Pilates or Hatha Yoga?
or Why the Body is so Important for Yogis?
Many people who had never practiced yoga or very new to yoga are confused about what yoga is.
Is hatha yoga a sport or a spiritual practice?
The short answer is, yoga is a spiritual practice. But why is there such confusion?
I have seen so many people trying to decide whether to begin doing pilates or yoga. From the eyes of the experienced yogin, hovering between yoga and pilates does not make sense. Those two are very different things serving very different aims.
You might hear people saying:
‘If you want to work on your body, do pilates.
If you want to work on your mind, do yoga.‘
But this is only partly true:
Pilates focuses on the well being of the body with precision. Yoga offers us tools on our way to liberate our consciousness. But when you look at yoga classes, it seems like there is a lot of emphasis on the body.
At this point, I must say that many advanced yoga practices do not involve the body. There is an umbrella term for the styles of yoga that includes mat practice. The term is Hatha yoga. Hatha yoga comprises physical methods as a part of sacred yogic practices.
Yes,' yoga focuses on the mind, but…
Yoga does not separate the mind and the body as we do in Western thinking. Yoga is a holistic practice. That is the magic and the beauty of it.
Now medicine and psychology are slowly coming to accept that the mental and the physical problems might be connected. Yoga has been teaching this for thousands of years. Our body is the manifestation of our spirit. Everything that happens to us will reflect on this manifestation.
Our mind, body, and spirit are all connected. It is such a deep and uninterrupted connectedness that if something happens to our body, it will have further effects. It will reflect on our minds and our relation with our spirit. If we are wounded emotionally, it will leave prints in our bodies until we properly heal it.
If you want to work on your mind, do yoga…
Let’s go back to the statement that says if you want to work on your mind, do yoga.
To liberate our minds and realize ourselves, we first need to get rid of the patterns that hold us back and replace them with empowering habits.
For people who are keeping up with modern society, it is extremely tough to alter the mental patterns directly. Remember the holistic teaching of yoga. All our mental habits are encrypted in our body and movement patterns as well. So working with the body makes it possible to notice and change those patterns.
Hatha yoga practices make sure the practitioner is present and figuring our connections between the mind and the body through its focus on the breath. It is us who hold on to our limitations, most of the time, unintentionally. We create loops of thought and movement to sustain them. The challenges on the mat make us realize and rise above them. Staying in the pose with no other distractions, but breath builds the willpower to burn our obstacles.
Many modern yogins begin yoga, aiming for a physical outcome. There is nothing wrong with that. Almost all my students who started like this ended up wanting to go deeper after a while. So you can still choose hatha yoga if you wish to work on your body. But I cannot promise that it will stay at that 🙂