I would say it depends on the person. I have been either inside a gym or a yoga studio most of my adult life, and now at a stage where the difference can be deciphered without a significant effort.
Before I took up yoga, right after leaving school I used to jog, cycle or swim almost everyday, and pack my week with lots of cardio. When it was the ‘thing’ to hit the gym and train I did that too. I had personal trainers who knew what they were doing and it was beneficial and productive. I became stronger and gained muscle mass while also losing fat all over the body. However, whatever I did to keep fit in the gym or outside did not ever come close to my practice of Yoga. And that could be just me. And before I go on, I take this opportunity to state that both Yoga and Gym are extremely beneficial to maintaining and gaining health and wellness overall.
But then why do I choose Yoga over the gym? Here are my reasons backed by previous studies and are endorsed by many around the world.
1. Yoga builds muscle. Yoga builds strength
Yoga can build muscle and overall physical strength through body weight training if you are into that intensity and into a regular practice. You will not necessarily need to lift barbells, dumbbells or swing kettle bells but instead lift your own body weight in various asana and inversions that will make you lift an eye brow for those who call Yoga ‘boring’.
2. Yoga is for the body. And also for the mind and soul
Yoga trains your mind to focus and concentrate on the movement of your body with the rhythm of your breath. It teaches you to live here and to live now. Yoga channels your energy within you, making your vibrations transform towards positivity constantly. It is meditation in essence.
3. Yoga fights communicable and non-communicable diseases
Did you know that the great Yogi Guru or the father of Yoga T. Krishnamacharya had recipes of Yoga Asana to cure or manage specific ailments such as colds, coughs, migraine, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol, stress, insomnia, impotence and even cancer? By doing Yoga asana regularly coupled with Pranayama (Breathing techniques) you can increase immunity levels and maintain your optimum health.
4. Yoga eases aches and pains
Through slow and purposeful stretches and the opening up of the energy channels within the body, yoga eases the aches and pains. In Yoga, muscles and joints are lubricated with the increased flexibility while gym workouts might lead to soreness and injuries. This is not to say that Yoga is injury free. If you employ wrong technique or do not warm up well enough or do not take the basic instructions of a trained teacher, injuries can happen in yoga as well.
5. Yoga helps balance your hormones
Yoga Asana stimulate and balance endocrine function; meaning all your hormones will be regulated and kept at their optimum levels. From your insulin, thyroxin, testosterone, estrogen, hormones to melatonin, progesterone, endorphin, dopamine – all will be regulated with regular Yoga practice relieving you of mood swings, depression, stress, unhappiness, menstrual cramps, high blood sugar levels, high blood pressure, insomnia, cholesterol, impotence etc.
6. Yoga rejuvenates you
Through the practice of Pranayama in a regular Yoga practice (breathing techniques) the capacity of the lungs is increased while the whole respiratory system is cleared and energized. The Digestive System is stimulated in various Asana while the musculoskeletal system including all connective tissue is made strong and flexible through the practice of Yin Yoga. The whole body is rejuvenated lubricating the muscles while reducing the effects of osteoporosis and aging of the bones.
7. Yoga is for everyone
Yoga can be everybody’s practice without the restrictions of age, gender, body shape, weight or height making it more inclusive and accepting, irrespective of any socially defined differences. Hence, Yoga makes self-acceptance easy.
8. Yoga can be done anywhere
Some Yoga poses can be done even without a Yoga mat. Pranayama can be done even while driving. There is no need of fancy equipment to fit a good yoga schedule in your daily routine.
9. Yoga improves concentration
Because of its meditative qualities and the demand on focus to perform Yoga asana, it improves concentration leading to improved memory while lowering degenerative tendencies of the mind which are accompanied with age.
10. Yoga reduces injury
More and more in the modern day, athletes, power lifters, body builders and all kinds of sports fanatics entrust their health and wellbeing in a regular practice of Yoga. Since Yoga not only improves strength but also flexibility, a regular practice compliments athleticism in improving range of motion and thereby reducing injury to joints, and muscles.
So, If you are a beginner to Yoga, and you have been a gym lover throughout, my suggestion is that you combine both until you learn a good home. Yoga practice without the direction of a teacher in a class. And once you believe you are of the correct intensity of Yoga that you can do without a gym workout to keep fit and lean, then be it. And still even if you are an advanced yogi and you feel like pumping some iron or doing a marathon, it’s still ok, as long as you stretch thoroughly before and after your training so your body will learn to get back to the mat.!