Monthly Archives: December 2008

What is the difference between yoga and Pilates?

I get this question again and again.  So, what is the difference between yoga and pilates?  As a pilates instructor, I will focus more on what pilates is because it is my area of expertise.  

Yoga and pilates are both considered “mind-body” exercises which stretch, strengthen, and center you.  Both require much concentration and have multiple layers of difficulty.  Both should be practiced with a certified instructor so that you learn the nuances of the movements.  Some pilates exercises look a lot like yoga exercises–and there is good reason for that.  Joseph Pilates was a student of yoga, among many other things.

Here is where the differences start.  Yoga, in general, is based on the Eastern idea of moving energy throughout your body.  This is where chakras come in to play. Additionally, one very often finds spiritual or religious elements in yoga.  Yoga is a very old discipline which to my knowledge has not changed much.  The postures have remained the same.  I think (this is my humble opinion!) that part of why postures have not changed with current physical therapy knowledge is because yoga is more interested in energy than it is in muscle balance and tone.

Pilates, on the other hand, is a newer discipline, created during WWI by Joseph Pilates.  Pilates began as a therapeutic workout–Joe rehabbed injured soldiers during the war.  After Joe moved to the US, he began training professional dancers, gymnasts, and acrobats–all of whom still needed the rehab element, but also needed serious strength, coordination, and balance.  If  energy and chakras are the center of yoga practice, I’d have to say that muscle balance and posture are the center of a pilates practice.  There are both authentic and contemporary pilates styles.  Joe was a maverick, he took the most cutting-edge knowledge he had at the time and created his exercises.  The authentic studios use his exercises and have not changed them in light of new physical therapy findings.  Contemporary pilates, such as STOTT pilates, is on the cutting edge of science and constantly adapts their programs to best suite people now.  Religion and spirituality are not part of the pilates program as they generally are in yoga.  

Yoga is a lot of fun (at least I think so!) and it always calms my turbulent mind.  However, if you are looking for a workout that will improve your posture, strengthen your core, shoulder girdle, deep hip flexors, etc., pilates is the answer because each exercise is picked individually for you in order to balance your muscles.  STOTT pilates truly helps prevent injuries through teaching its practitioners how to move appropriately.

What makes up the core?

I think, in fitness today, that the term “core” is over-used to the point where the average person either has no idea what their core is, or thinks that it is probably somewhere around their trunk.  The core is actually made up of 4 muscles and is very deep–you cannot see your core firing on.  The muscles that make up your core are your diaphragm (the muscle you use for breathing), your pelvic floor (many muscles forming a diamond shape between your pubis, coccyx, and ishium), your multifidus (little muscles running all the way down your spine), and your transversus abdominis (your deepest layer of abdominal muscle).   These muscles increase the pressure of the abdominal contents when they contract.  The muscles in your core are supposed to be on all the time, at a very low frequency.  These are the muscles that keep your back healthy, give you good balance, help with posture, and give you strength that truly matters because they are global stabilizers.  Because these are “low frequency muscles”, the best way to work them (especially if they are not working well, as is the case with many adults) is to practice doing easier exercises rather than very hard exercises–which also work the core, of course, if your core is actually working. Because the muscles are so deep, there is no way of telling whether your core works or not by just looking at you.  If  you are worried that your core doesn’t work properly, a physical therapist or pelvic floor specialist (also a PT) can test you and help you find out.

Book Review: “The Pritikin Edge”

I recently got my hands on The Pritikin Edge: 10 Essential Ingredients for a Long and Delicious Life by Robert A. Vogel and Paul Teger Lehr.  I read the entire book in only one day.  The book is well written, hilarious, and definitely not overly medical or dry sounding.  This book presents 10 essestial “ingredients” for a healthy life, which include cutting down on fat, stress, salt, and meat, while eating more fresh fruits, veggies, and fish.  Vogel and Lehr also encourage increased exercise, especially in the form of spontaneous daily activities, such as parking in the furthest spot in the parking lot or taking the stairs and also urge stress reduction.  This advice may sound like information that everyone knows, but reading this in a book written by a cardiologist really helps one believe and apply, rather than just “know” the information.

