Yoga and Pilates mats - what's the difference?

You might think that shops sell Pilates and Yoga mats to get you to buy two different mats and spend more money but there is actually a difference.

Yoga Mats -


You should pick a mat that is:

thin - so you can feel the floor and it doesn't stretch around when you're pulling it in different directions

sticky - so you don't slip around

long - so you don't have to shift your position, especially if you're long!

Pilates Mats -


You should pick a mat that is:

thick - so when you're rolling around on your spine or lying on your side there is enough squishiness to support you. 5mm or more. 

long and wide: so you don't have to shift your position when you move from one position to the next

Core Strength Yoga Workshop

Core Yoga - Leyton Yoga: Feb 28th, 2-4.30pm (£22)


This Pilates influenced core workshop will be dynamic and a tough asana practice. Activating your core will help make your yoga practice more fluid and keep your back healthy and happy. Sometimes, the missing link in smooth transitions, balancing poses and inversions is a strong core. Training your core muscles is much more than just getting a “flat tummy”, it’s about creating endurance and stability throughout the whole body, enabling freedom of movement and supporting your back, freeing you from back pain.  

To register for a workshop, please email leytonyoga@gmail.com. Places are limited. Leyton Yoga.

Pilates for Runners

I used to run, a lot. And when you're a runner, doing anything other than running can sometimes seem like time lost running. There's something so exhilarating about feeling your heart and legs pumping, checking your pace and blasting out your music. It's perfect cardio-vascular exercise and I'm not saying you shouldn't do it but I do want to talk about the benefits of adding in another form of exercise, something that compliments running - Pilates.

Running is primarily a forward/backward motion of arms and legs (unless, like me your form isn't perfect and you also have a bit of a twist in the torso). If you run a lot you probably have really strong quads and hip flexors (the the front of your body) hamstrings and calves (the back of your body). So it's important to work your body in other planes of movement - lateral flexion and rotation. 

Other muscles groups that should be strong and can help with running but that maybe could do with a bit of help from Pilates are the glutes (to help power you forward), the small balance muscles in your feet (to help ground you and keep you upright) and core and back (to keep you upright and again to provide power to lift your legs). 

The other thing about running is that it can make you TIGHT. Tight in the hamstrings, calves, quads and back. Pilates is a balance of strength and flexibility so we work on releasing and lengthening the muscles. 

You'll be a much better runner if you can find ease in the body and power in the muscles when you need it. It's also important to keep your back healthy and happy too so that you can keep on running for the rest of your life!

A few Pilates exercises that you should consider incorporating into your weekly regime:

  • Squats,
  • One-legged squats
  • Roll downs
  • Curls ups/abdominal work
  • Hip rolls
  • Curl ups/abdominal work with oblique twists
  • Spine curls with battement 
  • Diamond press
  • Prone leg beats
  • Heel Squeeze
  • Cobra
  • Side-lying exercises
  • Spine Twists
  • Side planks

You can add in a workout at home following along with my video below OR just come to class and we'll work through these exercises together!

Yoga or Pilates?

I should declare from the start that obviously I think everyone should do both - they totally compliment each other - but say you only have time in your life for one. Which one is right for you? Yoga or Pilates?

Pilates is a system specifically created to strengthen the body and to ensure you retain the functionality of the joints (especially the spine) for the rest of your life. (For as long as you practice Pilates regularly)

Yoga is a system that works your body but with the outcome of helping you to practice relaxation and focus. You make shapes with your body (poses) that help you to unite breath, mind and body using your physicality as a laboratory. 

Both, yoga and Pilates use breath and require focus which inherently brings relaxation of the mind but for one that is a bi-product (Pilates) whereas for the other, it is the whole point (yoga). 

Pilates is more concerned with functional movement and can be used in a rehabilitative way with modifications. Yoga is much more of a bit of contortionist fun and though, in this day and age, there is alignment and safety, it is more about simply moving your body. 

Both systems have their merits and compliment each other, so try both before making your decision (if there really is only time for one). 




Pilates Ab workout: Series of 5 Abdominal Exercises

This is the series of 5 abdominal exercises from the classical Pilates mat repertoire. You can try one or two and rest in between as you build up abdominal strength and stamina to do all five.  Needless to say, these are great exercises for building core strength!

The exercises we go through in this video are:
Single leg stretch
Double leg stretch
Single leg lower
Double leg lower
Criss cross

A Healthy Spine and Pilates

Quite often my clients’ first experience of Pilates is due to a recommendation from a doctor or physician as a good form of exercise for the spine. But why is Pilates so often recommended?

Here’s why – Pilates is a form of exercise that aims to work the whole body creating a balance between strength and flexibility. It’s not about having the longest hamstrings and being able to reach your toes (as I often comment, do longer hamstrings make you a better person?!) it’s about ensuring that you have the mobility to function.

Every Pilates class that I teach we work through the four spinal planes of movement.

1. Flexion (when your spine moves forward)
2. Extension (when your spine moves backwards)
3. Rotation (when your spine twists around)
4. Lateral Flexion (side reach)

Practicing every one of these movements will ensure that your spine remains healthy and happy. Quite often, movements like rotation, lateral flexion or even extension are not things that we do in our day-to-day life, especially if you work at a computer – you spend most of the day in flexion. Adding Pilates into your weekly routine will really help you to feel and appear taller and most importantly, to keep your back in great condition.