Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Is Yoga Exercise? Is this what we should be asking?

People often ask if Yoga is the same as exercise? I often wondered if this is the right question to ask. Is exercise an end in itself or is it a tool for some thing else. For example, what we are after is our wellbeing which includes physical and mental fitness,  and also harmony between mind-body-soul-spirit. Physical exercise works on the body and indirectly on the mind (only to some extent). Yoga by its very fundamental objective is designed to work on mind-body and in advanced practice of yoga on soul and spirit. By its very nature, Yoga is meant for working on our general well-being at a number of levels.

Maharishi Patanjali - Father of Yoga

Why this discussion is important? It is important because our questions determine  answers and answers determine our actions and actions determine who we are. If we ask if Yoga (particularly Hatha Yoga) is an exercise, depending on what you expect from an exercise, the answer may be yes or no.  Instead if the question is whether Yoga is better than exercise for our wellbeing the answer would be quite different. You might actually choose to do yoga with or without other exercises as the scientific  evidences are piling up on the benefits of yoga.

An article published in Calgary Herald by Dr Eddy Lang (Univ of Calgary, Dept of Family Medicine) on 25 May 2016 ( has done the exact thing discussed above. The article discusses the outcomes of 30  studies, involving more than 2000 yogis, conducted by researchers from Australia, Germany and Korea to answer the question if yoga can be counted as exercise. The study has used parameters such as weight loss and body mass index as measures of performance. They found that weight loss was not significant by doing yoga, unless one is obese. This is reported as not that impressive. I would have thought that this is a significant outcome, particularly for obese people.  In addition, the study also found that if you are after wellbeing yoga can provide significant benefits.

This brings me back to the original question. Are we asking the wrong question by comparing exercise with yoga, and that too one branch of yoga - Hatha Yoga? It is like asking if bananas are oranges?  We should be asking if bananas are more nutritious than the oranges. Even for this simple question there is no one answer, as it depends on one's need, but at least it is a useful question. Similarly, we should be asking if yoga is better than exercise for our wellbeing? The answer from the study discussed above appears to be in the affirmative,  

1 comment:

  1. Inspiring writings and I greatly admired what you have to say , I hope you continue to provide new ideas for us all and greetings success always for you..Keep update more information..
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