There seem to be hundreds of articles on the Internet about the differences between yoga and Pilates, the benefits they provide and how to choose between the two practices. The truth is that despite their very different pasts, Pilates and yoga overlap in several ways and their techniques make them ideal to complement each other. We asked Alex Estornel, founder of Sky Pilates and Yoga Retreats to explain us the advantages of combining yoga and Pilates.
Alex is certified by the prestigious Equinox Pilates training headed by master instructor Carrie Macy and is qualified in the fitness industry by International Sports and Sciences Association. Along side his friend and mentor Carrie Macy, Alex started BACE Pilates in Los Angeles. In 2009 after collaborating on a Pilates training manual he began traveling to take his teaching on the road and it was then when he began to realize his goals of creating healthy retreats in beautiful locations.
Alex, when and how did you start practicing Yoga and Pilates?
I was a professional dancer since the age of 16, training in all styles from Ballet, Jazz, tap, contemporary, ballroom, hip-hop, and tons more. I first fell into yoga in 1994 as I was training in dance and loved it. To me, it just seemed like another way to artistically express myself, another way to explore human movement. Four years later I found Pilates through a friend who recommended it for rehabilitating my dancer injuries. It worked! At the time I was dancing for top recording artists such as Cher, Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, Gloria Estefan and Pilates kept me fit, safe and rehabilitated me quickly from the pains I was enduring from the fast paced and demanding dance career in Los Angeles.
What are the differences between Yoga and Pilates?
The main difference between the two disciplines, yoga and Pilates, are in their inherent processes of connecting mind to body to spirit. In other words, because yoga is many centuries older than Pilates, yoga seeks to connect the mind to the body by way of spiritual enlightenment and abolishment of all earthly ties. It can become a sort of religious practice within oneself.
Pilates, on the other hand, seeks to connect the mind to the body by way of scientific anatomical processes which, with much practice, cerebrally can induce a sense of enlightenment or euphoria, thus exemplifying the spiritual connection. Because Pilates is a recent physiological practice ( less than 100 years) the benefits of Pilates are based on empirical evidence than perhaps many forms of yoga. That’s not to say there isn’t scientific evidence that backs the benefits of yoga. There is an abundance of research and evidence that does, but yoga by its nature is not a scientific exploration of movement where Pilates is and can be.
What do you think about the combination of these two practices?
The combination of yoga and Pilates to me has always seemed completely natural.
After many years of training in yoga and Pilates, while continuing my professional dance career, I decided I wanted to teach these amazing disciplines. I became certified in Pilates by one of the world’s leading Pilates experts and second generation masters and soon after opened a yoga and Pilates studio in midtown LA. In a short time, we had a booming business because very few studios existed that offered both Pilates and yoga. To me combining the two always felt so natural. I was combining the two before the brand Yogalates was even around. It just simply made sense to me.
I always said it’s a Ying and Yang. They both compliment each other and in actuality make your practice much stronger in each realm. Because of these reasons by combining the two disciplines one can embark on an exploration of movement and enlightenment by way of two simultaneous roads rather than one. I often have yoga instructors tell me they want to get stronger in their yoga practice, and I tell them “then you must come to Pilates!”. It’s usually followed by a strange then curious look and after they try it the almost always see the benefits immediately.
What is your experience with yoga and Pilates retreats?
When my wife and I moved to Europe, we began strategising a way to start a Pilates and yoga retreat. We were fortunate to work for an established yoga and Pilates retreat and learn everything about the business of retreats. I was their head instructor and program coordinator as well as built their private Pilates sessions practice. It was a great experience, and it directly lead us to start our retreat.
Now as we’re starting this year with our retreats we’ve had a great response to the concept of a Pilates and yoga retreat combination and feel it’s the next wave in healthy holidays. We’re the new guys on the block, but we know we have something truly special to offer.
Alex now devotes his life’s work to bringing the transformative approach of Joseph Pilates to everyone around the globe. His style of teaching is a perfect combination of classical Pilates and progressive methods, with the fervor and tenacity that Joseph Pilates intended for his clients. If you feel ready to embark on a retreat and experience the benefits of this amazing combo, join Alex on a Pilates and Yoga Retreat in Gran Canaria or Pilates and Yoga Retreat in Santorini. You won’t regret it!