Yoga vs the gym: which is best for you?
That’s the question. And the answer, of course, depends on you and your needs. What is that you want? What is it that you need?
Are you trying to lose weight? Tone your muscles? Improve your posture? Find a way to deal with stress? Looking for a healthy lifestyle?
In order to help you determine whether yoga or the gym is best for you, it will help if you are able to answer all those questions. Once you know your priorities, your choice is simple.
Both yoga and the gym have incredible benefits. Yoga is a physical practice that can build strength and flexibility. Plus, thanks to its rich history and focus on breathing, it can also help with our wellbeing. The gym on the other hand can be a great place to build muscle and release endorphins.
When I was at University I used to go to the gym. I had my circuit training class that I absolutely loved. It helped me stay fit and release all the build-up tension and stress I had accumulated.
And then one day I tried yoga, Ashtanga yoga in particular.
And slowly yoga started to take over. At first, I went to the gym 3 times a week. Then it went down to 2 days a week and once a week I went to yoga. Then it was just the gym once a week. And gradually I stopped going to the gym and instead focused on my yoga practice.
Of course, that’s my story. For others, the opposite may occur.
In this article, I will lay out all the benefits of yoga as compared to the gym, as well as the disadvantages of both. The goal is to help you make the right choice.
So let’s get started.
The Benefits of Yoga vs Gym
There’s no doubt that yoga has a long list of benefits.
Millions of people worldwide engage in some type of yoga. Indeed, a study carried out in 2016 found that 37 million people practice yoga in the U.S. alone!
If you choose to practice yoga at home, it requires very little investment. All you need is a yoga mat. And if you don’t have one, you may even get away with practicing on your carpet.
Depending on the type of yoga you choose to practice, it can help you strengthen your muscles, deal with stress and depression, and it really is an activity you can engage safely in no matter how old you are.
For some people yoga is better than going to the gym, it really does depend on what your needs and goals are.
1. Yoga can be free
There is an ever-growing number of YouTube channels and YouTube videos dedicated to yoga.
Finding the one or even the ones that resonate with you can be a true blessing. And just with a click of a button, you get to enjoy your favorite teacher and your favorite yoga class from the comfort of your own home, at any time of the day, or night!
All you need is a good internet connection, a hopefully quiet room, and a yoga mat.
And so if you choose to practice yoga from home, then yoga really can be free.
2. There are many types of yoga to choose from
Each yoga type may vary regarding how dynamic it is, how gentle it is, who it is geared to, and what the physical benefits may be.
Regardless of the type you so choose, you will leave the class feeling just that much better.
For example, if you are looking for a grounding and calming practice, then try a Restorative yoga class. On the other hand, if you are looking for something more dynamic, then try out a Vinyasa flow class.
There are many more types of yoga to choose from so I wrote a guide to the most popular types of yoga and their benefits.
3. Yoga has a rich history
Yoga can be considered as India’s gift to the world.
It was developed and practiced by Indian philosophical and spiritual geniuses. These teachings span over a period of at least 5 millennia. Naturally, the practice has evolved and changed a lot over the years.
Most people who practice yoga may not be aware that it is part of a spiritual tradition. Some teachers make a point of discussing yoga’s rich history, while others leave it to the student’s discretion.
If you are interested in finding out more about yoga, then definitely check out my article here on 25 of the best yoga books out there.
4. Yoga can help increase flexibility
A typical yoga class tends to involve a great deal of muscle stretching.
And there are a lot of benefits to this.
For example, studies have found that people with lower back pain tend to also have tight muscles in the lower spine and also tight hamstrings. And this is one of the main reasons yoga is prescribed to people with lower back pain. Of course, this is just one of the physical benefits of yoga.
5. Yoga studios can be a very relaxing environemnt
Practicing in a yoga studio can be a rewarding and blissful experience.
With time, our local yoga studios tend to become our quiet sanctuaries that offer a little time away from our busy lives. And so sometimes even just stepping into a yoga studio can help us feel just that much better.
6. Yoga can help build strength
Some types of yoga are more physically demanding than others. For example, throughout an Ashtanga and Power Yoga class, we lift our own body weight and engage our core. And so consistent practice may help strengthen and tone muscles all over the body.
7. Yoga can help with stress & depression
Yoga is increasingly used by people to help them deal with stress and depression.
The two main reasons it is a promising intervention are that it combines exercise and meditation. Over the years both have been found to help with depression. There is a growing number of studies suggesting yoga be used to help treat depression.
