Where Pilates and Yoga Meet—A Powerful Mix

by Leslie Braverman on April 14, 2015

Sue Brantley, PNWP Pilates and yoga instructor is a master at fusing yoga with Pilates and shares a few insights with the simple and clear examples that make her such a popular teacher.

I think yoga and Pilates are a match made in heaven. The flowing poses in yoga are made more seamless and graceful when practiced with excellent core control and stability. This aligns with one of the main tenets of yoga:

“Sthira sukham asanam.” The asana should be both strong and comfortable. Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 2:46

Three yoga poses improved by using Pilates principles

1.  Plank to Chatturasana Dandasana (the “yoga pushup”). This is a challenging pose that can easily cause injury to the shoulder or the low back. Applying the Pilates principles of core engagement (abs and glutes), and scapular placement and stabilization have made a huge difference in how my students experience this pose.

Try these two Pilates-inspired exercises in preparation for your Chatturanga Dandasana:


Cat Plank

Moving into a round back position during your plank pose is a great way to engage the abs and scapular stabilizers. Having those muscles stronger will make Chatturanga Dandasasa much easier and safer.


Rolling Sphinx

From a sphinx pose, lift your lower ribs, belly, hips and thighs to get into this deep abdominal contraction. It’s a nice way to get more core work into your yoga, and this one fits into a vinyasa flow very nicely.

2.  Bridge Pose (Setu Banda Sarvangasasa). In Pilates, we do hip rolls with no backbend at all. However yoga takes that same pose into full spinal extension. The Pilates principles of engaging your glutes and hamstrings—keeping your ribs from protruding by engaging your obliques and maintaining a neutral neck curve—transform this pose.

It becomes an active yet safe way (for most people) to create openness through the shoulders, chest and entire front body, while keeping toned and engaged through the back body.

Try these two preparatory poses:


Bridge with Strap

Looping a strap over the fronts of the ankles helps “close the chain,” so you can feel the back body working more easily. Pulling on the straps also let you lift your chest and hips more easily.

Bridge March

Using a Shoulder Bridge variation from Pilates amps up the work on the supporting leg: glutes, adductors and hamstrings. Those muscles tend to be more stretched than strengthened in traditional yoga classes, so adding strength promotes more balance in the body.

3.  Tree Pose (Vrksasana). In yoga, students are sometimes told to let their buttocks relax. And, while neither the yoga world nor the Pilates world want anyone to clench their buttocks, engaging them in a dynamic way improves balance in a profound way. When I have people build up their interior (core) muscles from the foot up to the top of the abdominals—including using their glutes—the entire class is able to sustain this one-leg balance for a significantly longer period of time, with less wobbling.

Try these two poses to prep for your balance:

Side-lying Lifts

Adding this classic Pilates exercise to your yoga practice will absolutely improve your balance. Strengthening the gluteus medius, along with maintaining stability through your core, will make one-leg balances such as Tree Pose more easeful.


Three leg dog

This variation of Downward Facing Dog is similar to a Warrior 3 pose. The leg in the air is being held up by the glutes and hamstrings, thereby strengthening the muscles you need for your one-leg balances.

Keep your yoga thriving by engaging in a balanced practice that cultivates both strength and ease. That is where you will cultivate calmness, compassion and joy.

Pacific NW Pilates is studio, school and fitness family under one roof. Click to learn more about our education courses and workshops, private studio sessions and group classes. Or call for details: (503) 292-4409.


Sue Brantley


Sue Brantley is a fully certified STOTT PILATES® Instructor and certified E-RYT Yoga Instructor with 17 years experience. She is known for her friendliness and humor—and creates an atmosphere of camaraderie and support among her students. Sue has studied many forms of yoga, Pilates, and self-myofascial release including therapeutic applications. www.suebrantley.com

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