ve been more touched by moving with people…It was truly a special night.  Yoga is movement, Pilates is movement, and movement is magic…Can’t we all just get along!?!

Notice I didn’t post a link to the blogpost…Don’t read it, just go move!

Katrina Hawley, C.M.A, PMA®-CPT
Director of Instruction at The Pilates Studio