Well first of all you need to know the difference between the two, as Pilates and Yoga are very different concepts.
When I have practiced yoga in the past it often seems to be a lot of separate poses linked together in sequences or through breathing. These sequences can focus on different areas of your body – hips / hamstrings / chest etc and can challenge your fitness levels as well as increasing your level of calmness, it just depends on the class and instructor.
There are over 500 different yoga poses so you should never get bored in a class. Most teachers have to have completed between 200 – 500 teaching hours before they qualify as a yoga instructor, they learn how they feel when completing the moves but are also trained how to focus on the participants movement and response to the flow of yoga moves.
As there are different schools of yoga it can be for everyone and every standard of runner, some classes are stronger than others, most leave you challenged either physically or mentally.
Pilates was developed last century by Joseph Pilates to help him improve his health. The Pilates system has 34 basic moves all of which can be adapted depending on the level of fitness of the participant, but the Pilates system focuses on improving spinal alignment and deep core muscles, so can be useful for physios seeing clients with back issues hence the amount of referrals passed.
Most classes focus on control of breath, balance and core work, but the advanced Pilates classes can be really challenging and not for the fainthearted. There are also different types of Pilates via Mat and reformer classes which involve equipment and resistance to build strength.
A qualification can be gained across a few weekends, so not as in-depth as yoga initially, but the follow on courses can build on knowledge to develop the philosophy further.
So far i have only touched on the main branches of Yoga and Pilates but there are other classes available. Systems like fitness Pilates, supple strength, pure stretch all utilise the movements of Yoga and Pilates, but the in depth knowledge hasn’t been gained as the qualification is normally only 8-16 hours to achieve, so they are very diluted.
So this can cause an issue as the instructor may not have the depth of knowledge to develop a proper flow of moves or know the reason why certain movements are linked together and what they are supposed to achieve.
So in summary Pilates and Yoga can both help runners to improve their times and improve how they move. Pilates will ensure that you remain strong in the core and spine, Yoga will improve flexibility increasing stride length meaning you cover ground faster – however instructors of both Yoga and Pilates will argue that their system achieves both.
However the diluted options are a ‘buyer beware’ as always, due to the distance from the original concept and the potential knowledge deficit of the instructor.
As ever consistency is the key to any training system.