Most sports and exercise programs are equal parts mind games and physical prowess. They require concentration, dedication, determination and any number of other attributes not related to biceps to achieve success. Yoga and Pilates engage the mind in different ways, however, and the spiritual aspect is believed by many to be the most important difference between the two disciplines [source: mindbodygreen].
"Yoga moves are intended as a gateway to allow someone to achieve a higher sense of awareness, whether that's a relationship with their own God or higher power, or just a personal, spiritual awakening," Hunt explains. "I personally teach in some classes a sense of gratitude for the moves and the ability to move in the first place."
Yoga has its roots in Hinduism (working on the poses allowed the devout to meditate for hours more easily in one position). Because of that, some followers of Christianity and Islam consider it blasphemous [source: The Economist]. However, other believers insist that it's no more than a form of exercise to them.
Although Pilates does encourage a strong mind/body connection (through breathing), it lacks the spiritual aspect that yoga is famous for. That spirituality sometimes spills over into other aspects of life, with many yogis embracing vegetarianism as a nonviolent alternative to meat-eating, although it's not a hard and fast rule, by any means [source: Barrett]. Yoga devotees also may take up meditation as a separate spiritual practice in addition to their yoga time.
However, neither exercise is going to rev up your ticker as much as spin or aerobics will, and they tend to burn significantly fewer calories than high-impact fitness options. If shedding pounds is your primary goal, it's best to include a range of strength and cardiac-based routines in addition to yoga or Pilates.