Love yoga and pilates? Get ready to try yogilates

Yoga challenge: “I tried yogilates for 2 weeks and here’s how it made me mentally and physically stronger”

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Tossing up whether to do a mindful yoga session or a powerful pilates class? Well, you don’t have to choose between the two anymore, because ‘yogilates’ exists. Writer Sakshi Udavant gave the hybrid workout a go for two weeks to see whether it offered any real benefits.

If you have been doing pilates for a while, you’ll have come to know and love the feeling that comes from doing 100s and scissors – that deep core burn that makes you go, “Ah, it’s working!”

I love that feeling. In the past, whenever I’ve felt bored or unmotivated to exercise, I closed my eyes and visualised that burn. As I thought about those sensations filling my body, I used to feel a surge of energy, a motivation to pull out my mat. That pilates visualisation worked well for years until an injury forced me to pick up a slower practice: yin yoga. The tranquility and therapeutic benefits of yin stayed with me long after my recovery.

A few months later, I was in a position to start working out again, but I didn’t want to let go of the calmness and grounding that yin yoga offered. It was a conundrum: I missed the intense burn of pilates just as much as I wanted to hold on to the soothing effect of yin.

That’s when the idea came to me: why not combine the two?

Before I could process the idea, I was already scrolling through YouTube, looking for teachers who offer ‘yogilates’ –  a new form of slow-yet-intense exercise that offers the best of both worlds. 

Yogilates: strength and mindfulness combined

The history of yogilates goes back to 1997 when Jonathan Urla, a certified pilates trainer, trademarked the term. Today, the practice includes meditative and balancing poses of yoga coupled with strength training exercises frequently used in pilates workouts. For example, leg lifts (a popular pilates move) may be followed by a downward dog (a classic yoga pose). This way, you tone and tear muscles before following up with short periods of recovery.

I decided to try yogilates for two weeks, to see whether the hybrid was any more beneficial than the original, standalone practices.

It’s the perfect workout to come back to after a fitness break or injury rehab

On the first day of my challenge, I tried Boho Beautiful Yoga’s Yogalates: Pilates Yoga Fusion ♥ Yoga Workout. My core was shaking and burning after just a few moves, probably because it was the first time that I’d given pilates a go after an elongated break.

But that’s the best thing about yogilates – it welcomes you back with ease. If you are returning to your mat after a period of inactivity, this practice offers just the right amount of challenge with plenty of rejuvenating poses so you can work your muscles without feeling exhausted.

On my second day, I tried to go for a slightly longer video: Body Illumination’s Pilates flow and Yoga body. I instantly felt more connected to my body, especially during the transitions between pilates and yoga moves. It felt natural, like my body was flowing into the postures easily and effortlessly. Plus, the video had a lot of affirmations that created a meditative, empowering atmosphere around the practice. 

Don’t think that the yoga element makes yogilates ‘easy’

However, as I picked up longer and more challenging videos in the next three days, I started feeling a tinge of frustration. Why was this so hard for me? Why couldn’t I touch my head to the floor like the instructor? 

It was like I was demanding perfection from a practice that evangelises about staying in the moment and accepting your current state of being. As soon as I clocked that idea, a lightbulb went off in my mind.

About a week into the practice, I finally entered into ‘acceptance’ mode. I realised that it would probably take some time for me to hold long planks and deep forward bends, and that there was no use fighting it. I couldn’t force or shame my way into being stronger or more flexible. It was a process. And the best part? I could enjoy it if I chose to.

By my eighth day of practice, I started feeling more confident. I found it in me to push closer and closer toward my edge. I breathed deeper into each pose, allowing myself the space to expand and contract as needed. 

Yogilates offered me the space to feel the frustration of not being perfect and to sit with that feeling instead of fleeing and distracting myself.

No fixed regime will work day in, day out

Somedays, I gave myself a pep talk during the child’s pose. On others, I was so focused on my breath and movement that I didn’t even realise the monkeys in my head had quietened down.

That’s when it hit me. I’d found what I was looking for: a practice that forced me to concentrate and dig deep while feeling calm and grounded.

During the last week of my challenge, I kept on tweaking and changing bits of my practice. For instance, on some days, I did a short meditation, followed by an hour-long yogilates session, which seemed to heighten the post-workout high. 

On other days, I did a short 10-20 minute yogilates session, followed by a longer yin yoga practice for deeper relaxation. These days felt like a reset and allowed me to clear my head of any brain fog. It was on these days too, that I felt more able to let go of everyday stresses (like the pandemic) – even if only for a few minutes. By the time my yin was done, I felt like I’d just woken up from a deep, restful sleep.

As with all modes of working out, a fixed formula rarely hits the spot day after day. This challenge taught me to listen and adapt my regime, according to how I felt. Finally, I walked out of this two-week challenge feeling more empowered to accept and change the things in my life that no longer served me.

 I felt stronger, calmer and more connected to my body, which improved my self-esteem and helped me feel confident. 

Ready to try yogilates? Start by improving your mobility with one of our 15-minute stretches.

Images: Getty

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