Fitness 101: your guide to pilates, yoga, and barre

Group of diverse people holding yoga mats talking after a yoga class. Multiracial group of fit people talking and relaxing in sports club after workout training.

January is prime time for people to start – or restart – an exercise plan. While many will go to the gym or vow to walk more, there are more exercise options than ever before. Pilates and yoga are perennial favorites, and barre-based workouts are more popular than ever.

Some people feel intimidated by a new exercise program, especially one involving a class with other people. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee certified exercise physiologist Tyler Waclawski encourages you to give them a try.

“Incorporating a new form of exercise is a great way to challenge yourself both mentally and physically,” Tyler says. “A new exercise routine can also help with motivation and keep things from getting stale or repetitive.”

Here’s what you need to know before you go.

Which one should you try?

Tyler: Yoga, pilates and barre are all great options and can be modified to meet the needs of most ability levels. They’re also a great option for a low-impact workout. This can be especially useful if you’re dealing with health issues like knee, hip or foot pain. There’s not necessarily a “better” option when you compare them. But, you may enjoy one type of workout more than other, so that might help you make the choice.

Here’s a brief explanation of each type of exercise:


Yoga is a practice that aims to align the body with the mind. Depending on who you ask, there are six, or eight, or ten or 13 different kinds of yoga. Some styles are more athletic, like ashtanga yoga. Others emphasize a flowing series of movements with controlled breathing, like vinyasa yoga. You could even try a slower, more restful version called restorative yoga. This version often utilizes props to help support you during your practice.

You might want to try yoga if you want a great total body workout that also includes breathing and mindfulness techniques, along with improvements to your flexibility.


Pilates is also considered a type of mind-body exercise. It focuses on helping you learn to isolate and relax certain muscle groups. This helps to improve muscle tone. Pilates can help you strengthen the core part of your body and help you improve your posture.

You might want to try Pilates if you want to focus more on your core and help with back stabilization.


A barre workout incorporates some movements that you might expect in a ballet class, like pliés and relevés. Barre also includes some movements that you might also find in a Pilates or yoga class. And it can help you build muscle strength and endurance and improve your flexibility, too. A traditional ballet barre is used during class for support and stability.

You might want to try barre if you want a total body workout that incorporates balance and strength training.

Getting started

Tyler: Now is always a great time to get started. But there are a few things you need to do, regardless of whether you’re starting from scratch or just starting a new type of exercise.

  1. Get ready to exercise. First, it’s important to make sure you’re physically ready to exercise. If you have any health conditions, lingering injuries or physical limitations, it’s a good idea to consult your doctor first.
  2. Consider your goal. Ask yourself why you want to start exercising. What do you want to achieve? Do you want to get stronger or become more flexible? Lose some weight or have some fun? Once you have a better understanding, you can decide which type of workout to try and what you want to get from the experience.
  3. Get dressed. One of the great things about yoga, Pilates and barre is that they don’t require a lot of specialized equipment. You don’t have to buy special clothes or shoes. Wear something comfortable that allows you some freedom of movement. Most of these classes, especially yoga, are traditionally done barefoot. If you feel more comfortable wearing socks, make sure to wear a pair with some grippers on the bottom. This will help prevent sliding around during your workout. You may also want to use your own mat.
  4. Start slowly. It’s tempting to jump right in when you’re excited about trying something new. Try to resist that temptation! Start slowly to help reduce your chances of getting injured. If you start slowly, you’re less likely to overdo it. Plus, your body and your brain need some time to adjust to this new routine you’re doing.

Health concerns to keep in mind

Tyler: If you have a pre-existing health condition like high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, or arthritis, talk to your doctor before trying a new type of exercise. You should still be able to participate in these types of exercise classes, but it’s important to get a confirmation from your doctor first.

For example, if you have high blood pressure or heart disease, your doctor might advise you to steer clear of hot yoga, which is a type of yoga performed in a room that’s heated above a normal temperature, which results in a lot of sweating.

If you are pregnant, you can still participate in these types of workouts, barring any other health conditions that might limit you. In general, exercise provides great benefits during pregnancy.

However, you may need to modify your movements. Let your instructor know so they can show you some modifications to poses or movements so you don’t attempt to do something that could be troublesome. For example, experts typically recommend that pregnant people steer clear of anything that requires them to lie belly down. You may also not want to attempt to do any poses that require a lot of twisting. You should also ask your doctor if there are any other modifications you need to make.

“Any form of safe exercise that increases movement is a good choice,” Tyler explains. “The good news is that there are a variety of exercise options that can keep you feeling engaged.”

More from Tyler Waclawski on WellTuned.


Jennifer Larson

Jennifer Larson is Nashville-based writer and editor with nearly 20 years of experience. She specializes in health care and family issues.

More Posts

Get more information about specific health terms, topics and conditions to better manage your health on BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee members can access wellness-related discounts on fitness products, gym memberships, healthy eating and more through Blue365®. BCBST members can also find tools and resources to help improve health and well-being by logging into BlueAccess and going to the Managing Your Health tab.