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Yoga, Pilates and Barre, Oh My! Which Path Is Right for You?


Think it’s too much of a stretch to add a low-impact workout like yoga, Pilates or barre to your fitness routine? Think again.


Like diets, fitness routines are most effective when well-balanced. And achieving a healthy blend of aerobic and strength-training activities is as simple as adding one of these exercises to your regimen once or twice a week. But how do you know which of the three best suits you?


From the outside looking in, yoga, Pilates and barre might seem very similar. And yes, they do share some characteristics – or borrow features from one another. For one, they’re all excellent practices for building strength; toning muscles; increasing flexibility and mobility; and reducing stress. Each relies significantly, if not exclusively, on body weight. And they can all be executed from a floor mat and may or may not involve other equipment. But this is pretty much the extent of overlap between the three programs.


How Do They Differ?


A quick primer on the origins of and techniques involved with yoga, Pilates and barre helps to differentiate one from the other.


Yoga originated in India as a spiritual practice more than 5,000 years ago. It is very meditative in nature and centers around the mind-body connection made when holding or flowing through various poses in conjunction with breathwork. Yoga targets the whole body, and there are more than a dozen forms of it with varying levels of intensity. Some good information on the most popular types can be found here.


Pilates was developed much more recently – circa 1920s – by a German doctor working to rehabilitate wounded soldiers and later, upon moving to the U.S., professional dancers. It focuses on the body’s core or “powerhouse” (the muscles located underneath the shoulder blades, around the ribcage and down to the hips, pelvis and thighs) by adopting a position and engaging the muscles through slow, precise movements and controlled breathing. Pilates workouts take place either on a mat or on a reformer machine.


The newest exercise of the group, barre entered the scene in the 1950s as a remedy for a ballerina’s lower back injury. A blend of Pilates, yoga and classical dance movements, breath is not a focus of barre workouts – until, perhaps, you’re struggling to catch your own! Barre classes move at a faster pace and typically incorporate strength training along with elements of ballet, high-intensity interval training and mobility work. Exercises take place in a combination of seated and horizontal mat positions, standing, and at a ballet barre in front of a mirror.


So What’s the Best Move(ment) for You?


There’s really no “right” answer when choosing between yoga, Pilates or barre. The three exercises are appropriate for all ages and fitness levels.


But if you seek a more energized atmosphere with music you can sweat and sing to, prefer a variety of activity or feel like the time is ripe to master a plié, barre is the clear choice. You’ll likely burn more calories with barre than the other two endeavors, as there’s often a bit of cardio mixed into the sessions.


Looking to stand up straighter, strengthen your core and improve body alignment? A steady diet of Pilates will get you there.


And if you’re aiming to increase flexibility while also establishing a mind-body connection, give yoga a try. You’ve got two opportunities this month, in fact, for yoga on the Etage Athletic Club rooftop! Join us October 19th and 25th from 6 to 7 p.m. Classes are free to members and just $10 for nonmembers. Give us a follow on Instagram to stay in-the-know about similar opportunities hitting our calendar.


Still undecided? Consider sampling each of the exercises to determine which one you want to pursue for the long term. Just be sure to start with introductory or beginner classes to avoid getting overwhelmed physically and mentally discouraged. Our huge library of digital fitness classes offers easy access to a host of options you can try in the Etage studio or from the comfort of home via your personal device.


All Roads Lead to Results


On the yellow brick road of the fitness journey, it’s great to try new things and engage your body in novel ways. And if you stay the course with one of these approaches, we promise you’ll see results. Rome wasn’t built in a day, you know.


We hope this post gives you the courage to grab a mat and get moving with yoga, Pilates or barre, oh my!


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