As they are practiced today, Pilates and Yoga both offer numerous benefits for overall health and wellness. They both focus on developing strength, flexibility, control, endurance and connectivity to the body as a whole. They both also have a strong connection to breath work.
The most basic difference is the emphasis on the spiritual or meditative aspect that is found in Yoga. While both disciplines encourage body awareness and connectivity to the whole, Pilates is focused more in the physical realm. Yoga is a holistic discipline that originated in ancient India as a spiritual philosophy and works towards uniting mind, body, and spirit. Pilates, on the other hand, was developed in the early 20th century by anatomist and inventor, Joseph Pilates, who called his physical system of fitness “Contrology”. It is a system of specific exercises aimed at improving flexibility, posture, and strength through the development of a strong core.
A more obvious difference is the use of equipment designed by Joseph Pilates, which offers a whole other repertoire of exercises. Spring loaded resistance based equipment like the Reformer and Pilates Chair add variety and challenge to those seeking a more fitness-focused kind of workout. You are also much more likely to use props in a Pilates class (ball, resistance bands, magic circle, etc.). This makes it natural and easy to fuse the Pilates method of exercise with other modern variations such as Barre, etc.