Pilates was started by Joseph Pilates and has it's roots from the German Turnverien gymnastics school of the 1800's. Joseph was interned as a prisoner in England during WW1 and started to use his gymnastic and physical fitness knowledge to build a spring tension system to aid the rehabilitation of wounded German soldiers brought to the camp.
The development of Pilates Method
The Pilates Method started very much as a clinical method to help people get through aches and injuries. After WW1 Pilates moved to New York, meeting his wife Clara on the trip over the Atlantic. She was also minded towards exercise and rehabilitation so together they formulated exercises, sometimes borrowing from other disciplines.
Some of the things Pilates is most famous for are influenced by other disciplines. For example, boxing will have contributed a lot of the core work, yoga can be seen in some arm and spinal movement and martial arts, particularly Tai Chi, clearly influenced the hip movement, breathing and aim for controlled movement. The Pilates method, as a result, never stayed still during Joseph's time. Nor has it since.
Modern Pilates therefore comes in different flavours. Some teacher teach classical pilates to preserve the repertoire Pilates taught in his final years. While others, myself included, teach progressively and carry on Joseph's curiosity and innovation by applying modern knowledge of anatomy and bio-mechanics to update the exercises. This has opened the method to a wider range of clients.
Is it the same as Yoga?
Pilates and Yoga are not the same. They share many goals and at a glance have similar movements, so we have a lot in common.
Both disciplines are based on movement but we come from different approaches. In Yoga there is an emphasis on the system of poses effect your body and is based on Hindu, Buddhist and Jainu beliefs. It is very effective for flexibility and mindfulness. Pilates is very much founded on modern physiology and is very effective for strength and body awareness.
Yoga breathing is to the stomach to relax the mind and reduce tension. Pilates uses breathing into the lungs to widen the rib cage and assist balance, centring and movement. The emphasis on each is different so in that Pilates and Yoga are very complimentary.
The most obvious difference however is in the equipment Pilates designed. Used to isolate and support; these machines offer people the ability to practice movements they may not ordinarily be able to achieve under gravity. Joseph Pilates built his system and called it contrology using what we know about the body in order to strengthen and provide life long physical and mental health. Modern Pilates follows these principals.