For more information check out my Science-Based Guide to Yoga and Depression.
The Disadvantages of Yoga vs Gym
The main disadvantage of yoga is if you’re thinking about starting yoga primarily to burn fat and slim down.
As mentioned above, yoga can help you slim down and tone your body.
The problem is that it’s not the best, most efficient way to do so. In fact, if weight loss is your main goal, it’s probably better to go to the gym.
The Benefits of Gym vs Yoga
You can probably imagine that as a yoga blog I am slightly biased towards yoga.
However, before starting yoga I used to love going to the gym. There really is something energizing and even empowering about gyms, whether big or small, cheap or expensive.
The one I went to was the University’s gym and we were actually lucky enough to also have a pool and a steam room!
I have since moved away and moved more towards yoga. But I will admit to missing that environment.
Let’s take a look at the advantages of going to the gym over doing yoga.
1. The gym may provide personal trainers
This is a very important advantage that gyms have. Ok, not all gyms provide these levels of support. However, having someone guide you along your fitness journey can be a great advantage.
Beginners, in particular, can benefit the most from personal trainers. And so if you are not sure about what each of the equipment can offer or how many reps to do, then a personal trainer is an incredible asset.
2. The gym can help our health
There are a growing number of studies pointing to the health benefits of exercise.
And for a small glimpse into some physical benefits, according to a 2004 study, “Physically fit individuals are thought to be able to engage in everyday activities without feeling tired or exhausted and better able to withstand disease, infection, and deterioration.”
Another 2018 study mentioned that: “Overwhelming evidence exists that lifelong exercise is associated with a longer health span, delaying the onset of 40 chronic conditions/diseases.”
3. A gym can offer a variety of workouts
Most gyms nowadays provide a wide variety of equipment, from treadmills to weight-lighting sections. Also, some offer group classes where you can do an aerobics class, pilates, and maybe even yoga!
Depending on your budget, some even offer a swimming pool.
And so gyms are able to offer a wide variety of workout options which really can cater to most people’s needs and desires.
When I used to go to the gym I love doing a circuit training class. The equipment was not my preferred option, however writing this article, I now would like to work with personal training on some of the weight training equipment.
4. The gym is a great place to socilaize
Gym environments are a great place to meet people or do workouts with your friends. Of course, the same can be true for yoga studios, however, here is one added advantage to gyms.
In a yoga class, you’re not meant to talk! in a gym, on the other hand, there is nothing to stop you from having a little chat with your buddies in between reps.
The Disadvantages of the Gym vs Yoga
The key disadvantage of the gym over yoga is that if you are looking for a calming and relaxing environment, most likely you are not going to find that in a gym.
And secondly, we may not pay particular attention to stretching when going to the gym. Stretching can help increase our range of movements and may even protect our lower back from certain common injuries.
Without stretching, our muscles shorten and become tight. This in turn may restrict our range of movement, which in turn may increase the likelihood of joint pain, strains, and muscle damage. Indeed, limited flexibility has been shown to be the cause of musculoskeletal injuries and lower back problems.
And so if you do choose to go to a gym, try to always dedicate some time after your workout to some stretching.
So Which is Better, Yoga or the Gym?
The truth is it’s up to you. Both yoga and the gym have their advantages and disadvantages.
If you’re looking to lose weight, I’d say the gym is your best bet. If you’re looking for a full-body exercise that will also help you relax and stretch out your body, look into yoga.
Actually, you can even do both. Ashtanga yoga is a wonderful practice that will not only help your build muscle but also calm your mind.
And that’s all there is to it: everything you need to know about yoga vs gym.
Is gym or yoga better?
Both yoga and the gym have incredible benefits so it’s no surprise that both are a home away from home for many. Yoga can build strength, flexibility and can help us with stress. The gym on the other hand can be a great place to build muscle, tone your body and release endorphins improving your mood.
Is yoga or gym better for weight loss?
As a general rule, if your main goal is weight loss, then you will see faster results by going to the gym. By doing aerobic exercises or weight training you will quickly notice a difference in your body. With yoga weight loss may be slower and that is only if you practice a dynamic form of yoga.
Is it OK to do yoga and gym together?
As a general rule, there are no counter-indications to doing yoga and going to the gym. The gym will help you build muscle and lose weight, while yoga will help you stretch and increase your flexibility. Both yoga and the gym can complement each other.