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Is Yoga or Pilates good for my back?



Yoga is a group of physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines which originated in ancient India. Yoga is one of the six orthodox schools of Hindu philosophical traditions. There is a broad variety of yoga schools, practices, and goals in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. The term "yoga" in the Western world often denotes a modern form of Hatha yoga, yoga as exercise, consisting largely of the postures called asanas.

Is Yoga safe?

In order to teach Yoga you have to study five areas:

  • Yoga techniques and postures (the practice)

  • Yoga philosophies, history and lifestyle

  • Human anatomy, physiology and psychology

  • Methods of teaching Yoga

  • Practical teaching training (in front of a class)

Studies have found the incidence of pain in Yoga practitioners caused by Yoga is more than 10% per year - which is comparable to the rate of all sports injuries combined among the physically active population.

Yoga Benefits

There is some evidence that regular Yoga practice is beneficial for people with high blood pressure, heart disease, aches and pains - including lower back pain - depression and stress.

  • Improve general wellness

  • Relieve low-back pain and neck pain

  • Help people manage anxiety or depressive symptoms

  • Help people quit smoking

  • Help people who are overweight or obese lose weight

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (part of the NIH) suggests the above findings, however they note "Although there has been a lot of research on the health effects of yoga, many studies have included only small numbers of people and haven't been of high quality. Therefore, in most instances, we can only say that yoga has shown promise for particular health uses, not that it has been proven to help".


Created by Joseph Pilates in the 19302, Pilates was first called Contrology and inspired during WWI while held in camp for four years. Joseph was a nurse-physiotherapist and his goal was to create lifelong sustainable exercise at a low cost. Pilates recognized that the brain controls mobility and stability of the body. Specific muscles are used in a functional sequence at controlled speeds - emphasizing quality, precision and control of movement. Complex movements are broken down step-by-step to internalize the pattern.

Pilates Benefits

Regular practice should lead to:

  • Enhanced body and self-awareness

  • Improved core stability

  • Improved coordination and posture

  • Uniform muscle development

  • Decreased stress

Yoga and Pilates Compared

Similarities: strength, flexibility, fitness, importance of breath

Differences: Pilates emphasizes core strength while yoga emphasizes flexibility


  • A common foundation in both practices

  • Dysfunctional breathing is common among people with low back pain

So should I do Yoga or Pilates?

Depending on classification it may make sense for you to do one or the other, or both, or possibly neither!


  • Low back pain classification

  • Underlying condition

  • Time and Interest

  • General activity level

How do I know my low back pain classification?

See an expert at Altitude! All our physical therapists are experts in identifying movement patterns and dysfunctions as well as classifying the best way to treat your low back pain!

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