Yoga and Pilates have existed in other cultures for many years, but they have become more popular in the United States only in the last few decades.
Yoga, which literally means to yoke together, is an ancient practice. According to the American Yoga Association, early stone carvings and illustrations dating back 5,000 years reveal depictions of people in yoga positions. Contrary to popular belief, yoga is not rooted in Hinduism. In fact, Hinduism was established much later, and early Hindu leaders adopted and promoted certain yoga beliefs and practices for their followers.
One of the earliest known yoga teachers and promoters was a man named Patanjali, who wrote about his yoga practice in a work called Yoga Sutras. His writings covered the basic philosophy and techniques that later became Hatha Yoga. Within Hatha are many styles, such as Iyengar, Ashtanga, Integral, Kripalu, and Jiva Mukti. Ashtanga Yoga, one of the most popular branches, incorporates eight elements: restraint, observance, breathing exercises, physical exercises, preparation for meditation, concentration, meditation, and self-realization. Most modern yoga instructors focus on just a few of these elements, leading classes through physical poses, breathing techniques, and preparation for meditation.
Pilates (pronounced puh-lot-eez) was developed by Joseph Pilates in the early 1900s. A German living in England during the start of World War I, Pilates was forced into a camp with other foreign nationals. During this time, Pilates encouraged his fellow cellmates to keep moving, even those who were bedridden. According to Katherine Robertson, author of Pilates…the Intelligent, Elegant, Workout, Joseph Pilates developed exercise equipment specifically for the injured, converting hospital beds to "bednasiums," which encouraged health and healing through resistance exercise.
This early rehabilitation work led to the machinery behind Pilates exercise. In addition to floor work, Joseph Pilates also incorporated complex equipment consisting of belts, loops, chains, and springs designed to strengthen and lengthen the core muscles of the body.
Today, Pilates is still practiced in its original form, with both mat work and equipment, though many instructors, because of the cost of equipment, offer classes consisting of just floor exercises.
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