Yoga is believed by many to be a soft kind of exercise; that it’s just some kind of stretching. This is a misconception that has been created and that’s the reason I decided to write this article: “The difference between Yoga and physical exercise”.
I actually got inspired by an article I read recently.
This article, written by Ramajayam Govindaraj, Sneha Karmani, Shivarama Varambally, B.N. Gangadhar. (2016) Yoga and physical exercise – a review and comparison. International Review of Psychiatry 28:3, pages 242-253, has come to the conclusion that:
“Yoga interventions appear to be equal and/or superior to exercise in most outcome measures.”
Little bit about Yoga
The reason why many think that Yoga is just some kind of exercise is first of all the lack of knowledge and secondly because there are many people directing the main focus mostly on the physical component of yoga when they demonstrate.
But Yoga is much more than just body postures and stretching.
The meaning of Yoga in Sanskrit is unification. Yoga consists of bodily postures (asanas), control breathing (pranayama) and mental exercise (meditation).
These three components are being used at the same time or/and separately when practicing Yoga.
So, as you may already have understood, yoga is pointing to general well-being including mental health.
I have to mention that although you can gain psychical benefits from exercise too, exercise aims for fitness and keeps its focus on the physical part. The psychical benefits you may gain from exercise are therefore minimal compared to Yoga.
I also have to clarify that many asanas requires a lot of strength to hold. So from the physical point of view, that means that you use your body weight to strengthen your muscles combining stretching and strength activity.
What is it that makes Yoga stand out from exercise
When we practice these body postures, asanas, our goal is to do it in a relaxed manner and being aware of all our bodily sensations, mindfulness, and by synchronizing our breath at the same time.
That means that all three components of yoga work together and train your body and mind at the same time.
By doing that, among all the other benefits we gain, we can also benefit specific organs in our body. Exercise can do that too. But not in such a big range as Yoga. By performing asanas you massage and send oxygen to vital organs like the lungs, liver, kidneys etc.
The twist asanas like Ardha Matsyendrasana or Parivrtta Parsvakonasana have the effects (among many others) of massaging and stimulating the abdominal organs. The backbends asanas like Urdhva Mukha Svanasana and Ustrasana expands the capacity of your lungs. And the list goes on..
So while exercise aims just for improving your body, Yoga treats the body as an ensemble where the physical and psychical health are codependent.
Start practicing Yoga today:
***I want to point out that there are many parts of Yoga that I have not mentioned in this article like the bandhas, mudras and shatkarmas.