What is the basic difference between yoga and exercise? As a yoga teacher, this is the question I’m asked most. To begin with, Yoga and Exercise are two different things with different approaches and practice methods.
With increasing health awareness more and more people are opting for physical fitness classes like yoga, gym, cycling, running, zumba, etc. However, most of them are confused about which one to choose and which is better. So I’m not here to tell you which to choose. I’m just here to tell you about the benefits of yoga and how it is different from other physical activities. And why yoga should be an important part of your life.
What is yoga?
To begin with, Yoga is a disciplined practice, which is concerned with integrating the physical, spiritual, as well as mental well-being of a person. In fact, yoga is a term that loosely translates to “unite”. It unites mind, soul, and body, and the union of these three are most essential for the functioning of a healthy body.
In fact, the physical aspects of yoga, the asanas, are an auxiliary part of the practice. Moreover, these asanas differ greatly from regular physical exercises both in their mode of performance and in the results.
What is exercise?
Exercise, on the other hand, is a physical activity that is done to improve or maintain overall fitness. It can be anything from running and weightlifting to playing tennis and hiking. Exercise is typically goal-oriented: people exercise in order to achieve specific outcomes such as losing weight, gaining muscle, improving cardiovascular health, etc.
Are there any similarities between yoga, the gym workout and other exercises?
In a sense, both Exercise and yoga are similar as both of them are health activities. They both involve practicing physical activity which can improve health in many aspects including body shape and mental condition/well-being.
Both involve physical movement. Both have an element of training. There is a specific goal to be achieved in performing either activity.
However, there are a few distinctions which set Yoga apart from Exercise. The first is that Yoga is not about competing with or outperforming others. Rather, it is an individual journey in which each student progresses at their own pace and according to their own abilities. This creates a much more supportive and nurturing environment than what one typically finds at the gym.
The second distinction is that Yoga is not about physical fitness alone. While it’s true that improved flexibility, strength, and cardiovascular health are all benefits of regular yoga practice, the ultimate goal of Yoga is to unify the mind, body, and spirit. This includes achieving a sense of peace and calmness that can be difficult to attain through exercise alone.
Third, Yoga is a lifelong practice that can be adapted to any age or ability. Unlike Exercise, which typically peaks in intensity in one’s twenties and thirties, Yoga can be practiced at any age and is beneficial for people of all abilities.
Fourth, Yoga is a mind-body practice. This means that it involves not just the physical body, but also the mind and emotions. In contrast, Exercise is typically limited to the physical body.
Let's see the effect of yoga and exercise on different bodily functions
So, are the effect of the gym, other exercises, and yoga the same on our body? No. Yoga is a practice that incorporates spiritual and mental well-being, while exercise is simply physical activity done to improve fitness.
The main difference is that Yoga is a holistic practice that also includes the mind and spirit, while Exercise typically focuses on just the physical body.
Here you can see the effect of them on different bodily functions.
Exercise: When we do the gym or any exercise, they usually focus on increasing muscle mass, as a result of which the muscles shorten and gradually flexibility decreases.
Yoga: The practice of asanas helps to develop muscles evenly over the bone surface and thereby increasing flexibility.