Pilates and Yoga have some similarities, but for the most part, are very different from each other. People who aren’t familiar with either practices often get them confused. Both practices encourage flexibility along with strength and use breath as a tool to center the mind and body. The main difference between the two is that Yoga involves holding poses while Pilates is about movement. Sometimes when doing Pilates, a certain position will feel good on my body and I’ll want to stay in it either for more release or to challenge myself more. This is when combining a Yoga practice with my Pilates practice comes in handy. There are several Yoga poses that flow effortlessly into traditional Pilates mat moves. I’ve come up with five exercises that combine both forms of exercise together so you can get the best of both worlds.
1. Mermaid Kneeling into Camel Pose– Stretch your side body and lower back while opening up your entire front body. Kneel on the floor with your knees hip distance apart. Bring your right arm up and over to the left while you let your left arm drop towards the ground. Anchor your right hip and knee into the ground as you stretch your right arm in opposition. Keep your hips forward in this position. Reach back with your left hand to your left heel. Slowly reach the right arm back as you go into a back bend and continue pressing the hips forward. This is half camel pose and you may stay here for a few breaths if this is challenging enough. If you want a deeper stretch in the front body, place the right hand on the right heel and hold the full camel pose. To come out of half camel, reverse the movement. To come out of full camel, place your hands on the back of your hips before kneeling upright again. Repeat on the other side.
2. Pilates Push Ups into Three-Legged Downward Facing Dog– This is a balance challenge that will strengthen your upper body, stretch the hamstrings and open your hips. Start standing with your feet together in parallel. Bring your arms straight up over your head as you point your left foot back. Lift the left leg straight up as you lower your upper body parallel to the ground. Your goal is to get your body into a “T” position. Reach for the ground, walk your hands slightly forward and place your palms down. Press into the back heel to go into your three-legged down dog position. Keep the hips in parallel and ears in line with your arms. You can do a hip opening variation here by bending and turning out the lifted leg. Hold for several breaths and return to parallel before continuing. Walk your hands out so that your body lowers into a push-up position. Keep the one leg off the ground at hip height and do three push-ups. Walk your hands back to your feet while kicking the free leg as high as you can into the air turned out. Square off your hips and slowly bring the arms and body into your “T” position before standing straight up and repeating on the other leg.
3. Jackknife into Plow into Shoulder Stand– Lie down on the ground with your legs together. Use your abs to swing your legs over your head. Dig your toes on the floor and interlace your fingers with your arms extended beneath you. If you cannot touch your toes to the ground with your legs straight, place your hands under your back to support your body. Stretch your spine in this plow pose for 10 breaths. If your hands are not already under your lower back, place them there to go into a supported shoulder stand. Bend your knees and slowly straighten your legs into a vertical position. Continue to lift and lengthen the entire body in this pose for several breaths. To finish off with the rest of jackknife, allow your legs to come slightly towards your head as you release you hands back down. Squeeze your glutes and inner thighs to maintain as vertical a position as you can while you roll down one vertebra at a time. Use your abs to control the lowering of your body. Once your tailbone hits the ground, lower your legs to 45 degrees and repeat the entire series.
4. Bow Pose into Rocking– Stretch and open up the front of your body while strengthening your back. Lie face down on your stomach. Bend your legs, bringing your heels to your butt. Reach back with your hands to hold onto your ankles. Keep your knees hip distance apart. Press your legs into your hands as you lift the chest and knees off the ground into your bow pose. Pull your shoulder blades down and think of lengthening your spine even in this arched position. Hold for 5 breaths. To begin rocking, squeeze your glutes and back of the legs to rock forward on your chest. Squeeze your back muscles to rock back onto your thighs. Rock forward and back several times before lowering your body back down to the floor.
5. Half Boat Pose into Shaving- Strengthen your abs with this move. Sit on the floor with your legs bent and feet on the floor. Place your hands on the floor by your hips. Keeping your abs pulled in and spine straight, lean slightly back as you lift your legs so the shins are parallel to the ceiling. Squeeze your inner thighs. Balance in this position for 5 breaths as you reach your arms forward. Without changing the shape of your body, slowly bring your arms up and over your head. Connect your thumb and index fingers together to make a triangle shape with your hands. Keep your elbows open wide as you bend the arms, lowering your hands to the base of your neck. Straighten your arms back up to complete one shaving rep. Do 5 reps before reversing the sequence to lower back down.
Gain strength, length, and presence of mind with this Yoga/Pilates hybrid routine!
Also by Crystal: 4 Tension-Busting Hip Flexor Stretches You Need In Your Life
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Video: Crystal Chin