Yoga Vs Exercise: Which Is Better?

You will often find that yoga and exercise are commonly compared since they both involve moving your body in a way which is stimulating and good for your health. You will often find that people will sometimes call yoga exercise and this is understandable.

However, it is important to know what the differences are between yoga and traditional exercise since you will get different results from the two. 

Yoga Vs Exercise: Which Is Better?

This guide will break down the differences between yoga and standard exercise so you know exactly what distinguishes them and can work out which one will get you the results you are looking for! 


Exercise has quite a broad definition, but it usually refers to a physical exertion or activity which will make your muscles and organs in your body become more energized.

You will find that most exercises will improve the circulation of your blood, and this is something which is beneficial to your health. It is also true that certain types of exercise can aid in stopping illnesses or certain diseases as well.

Exercise is also one of the most common methods for aiding in weight loss. Yoga, while it shares some similarities with this, is not exactly the same. The main difference is that yoga is not just concerned with physical health, but other less tangible forms of health as well. 

Yoga originated as an ancient Hindu act of tradition which was done to integrate spiritual and physical well being alongside helping mental health as well!

The word yoga essentially translates into unite, and there are proponents that believe that a prerequisite to achieving a higher state of consciousness is a body which is healthy and balanced, both traits that are covered in yoga.


So, now you know what the meaning of both yoga and exercise is, we can start to assess which one will be better for you. There is no easy answer to which one is better, since that answer depends on the specific metric you are using to compare them. 

Since both yoga and exercise can aid in achieving goals, then the most common way to answer which one is better, is by assessing which one is best at aiding you in achieving your goals.

So, as we look through this section, see which of the points are more important to you, and assess yoga and exercise through doing this.


When looking at yoga and exercise, we should look at the inherent goals which are included in each. For example, when looking at exercise, the main reasons people do this is to either achieve a better physical health, or to aid in weight loss. 

There are more specific reasons like developing athletic skills, toning muscles, or improving circulation, but these also come under the bracket of the other two. You will also find that people often exercise to help change or tone their physical appearance to their liking. 

You will find that there is a good portion of people who do yoga to work on their appearance and health, the main goal is seen as achieving a higher state of consciousness. This is why yoga poses are done, and breathing is practiced alongside matching body gestures.

There is also more of a focus on internal cleansing, as well as removing emotional blockages as well.

Nervous System

When you are exercising you are working with your sympathetic nervous system, and this is what is responsible for reducing any digestive secretions, as well as speeding your heart, and contracting your blood vessels. 

This also counteracts the physiological effects of your parasympathetic nervous system, and this is why it will often make you feel tired afterward.

Then yoga more so involves your parasympathetic nervous system and this is what counteracts the more physiological effects of your sympathetic nervous system. 

This system aids in stimulating digestive secretions, as well as dilating your blood vessels, as well as slowing your heart, this is why yoga has a more relaxing effect.


Yoga Vs Exercise: Which Is Better?

One of the main drawbacks seen with exercise is that it tends to need equipment, however this is not always a requirement. However, you are limited in your choices more if you are not working with any equipment. 

You will also be limited in where you can do your exercise since you will sometimes need to be in a group setting, or need to use expensive shared equipment. Generally speaking, yoga is a lot more self sufficient than exercise, and you do not really need anything to do yoga. 

There is a preconception that you need a mat, but that is not even a necessity. If you are doing partner or group yoga, you will need other people, but for standard solo yoga, all you need is space.

Oxygen, Calorie, And Energy Consumption

If you are exercising, especially if you are doing exercise which involves cardio, this will increase your oxygen consumption, on top of this, most exercise will increase your caloric consumption which is why it usually makes you hungry. 

Exercise is also a catabolic process which means it will break down energy. Yoga focuses on breathing so you use less oxygen due to the breathing techniques. 

Yoga is much lower in calorie consumption, and it also focuses on conserving energy rather than metabolizing it.

Risk Of Injury & Restrictions

Depending on the type of exercise you are doing, there is quite a high risk of injury. This is because most physical activities will affect your muscles and ligaments which can be quite easily damaged. 

However, yoga has a much lower injury risk because the poses do not impact your ligaments or muscles as much. It is also worth noting that exercise tends to need to be performed by people who are in good health since a lot of it is hard to do when you are sick.

However, there are exercises you can do if you are older, however, the more stimulus, the more likely the activity is to be limited to younger people. 

Then for yoga, this is possible to perform whether you are healthy or sick, and there is little age restriction when it comes to doing yoga.

Yoga That Is Similar To Exercise

There are some types of yoga that can be more closely compared to exercise. For example, Bikram is a lot more intense since the room it is done in has a high temperature and humidity.

Vinyasa yoga is also a bit more intense since it is closer to dancing meaning poses are not lingered on as long. This extra movement makes it a lot closer to a form of exercise.


Hopefully this guide has given you all the information that you need when it comes to choosing if you are better suited to yoga or exercise. 

While you can be fulfilled by just choosing one of these to focus on, keep in mind that you do not have to pick one, and can do both as well. People have found a lot of success in doing yoga and exercise in conjunction with one another, instead of in opposition.

You can overlap the benefits this way, and you will also get a lot more variety as well which aids in avoiding getting burnt out!

Laura Simmons
Latest posts by Laura Simmons (see all)