My recommendation? Do them both.
Doing yoga is like eating your veggies. You've kinda just got to do it. Even a couple of stretches and poses after brushing your teeth will get you moving in the morning so much better than just downing a double espresso. I know this. I am *not* a morning person.
Yes, yoga has that long tradition of bringing the body and mind together. I've tried many different methods, with many different teachers. I've gotten something out of every instructor, whether it is an aerobics class pitched as yoga with a Californian dude wearing a tennis headband and old sneakers... to falling in love with a Spanish instructor in Barcelona who seemed to amplify the hearts of everyone in the room.
If you look for it, each class will teach you something new about yourself. So yoga is a real opportunity for self development. The poses are designed for health. Each style and pose and even room temperature will do different things for your mind and body. They are all interesting to investigate and find which one works for you.
Many yoga instructors will ask you to set an intention for the class. I tend to anyway because I've learned that setting intentions drives how I am in everyday life. So I want to do that in yoga classes too. Each class will be different as you develop - you may feel weak or strong, balanced or not, coordinated or embarrassingly wobbly. There always seems to be a mental reward that develops from the physical action of the yoga poses. After time, you don't need to look at the instructor, your breathing becomes regular, and it feels like a rewarding dance. Sometimes I feel like I have dopamine filling my whole body and it draws me back to my next class...
But sometimes... I need a change. My body does too.
In comes Pilates. I've done Pilates on a mat, but have injured myself because I didn't get the exercises quite right.
I've been walking past Studio Pilates in Hawthorne for a while and finally decided to try them out. Mainly because I wake up with a sore lower back, and as much as the yoga helps me move better, it isn't helping me to correct my core strength enough. I had a recommendation from a friend that they were rather good.
Studio Pilates has rows of machines called 'reformers'. Essentially, modern day torture devices with very sweet instructors. They focus on lots of small, precise movements that burn like crazy after a while. Good burn. Seriously. I felt safer doing this than at the gym with a personal trainer. At no point did I feel any part of my body was going to go "Ping! Flap flap flap..." and I'd be walking out in agony. That feeling of security will keep me returning.
I've only gone to my first few classes, have felt very welcomed, and more importantly, my core strength has improved after only one week. My back isn't quite as tired feeling as it normally is. Which is quite frankly amazing.
So, my Pilates adventure continues. However I'm not giving up on my first love, yoga. My mat is out each morning for a few stretches and that lovely 'begin the day' feeling.
I'm looking forward to the benefits of both and will keep you posted.
If anyone has any advice on strengthening the core to help our lower backs stay strong, I'd love to hear it!