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FOCUS: Yoga or pilates? Your questions answered

FOCUS: Yoga or pilates? Your questions answered

Friday 03 February 2023

FOCUS: Yoga or pilates? Your questions answered

Friday 03 February 2023

What's the difference between yoga and pilates? What are their respective benefits? And how should a newbie get started? A local wellbeing teacher has answered those questions, and shared how she found strength and spirituality in both.

Sharnelle Guest (30), the founder of SHE FEELS, which aims to help women reconnect with themselves through wellbeing practices, teaches yoga and pilates as well as breathwork.

Originally from Nottingham, Sharnelle has lived and worked around the world, including in Greece, where she taught windsurfing, France, during ski seasons and New Zealand. She came back to the UK in 2017 to pursue a career in teaching yoga.


Pictured: Sharnelle has been teaching yoga since 2018 and pilates since 2019.

Sharnelle first discovered yoga when she was 18.

“I really didn't like it and thought that's not for me,” she admitted. “It wasn't until I was travelling around Bali in 2016 and I did a yoga class there, that this changed. Afterwards, I felt as if my feet were floating above the floor, I'd never had that feeling before. I was so calm and peaceful and from that moment I was hooked and wanted to do more. Now I realise there are so many different styles of yoga and every teacher is different so it's about finding a class that works for you and that you enjoy.”

Pilates came later, after Sharnelle had completed her training to become a yoga teacher. She was asked to teach pilates for Nottingham’s first reformer pilates studio, which opened in 2019.  

Whilst she originally wanted to do yoga for the exercise because she had read in magazines “it made you toned and slender”, it now has a “completely different meaning”.

“It's no longer something I do just for physical movement but instead a more spiritual practice that helps with mental health and to manage different emotions,” Sharnelle explained. “With pilates, I was attracted by how it creates such a strong body in a functional way. My core has become so strong and it has made me connect to my body in a different way, really appreciating what my body can do and seeing progression in my strength.”

Now, Sharnelle practise yoga and pilates at least four times a week, sometimes this involves a full hour class and other times it's only 10 to 30 minutes.

For Bailiwick Wellbeing, she shed some light on the differences between yoga and pilates and their respective benefits...

How would you describe both practices?

Pictured: Sharnelle says yoga is "a combination of physical, spiritual and mental practises".

Yoga is a combination of physical, spiritual and mental practises that help in many, many ways. You can get so many different things from doing yoga depending on what it is want or need that day. It can be a stretch to help keep the body mobile and healthy, or it can help really strengthen the muscles and joints. It can also involve no movement at all and practising breathing techniques or meditation. Yoga also transfers lessons that you learn on the mat about yourself and helps you implement them in day to day life. For example, learning to be kind with yourself, learning patience and feeling a sense of gratitude for life. So there are many benefits.

Pilates is more of a physical practise, although it does help create the mental space as you move and breathe. There is more consistency and structure with pilates, focusing on alignment, control and precision with the body. Whereas in yoga there are many different styles, you can do ‘Mat Pilates’ or ‘Reformer Pilates’ which I teach at Ouen Pilates. Reformer Pilates involves a machine like a bed that you can use in many ways to create a strong, yet supple body. It takes pressure off the joints so anyone can do it, we use it for rehabilitation from injuries as well as for more powerful classes where you will feel the biggest core workout of your life!

What are the main differences?

Pilates has the intention of creating a strong yet supple body for longevity and mobility.

Yoga has more layers, uniting the mind, breath and body, and offers so many mental benefits to create calm, reduce stress, as well as working on the physical body.

What are the main benefits of each?

Yoga helps with physical strength, flexibility and mobility in the body, as well as mental clarity and stress reduction, which helps with feelings of depression and anxiety. Breathwork is so powerful it can heal the body, and the lessons you learn help shape how your day and week. It helps take you out of the business and helps to slow down in a fast-moving world.

Pilates offers a really strong body, especially around the core and back, which so many people experience issues with. It helps create a balanced body so that we undo any inbalances that can create problems further down the line. It helps you connect with your body in a different way and builds confidence as you become stronger.

Who would you recommend yoga and pilates to?

Pictured: "Everyone really can do some form of pilates and yoga," Sharnelle said.

I recommend yoga and pilates to everyone! Everyone really can do some form of pilates and yoga. It's about finding the right class to suit your needs, whether they are more physical or mental or a combination. Always reach out to a teacher to help guide you into the right class. I invite anyone to reach out to me to find out what it is you are wanting and guide you to the right classes. It's not about comparing yourself to others or bending yourself into crazy positions. Figure out why you want to do it or what it is you want from a class and you can be guided to the right person for you.

What do you need to start practising either?

You don't need anything to start. A yoga mat is helpful to have and you can watch online videos at home, there are many on YouTube or teachers like myself have online memberships. Or get yourself to a class and see how you find it.

Don’t hesitate to shop around, if you thought a class wasn't for you, there are so many others that could be right. If you can do yoga and pilates then that is a winning solution, to know you have a strong body and a strong mind helps you to walk through life feeling stable, grounded and confident in yourself.

Do you have a favourite?

Pictured: Sharnelle favours yoga because of the "many different layers" and the way the meditation and breathwork has changed her life.

Oh, that's hard, but I will say yoga is my favourite because there are so many different layers and the meditation and breathwork has changed my life. Although pilates has built such a strong core and balanced body physically that I will continue to do both for the rest of my life for sure.

This article first featured on Bailiwick Wellbeing, your free guide to wellness in work and island life to help you start the weekend - and week ahead - in the right way. Sign up now here.

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