In our quest toward becoming our best versions, we often hear different recommendations on what we should do. But when it comes to yoga or physical exercise, which is better? It’s a bit like comparing apples to oranges because which one you choose to do will depend on your goals.
So the short answer is that yoga is not better than exercise and neither is exercise better than yoga. But both share similar characteristics in many aspects, which I’ll dive deeper into.
For instance, it’s known that physical exercise appeals more to men because the perception is that there’s more of a challenge involved with physical exercise. However, yoga could perfectly complement physical exercise and make it more effective, and easier to do.
If your highest priority is building muscle, pushing yourself past your limit, and having things go in a “fast paste” then you’re more likely to benefit from physical exercise.
Whereas if you want something that’s both calming for the mind and can even be therapeutic, while still achieving similar, if not the same benefits of yoga, but you’re willing to delay the gratification in exchange for, not only physical but mental gratification, then yoga could be just for you.
Physical strength exercise focuses on physical gains, which can often extend to mental gains, but more so is yoga since it targets both the mind and body. I’ll go more in-depth into which is better and how the two compare so you can make an informed decision on which one to go for.
For the record, I’ve done both and I think you should be doing both when you can, but if your time budget is tight or only want to do one at a time, hopefully, this will provide some insights on which you should go.
Yoga Includes Meditation
Now yoga isn’t exactly a meditation in itself, but it can be, and nothing prevents you from adding meditation to your yoga practice.
After all, it’s not something you’d have to do at a separate time, but what’s key in meditation is that it helps you build discipline and strengthen your mind.
So does yoga indirectly after consistent practice, but this mental strength can help you stay on track when you are doing physical exercise.
If you manage to build the habit of yoga successfully, it’s like a micro-stepping stone toward building the habit of exercise. Building the habit of exercising right out of the bat when you’re starting out can feel intimidating because exercising can be challenging, even if it can be done at your own pace, there are no rules that are set and stone.
But with exercise, there’s a common trend to over-push yourself in order to gain strength, yoga doesn’t have that same level of pressure because typically, exercise tends to be progressive in terms of intensity.
It can be a mixture of higher intensity and consistency because, at some point, your pain tolerance becomes so high that what was hard first becomes a walk in the park later on.
The same can be said about yoga, with that element of pressure missing, but because yoga is easier to do, some might find it easier to stick to, because it’s almost as if you subconsciously adopt many of the elements that are in meditation when practicing yoga that helps you build up this discipline that makes it easier to take on bigger challenges.
As a whole, yoga is a micro commitment that, because it includes elements of calmness and relaxation, makes up for the mental part you might’ve lacked in regular exercise to continue.
Yoga Can Replace Exercise
Yoga, at first glance, doesn’t seem like the kind of exercise you do to build muscle, but you can. Not only can you keep muscle with yoga, but you can also maintain muscle.
Yoga can be an easier habit to maintain over time, because it not only makes you feel physically well but also well mentally, as previously mentioned.
Now, I don’t recommend using yoga as a form of replacement for exercise, since the two work the best when combined, but if you only had to pick one, in terms of staying fit and toning your muscles, yoga is fine. If you want to grow more muscle, then you’ll benefit from supplementing yoga with exercise.
One thing both yoga and exercise share in common is that they can significantly delay the inevitable decaying of our bodies by making us look younger, more so yoga.
Which is a factor many ignore until it’s too late, but in that sense, yoga can be more complete than regular exercise, whereas exercise, while very effective, is also very targeted at what muscle you want to grow. So for overall health and general well-being, yoga is enough.
Those who want to take it a step further (which is highly recommended), will benefit from physical exercise, but that’s my two cents and experience in the matter. Physical exercise can do a better job than yoga if you want to build physical strength, in that case, pick exercise.
When it comes to weight loss, both can be effective, with physical exercise believed to have an edge in this point.
Yoga Helps With Inner Connection
Not only does yoga provide external physical benefits that can manifest in the form of a lean body, but the mental aspects of yoga can help you be in touch with yourself and feel a closer connection to your emotions.
Certain poses can evoke certain emotions in you, anywhere from anger to pure blissfulness, it’s all part of the journey but for some, it can be an emotional roller coaster at the start, but in a way, it’s beneficial in the sense that it helps us to better manage those emotions, especially when combining yoga with meditation and embracing those emotions to ultimately let go of them.
Yoga is more tailored to personal growth and whereas growing muscles can be something that impresses others, with yoga, there isn’t that sense of showing off or competitiveness, it’s more of a journey with yourself and becoming your best version.
That’s not to say that exercise can be used for that purpose but exercise omits the mental aspects of yoga, which in this case, yoga is more of a way to impress yourself and track your progress, as well as get to know yourself on a deeper level.
Yoga has more of a deeper spiritual meaning than exercise has, but that’s not to say you can’t find a spiritual meaning with exercise.
What’s beautiful about both yoga and exercise is that they can provide a way out of a tough emotional situation such as a breakup, for instance, and make you focus more on yourself and get to the next level by being the best self you can be. It’s a healthy form of distraction that works in the long term.
Yoga Has a Lower Barrier to Entry
Both yoga and exercise are broad terms and there are countless different yoga styles as well as countless exercises that are easier than others.
But in terms of physical strength training, it can pose a higher barrier to entry or make someone feel intimidated by the constant pressure to up themselves or the difficulty of physical exercise.
Whereas yoga can be done at any age, and even if it’s better to start at an early age to build a great foundation.
Nonetheless, it’s always better late than never. Yoga is more about relaxation and bringing peace of mind, whereas the perception of physical strength training is not that it’s calm and soothing but more intense, which may turn some off and might pose a barrier to entry.
Both are wonderful habits and as a whole, you can’t go wrong with either.
Depending on your goals, if you want to live an as active life as possible, without significant hardship or feeling like you are pressured, like you have to push yourself, and want something that’s more streamlined where you only have to show up and get better over time, yoga can be ideal for you.
Yoga can train your flexibility which will help with mobility and as previously mentioned, once you build the habit of yoga, you’ll have an easier time maintaining it. Yoga is a slower-paced habit than exercise but that can yield astronomical returns in terms of youth and overall well-being, without needing to exercise each muscle one by one.