Life can be such an exciting journey. It is always full of mystery, with truths and answers waiting around the corner, and many dilemmas to briefly illuminate our minds and hearts. Rael Isacowitz, a good friend, teacher, mentor, and business partner for 11 years now has kept the question going back and forth in me like a ping pong ball: Yoga or Pilates or both?All these years we have been trying to examine and dissect both the differences and common areas of these two disciplines.
Rael has had a long-time love affair with Yoga since back in his dance years, but the science and precision of Pilates finally won him over. I fell in love with Yoga over 30 years ago, when the stress of my filmmaking career in California had shattered many parts of my body and psyche. The practice of yoga simply put it all back together, giving me answers to many a life mystery and finally winning me over completely. So completely, that one fine day I decided to make a wild jump and move to my favorite country, Greece, in order to follow my life’s dharma: Teaching yoga to people as a way of sharing the tools that have helped me keep my body strong and healthy and my mind level, happy, and optimistic.
With my husband I started NYSY in the heart of Athens, a Yoga-Pilates studio which features both disciplines (thus our partnership with BASI), and since then I have been asked the same question of our students, “Should I stick to Yoga or Pilates, or both?” I tell people to try for themselves and see/feel what best suites their needs.
Some people think that Yoga is only a relaxing and meditative practice. However, just like Pilates, Yoga can also be quite a dynamic and rigorous exercise—which is actually the style I like to practice and teach in our Abhaya Yoga classes. I started with teaching Ashtanga Yoga which can be very athletic, and continued with studying and teaching Anusara which, with its strong emphasis on alignment, can be very healing and therapeutic. The combined benefits of both practices plus 30 years of Zen meditation, have led me to the creation of a fresh style of yoga called Abhaya, inspired by the Abhaya hand gesture/mudra that signifies fearlessness in many spiritual traditions.
Today, in our Abhaya classes, we move with strong energy and awareness through a dynamic sequence of asanas, following clear principles of alignment, our breath, and our inner intention–Iccha! Inwardly, this alignment of body, breath, and concentration feels therapeutic as all layers of our existence get harmonized. We feel strong and healthy, more balanced, and, honestly, more fearless.
My friend Rael argues (and very aptly demonstrates) that you get the same benefits from Pilates, and you most certainly can. The question about Yoga and Pilates’ differences and similarities may have to be answered by our first- hand individual experiences.
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