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yoga vs exercise: Differences between yoga and exercise

Most of the people think that yoga and exercise are same. Although both of them aim at improving health and fitness providing proper exercise to the body, they are different to each other. Yoga (like Ashtanga Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Iyengar Yoga, Bikram Yoga etc) aims at integrating body, mind, and spirit. It is a very ancient philosophy which leads human to enlightenment. An exercise is a form of physical activities which aims at building muscles and strengthening the different organs. Yoga makes the foundation to the physical body and travels to the spiritual world. But exercise simply limited to the physical body. Maharshi Patanjali has given the definition of and a concrete guideline for yoga. Ancient scriptures like Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagawat Geeta, Puranas etc. have also highlighted the Yoga.

The differences between Yoga and Exercise can be stated in the following points:

  1. Origin of yoga and exercise: The origin of Yoga is Hindu philosophy and flourished throughout the world. But there are different origins of different types of exercises. For example, wushu and kung-fu are originated in China. Similarly, judo, taekwondo, karate, wrestling, gym, kick-boxing, gymnastics etc. have different origins and purposes.
  2. Mindfulness: Exercise simply focus on physical training but ignores breaths and mindfulness. Yoga poses are the sitting, sleeping and standing exercises with a focus on inhalation and exhalation being mindful in both body (posture) and breaths (Pranayama).
  3. The consciousness of yoga and exercise: Asana wants consciousness over body sensation and focuses on a particular chakra. These things are found to be missed in exercise.
  4. Stability: Asana is the practice of physical stability in a particular pose with mental awareness; whereas exercise is the fast movement of the body.
  5. The intuition of yoga and exercise: Asana increases inner awareness, develops intuition and makes prepared for meditation and Samadhi whereas there is no place for meditation and Samadhi in exercise.
  6. Flexibility: It is not that yoga asana does not increase the physical strength. But it mainly focuses to increase the body flexibility whereas the purpose of the exercise is to increase the physical energy and defense the enemy. Regular yoga accelerates energy but cannot increase flexibility, rather it makes inflexible.
  7. Therapeutic purpose of yoga and exercise: Normally sick and unhealthy people cannot do exercise. So it often suits the healthy people only.  But there are some asanas in yoga system to remove the sickness and diseases of the people. So, sick people get health from yoga, healthy people proceeds towards enlightenment through the practice of yoga.  Thus, asanas are used for the therapeutic purpose as well.
  8. Respiration process in yoga and exercise: Respiration becomes faster and short during exercise. But during Asana, it becomes longer and deeper. We can also say that consumption of oxygen during exercise increases whereas, during asana, consumption of oxygen is lowered down.
  9. Duration: Asana is the practice to stay in a particular pose for a longer duration being stable; whereas exercises are often done in a fast motion consuming maximum energy and breaths.
  10. Body temperature in yoga and exercise: During asana body temperature remains same or drops; but exercise raises the body temperature. It means exercise warms up the body and normally focuses on a specific part of the body. But Asana acts for calming the body and involve the entire part of the body. Asana tries to reduce stress and pain in the body
  11. Metabolism: Metabolism process becomes slow in asana, but exercise increases the metabolic rate.
  12. Blood pressure & Heart rate: Blood pressure and heart rate are lowered down in asana. Whereas heart compels to work harder during exercise which rises up both blood pressure and heart rate.
  13. Food Intake: The practice of asana does not increase the food intake, but it lowers the unnecessary food intake. In exercise high amount of strength is required so the person need a higher amount of food.
  14. Tiredness: In asana energy is consumed slowly and regains during relaxation, so you won’t get tired of Asana very fast rather we feel fresh. There is a flow between each yoga asana which is created to regain energy and release the stress of muscles. Whereas in exercise energy is consumed rapidly, also there is no relaxation process. So, you feel tired.
  15. Philosophy: There is no any life philosophy in exercise whereas eight organs of Astanga Yoga have a separate philosophy. The yoga philosophy helps the person for all-round development.
  16. Limitations: Asana can be practiced by all; no restriction on gender and age. But there are limitations in exercise.
  17. Shape: Exercise, like gym and weight-lifting, develops the muscles and gives an attractive shape to the body. But asana deal to improve the vital function of the body such as circulation, respiration including medical benefits etc. Asana increases the longevity of life. Asana also provides a good shape to the body, however, the shape formed by the yoga seems more natural.  Exercise like weightlifting and gym develops bigger muscles away from the bone while yoga pose draws muscles mass into the bone evenly. Bending, twisting, and stretching of the body in yoga asana create lean and strengthens the muscles.
  18. Versatile: Yoga is versatile. Some intense yoga pose like power yoga and vinyasa etc are formed in such a way that they have some properties as that of exercise like increasing blood pressure, boosting heart-beat whereas exercise normally has no properties of Asana.    
  19. Various creatures: Asana tries to give a realization of becoming different creatures of the cosmos. For example, Mayurasana (peacock-pose) gives the realization of becoming a peacock. It develops the wisdom that the soul remains same for all types of body.

In each creature, there are some good qualities that human need to possess. Yoga asana also aims to generate those qualities from different living beings. Yoga creates the union, friendship and harmony with all the beings of the cosmos.

Exercise tries to learn the way of attack and defense like lion, tiger etc. Yet, there is no spiritual oneness in exercise.