Many yogis are beginning to recognize that Pilates—an 85-year-old system of body conditioning designed by German émigré Joseph Pilates—is a rewarding complement to asana practice. And some are finding that Pilates' focus on building and engaging a strong core can propel their yoga practice into new realms.
While yogis are instructed to either hold poses or flow quickly through them in vinyasas, Pilates is a rhythmic practice of precise movements repeated five to 10 times for each exercise. The aim is to engage and strengthen the transversus abdominis (the deepest layer of abs that wrap around the torso horizontally), the obliques, the lower back muscles, and the pelvic floor during complex movements. By doing so, you develop a strong, corset-like support system that protects your back from injury.
Yoga and Pilates are, of course, distinct practices, but there might be times—perhaps when you've hit a plateau in your asana practice or are in an experimental mood—when playing with some Pilates techniques on your mat might enhance your yoga practice.