When deciding whether yoga or Pilates would better suit your individual exercise needs and preferences, consider the different benefits they offer.

If you want to reduce stress and improve mental health, both disciplines are a good bet. The stretching and movement they employ can help improve depression and anxiety and lower your heart rate and blood pressure. In addition, both regimens reduce chronic pain and muscle tension.

Regular routines of yoga or Pilates also improve mood, produce feelings of psychological well-being and help people who suffer from illnesses such as schizophrenia or postpartum depression. Anyone seeking a better quality of life is making an excellent choice when taking classes in either of these life-changing disciplines.

Can yoga and Pilates aid in weight loss?

People dedicated to taking yoga or Pilates classes enjoy benefits such as weight loss, improved self-esteem, increased energy levels and pride in physical accomplishments and abilities.

In addition to an improved mood and feelings of self-satisfaction, studies reveal that a program that includes 30 minutes of exercise three times per week offers positive effects. If your goal is to reduce the effects of depression, keep up your commitment to Pilates or yoga classes for at least 10 weeks.

Which discipline is better for you?

The initial benefits of Pilates and yoga are similar, and often people enjoy taking classes in both. They offer an increase in strength and endurance, stress relief and flexibility, but each has a different philosophy.

Yoga has a spiritual history that can be traced back approximately 5,000 years. The union of body and mind is linked with breathing techniques that lead to inner peace and clarity. The discipline focuses on centering your mind and combining well-being with relaxation and calmness.

A German athlete, Joseph Pilates, developed a low-impact system of exercise that helped his fellow inmates in a World War I internment camp find healing for their injuries, both physical and mental. Even though Pilates is not a spiritual program like yoga, it may help practitioners with concentration, centering and well-being.

Step it up for cardio

Your heart needs to work hard to develop and strengthen itself. A method like hatha yoga could help and could lead to a step up to power yoga classes for challenging aerobic workout sessions. Pilates students who enjoyed their introduction to “the hundred” are ready for advanced classes proven to boost heart rates to the speed of a brisk walk.

Pilates focuses on the “powerhouse” of core muscles, developing the abs during a 36-week training period. Your inner abdominal muscles may be strengthened by 21 percent. Many find that they have a stronger heart and a narrowed waist with an elevated mood within 10 sessions.

If you’re still unsure whether yoga or Pilates is the regimen for you, try both.

Kim Gladfelter is owner, physical therapist and Pilates instructor at PhysioFit Physical Therapy and Wellness, 1000 Fremont Ave., Los Altos. For more information, call 887-6046 or visit