This book gave the absolute best description of atherosclerosis that I have ever read.  None of my college textbooks explained the disease so clearly or in such a fun, easy to read manner.  Basically, the food choices we make are either detrimental to our bodies (cause inflammation of the arteries–such as saturated, animal fat or trans fat) or they are neutral (such as olive oil) or are beneficial (such as canola or grapeseed oils).

I highly recommend that anyone interested in health, nutrition, and disease prevention read this book.  Almost every single contributing factor to heart disease is due to lifestyle.  We are more in control of our bodies and our health through nutrition and exercise than I think any of us are fully aware.  This book made a difference in my life–in my family’s nutrition and in the way we look at food.

One caveat: I am not a fan of the recipes in the book. I’ve taken the ideas and used them to recreate my favorite recipes.

Movie Review: “The Future of Food”

I recently watched The Future of Food with my husband.  In this harrowing documentary, I learned not only about Genetically Modified foods (something I try to stay far away from!) and about how other countries are going to “watch our children” over the next ten years to see what the effects of eating GM foods are, but also about how most seed, most packaged food, and most grocery stores are all owned by very few giant companies.  America’s search for efficiency has cost us in diversity.

Probably the scariest fact in the documentary was that companies are now patenting LIFE.  In the past, people could only patent things.  Now, major companies are patenting seeds, claiming that their GM seeds are different enough to be patented, but the same enough to not need any safety tests done on them.  These major companies have multiple ties to the US government, which I am sure is part of the reason their stupid reasoning wins out over the American People’s distrust over GM food.

Completely unrelated to food, this documentary brought up the fact that one company actually patented one of the breast cancer genes, which means that countless scientists who had been studying the gene beforehand are not allowed to anymore unless they pay (literally) sky-high royalties to the company owning the gene.  Maybe this is why we have no cure for Breast Cancer?  It all lies in corporate greed.

Another scary fact I learned is that, although GM seed companies such as Monsanto claim that GM will feed the worlds hungry, it is actually the reverse from true.  In reality, GM has caused numerous problems in our nation, Canada, and Mexico already because if any of the GM seeds blow into a farmers yard, the company owning the patent sues them and “owns” the plants.  Additionally, the government is a co-owner of a terminator gene that causes plants to produce useless seeds after the first planting.  This puts a lot of money in the very few seed-makers pockets and takes even more away from our farmers.   However, this could be absolutely detrimental if any of the seed ended up in third world countries.  As we learned earlier in the documentary, the seeds cannot be contained.

My opinion: our government of the people, FOR the people, should not use us as lab rats just because they and big companies (with major links to the government) want to make money or be the “first” in the world to create something.  We do not yet know what the ramifications of GM foods are, but certain animal studies look very messy.  The government is not conducting its own studies on the safety of GM foods, and the seed creators do not mandatorily need to conduct safety studies. The few that have been done look pretty messy and point to how unsafe GM food is at least in rats.

So–how do you know if you are eating GM food?  Sorry, no way to tell. Your safest bet is to eat all organics if you want to stay away from GM foods, but as I stated earlier in the post, seeds float, so you may get a small amount of GM food even in your organics, because farmers cannot tell the difference between a GM canola or wheat plant and a regular one.

Because GM food is unmarked, you don’t know if an ingredient in your Quaker Oats or Nabisco cookies is GM.  Many natural/organic companies, however, tell you that their products do not contain GM foods. If a company cannot/does not state this on their box, you may want to question it.  Us here in the Seattle area are very lucky–we have PCC Natural Markets, who vow to never carry anything Genetically Modified.

I think this documentary is worth a watch for anyone who cares about their health, the state of their nation, and what their government is up to.