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Fitness Debate: Pilates vs Yoga For Equestrians

Updated: Mar 12, 2020

There seems to be a lot of debate about, “Which is better for equestrians, Yoga or Pilates?” Followed up by, “Do they really help?” If you read the boards, you will find hundreds and even thousands of responses from riders around the world in every discipline, male and female saying things like:

“I feel great after Pilates and it really helps with my posture while riding.”

“Yoga makes me feel more stable and centered in my saddle”

"Yoga taught me how to get out of my head, where I was overthinking, and focus on what my body was doing.”

"Pilates gave me alignment, so I sit straight in my seat now.”

The list of statements goes on and on. A continuing debate between preferences as people list why they think their choice is better. Many of the pro-Pilates responses did highly recommended doing both. While Pilates and Yoga share many attributes like improved flexibility, increased muscle, toning, evenly balanced strength and enhanced muscle control, they reach these goals in different ways and have just as many individual attributes as they do similar.

Pilates is all about control over your body, which is why creator, Joseph Pilates, called it Contrology. A focus on the spine, training your entire body to keep good alignment, all the time. It builds core strength focusing from the center of the body working outward. If you are like me and anywhere near your 40’s, you are beginning to understand all the times people told you, “You’re going to feel that one day!” Let me tell you, I started feeling it years ago, and now I get it!! Pilates is designed to put your body back in rhythm with itself, helping you reestablish proper alignment and movement from prior injuries and bad habits, while increasing strength and suppleness.

Yoga is all about control over the mind while the body is working. Really? Yes, really! We control it, or it controls us, correct? In Yoga, you learn tools like breathing and meditating, gaining the ability to detox your mind, and quiet it’s continuous chatter. I personally would like to have that kind of control over my spouse and kids. The bonus to Yoga is as you are working on a healthy mind, you form a range of controlled poses that teach your muscles to work together in harmony, lengthening your spine, creating balance and center to both body and mind!

So, Yoga or Pilates to improve your riding skills? The answer to that debate is wrapped up in a question. What do you need as a rider?

A better seat

Improved posture


A clear mind



All of the above, please!

Both would be great but based on your availability you may have to pick the one that benefits you most.

Instructor vs DVD vs GYM

You've realized that this could really benefit you, not just in riding but every activity you enjoy and your overall health but what now?

For both Pilates and Yoga, it is important that you do the pose correctly. Yes, you can do them at home or in a gym with a teacher that has training but in a gym, their training may have happened yesterday and the DVD instructor can't see what you're doing to correct bad form.

Mediocre form or incorrect technique will give you mediocre results and could even cause injury. Instructors can also listen to what your riding coach tells you about how you are shifting your weight or struggling with heel position and provide you with specific poses or movements to address those issues. Finding a good instructor and joining a class is not hard but it may be one of the best investments you make in reaching your riding goals.

We are fortunate enough to have a wonderful instructor with many years of experience, who is remarkably talented. Edie offers morning and evening, Yoga and Pilates classes right here at the ranch every week. You can check out our events calendar to see her schedule. These classes are open to everyone, any skill level, rider or non-rider. Please call ahead to reserve your spot!

Edie Smigel

(724) 977-9331

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