Yoga or The Gym: What’s Best for You?

Ever since yoga has come into vogue, people have been arguing as to whether yoga or the traditional gym experience will get you into better shape.

Weight training has been with us since the beginning of recorded history. There are historical texts documenting that athletes would even carry large animals around on their backs to get in shape! Here in the U.S., people like Charles Atlas helped to popularize the practice as early as the 1920s. Since the 1970s, a high importance has also been placed on concurrent cardio training. So, between the barbells, exercise machines and treadmills, gym enthusiasts would argue you can’t do better.

No so fast, say yoga enthusiasts, who swear by their age-old practice, claiming it to be not only a form of physical exercise, but a mental and spiritual one as well. Modern form yoga arrived in the West in the late 19th century, though it had been practiced in Asia for millennia. It took a while, but yoga finally became mainstream here in The States in the 1980s. Since then, yoga schools have sprung up like lotuses in a jungle pond, and millions practice the ancient art today.

woman exercising in a gym

So what’s the difference?

Yoga starts with the breath, or prana. The idea is to unite the mind, body, and spirit through breathing and exercise positions called asanas. Each position is said to stimulate a different area of the body, with a special emphasis placed on the internal organs and glands. As one makes his or her way through the yogic postures, each bodily system is “activated,” rendering balance.
In contrast, a gym workout focuses largely on muscle strengthening and cardiovascular exercise. The gym body tends to become more sculpted and beefier. Like yoga, weight training uses gravity to stimulate the muscles – In this case contracting them – which builds tissue. To augment this anaerobic form of exercise, cardiovascular work is done via any one of a number of popular machines, including stair climbers, elliptical trainers, stationary bicycles, rowing machines, and treadmills. Recent workouts such as TRX training are more holistic.

While a gym workout emphasizes contraction of the muscles to make them stronger, a yoga workout focuses on strengthening through stretching them. The stretching and extension practiced in yoga tends to help in a number of areas.

Firstly, yoga promotes flexibility as it strengthens. The positions are designed to loosen tendons and ligaments. This brings lubrication to the joints. Additionally, as the practitioner makes his or her way through a yogic sequence, structures such as the pituitary gland are stimulated. This can lead to a profound sense of relaxation and well-being; what some people call the “yogic bliss.”

woman doing yoga

Weight loss
A gym workout excels in the area of weight loss. All that cardio work is golden in this regard and, when circuit training with weights, you can expect to burn between 500 and 600 calories per hour. Just the thing after downing a Big Mac or two!

Yoga enthusiasts, however, insist there’s no better way to lose weight than to change your consciousness about your body. This, they claim, can be realized through the yogic practice. If your body becomes a “temple,” who’s going to want to put a Big Mac in it?

Obviously, there are pros and cons to both methods. The only areas where yoga clearly outshines weight training are those of convenience and cost.  If you’re weight training, unless you have a well-appointed gym in your home, you’ll need to make your way to a facility in order to use the weights and exercise machines.
But once you know your way around the yogic asanas – and this can even be learned via inexpensive books and videos – you can crawl right out of bed and do them right there. Crawling out of bed, of course, does not cost you a thing, while a monthly membership at a gym can get pretty steep.

So, the debate rages on – yoga or weight training? In the final analysis, it all depends on what your objectives are.

Josh Weiss-Roessler is a successful freelance writer who also contributes to Weight Loss Triumph, where you can read about gourmet food delivery. He frequently writes about health and fitness issues, as well as a wide variety of other subjects, from marketing and resume writing (oddly similar) to relationship advice. When not writing, he can usually be found hanging out with his wife, 9-month-old son, or two dogs.

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  1. Kedar2:45 PM

    There’s nothing like yoga to beat stress. Yoga clears my mind. I get a good night’s sleep because of it.

  2. Urmila2:49 PM

    Toning does happen with gym workout

  3. Ruchi2:50 PM

    Yoga or Gym: Though I have done yoga, I swears by the gym, because, according to me, it delivers good results.

  4. viraj2:57 PM

    The Yoga sessions teach traditional yoga principles and techniques to provide a complete workout for the mind and body.

  5. Preeti3:07 PM

    both, I do gym for intensive cardio, and yoga for strength and relaxation.

    Yoga is excellent for eliminating stress and toning the body, as well as detoxifying the system.

  6. “While gym workouts are good for quick weight loss and bulking up, yoga can help with overall mental and physical health.”

  7. Aaradhyya3:09 PM

    I prefer yoga a hundred times over working out in a gym!

  8. yoga will affect more since it involves lot of stretching and free exercises


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