top of page

Yoga Isn't Exercise

Updated: 1 day ago

Before we get into why yoga isn't exercise, let's take a look at what exercise is...

What is Exercise?

According to the National Library of Medicine exercise is “a subset of physical activity that is planned, structured, and repetitive and has as a final or an intermediate objective the improvement or maintenance of physical fitness” (1)

Physical activity is any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that require energy expenditure.(2)

What is Yoga?

The most commonly known definition of yoga is based on its etymology. The word yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word yujmeaning “to bind together” or “to yoke”. You may have heard yoga described as the union of body and mind, or the union of small “s” self (individual consciousness) and large “S” Self (divine consciousness).

While the definition of yoga varies slightly from one resource to another. They all agree that yoga is “concerned with a state of being, or consciousness, that is truly foundational.” (Reference: The Yoga Tradition, p. 3)

A ‘yoga practice’ could include one or more of the following:

  • Contemplation

  • Meditation

  • Self-study

  • Study of yogic texts

  • Reciting or Chanting yogic verses

  • Selfless service

  • Pranayama (yogic breathing practices)

  • Asana (yoga postures)  

Even asana practice alone could run the gamut from stillness nurturing practices like Yin Yoga or Restorative Yoga where postures may be held for 5 minutes or more to dynamic Ashtanga yoga where practitioners move briskly through the same sequence of postures in every practice. 

Regardless of the resource, however, you will not find yoga defined as “exercise” in a traditional text.

Yoga teacher, Karin Weinstein, practicing yoga asana - upward facing dog
the author, Karin, practicing yoga asana

Yoga vs. Exercise: It All Comes Down to Intention

The intention of yoga relates to connecting more deeply with our true nature and by extension, perhaps, reducing unnecessary suffering. Even the more dynamic practices are done with the intention of preparing the body for the stillness of meditation.

Why is this distinction important?

Because if we come to yoga hoping that it will make our body look a certain way, or allow us to touch or toes, or balance on our head we may be sorely disappointed. Yoga can make no such promises. (This is a culturally appropriative, reductionist, and very Western point of view.)

If, however, we come to yoga wanting to know and love ourselves better, to more deeply align with our connection to all that is, or to reduce suffering in the world – both our own and other’s – I can think of no better way.

Any positive physical outcomes that result from yoga are by products. Side effects. Bob Ross might call them “happy accidents”.

When we take the pressure off of yoga to be something that it was never intended to be we allow yoga the freedom to be all that it actually is: a path to our highest Self and a gateway Home.

39 views3 comments

Recent Posts

See All

3 comentarios

Obtuvo 0 de 5 estrellas.
Aún no hay calificaciones

Agrega una calificación
08 may

Well said!!

Me gusta

07 may
Obtuvo 5 de 5 estrellas.

Love it!

Me gusta
Contestando a

Hi! Thanks so much for taking the time to read!😊

Me gusta
bottom of page