What’s The 3 Main Differences Between Fitness And Yoga?
In the last few years, the fitness industry has ballooned substantially. Gyms are full, weights are heavy and Lycra leggings have made a comeback. Many of these fitness movements have been empowering. For example, females have shown they can hit it just as hard as men by working with weights and taking pride in building muscle. Not to mention the amount of people becoming personal trainers and committing their lives to working on themselves and helping others achieve their fitness goals.
The yoga industry can also give thanks this new wave of fitness fanatics, as many have also taken up yoga to stretch, tone, and strengthen their bodies. Although yoga can definitely take shelter under the fitness umbrella for the positive effects it can have on the physical body, it is important to remember the differences that also set it apart as a holistic, embodied, movement practice.
The Body as a Whole
Many fitness disciplines – in particular lifting weights – focus on training one area of the body at any one time. Although this is great for building muscle and aesthetic, working one set of muscles at a time doesn’t take into account that the body works as a whole. Working on arms one day and legs the next without proper care and attention to detail means you could be doing more damage to your body than good.
Similar to many martial arts, yoga focuses on the body as a whole system. A strong vinyasa class will give you a full body workout, simultaneously stretching, toning and strengthening the entire body. Yoga understands that even the way we stand can affect the rest of the body, and it works on developing the physical body into a sense of complete wellbeing.
Unlike most fitness practices, yoga is a discipline aimed at integrating an individuals mental, physical and spiritual fitness. One of the main ways it achieves this is by having a strong philosophy at its core. A good example of this is Patanjali’s yoga sutras. The sutras – meaning ‘threads’ – are strands of knowledge exploring the essential core meaning of yoga. They cover topics such as; detachment from material experiences, internal and external ways of being and liberation through regular practice. Essentially, yoga encourages students to consciously reflect on their reactions, decisions and the overall quality of their lives. Through the study of yogic philosophy and the sutras, those who do yoga regularly find the practice goes far beyond their time on their mats.
Throughout an entire yoga class, regardless of how dynamic it is, you will be encouraged to have an awareness on your breath. In yoga, breath control is know as Pranayama. In Sanskrit, Prana means ‘life force’ and ayama is ‘to extend of draw out’. Together, they mean the control of our vital life force (our breath).
Asthma, panic attacks and hyperventilation illustrate how important our connection with our breath can be. Noticing and understanding your breath can tell you a lot about the state of your being. Is your breath short and syncopated or long and deep? Are you breathing into your chest or your belly? Most importantly, how do you feel when stop and focus on your breathing? Yoga provides us with a way to connect to our breath, enabling the release of tension, stress relief, and a channel bringing together the body and the mind.
Kosta Miachin is the creator of VIKASA Yoga method – a unique, challenging and effective approach to yoga. He is also the founder of VIKASA Yoga Academy. You can find him online: http://www.vikasayoga.com