Difference between Exercise and Yoga

Exercise and yoga are two popular physical activities that are often confused with each other. Although both of these activities are intended to improve the physical and mental wellbeing of an individual, they are fundamentally different in their approach, goals, and benefits.

What is Exercise?

Exercise is a physical activity that involves repetitive movements, such as jogging, weightlifting, or swimming, with the primary aim of strengthening the muscles, improving cardiovascular health, and burning calories.

Exercise is often associated with high-intensity workouts, which require a significant amount of energy and are focused on achieving a specific fitness goal, such as weight loss or muscle gain.

Exercises can be performed in various forms, including cardio, strength training, and endurance training, and is often done with the help of gym equipment or under the guidance of a personal trainer.

What is Yoga?

Yoga is a spiritual and physical practice that originated in ancient India and has been practiced for thousands of years. Yoga comprises a range of physical postures, breathing exercises, and meditation techniques that are designed to harmonize the mind, body, and spirit.

Yoga is not just a physical activity but also a philosophy that promotes mindfulness, self-awareness, and inner peace. Unlike exercise, yoga does not focus solely on physical fitness but also on mental wellbeing and spiritual growth.

Differences: Exercise and Yoga

Exercise is often associated with the idea of 'no pain, no gain,' while yoga encourages a more mindful and compassionate approach to physical activity. Yoga emphasizes listening to one's body and practicing self-care and self-compassion, rather than pushing oneself beyond one's limits. This approach to physical activity can be especially beneficial for individuals who may have physical limitations or injuries and need a gentler form of exercise.

The following table highlights the major differences between Exercise and Yoga:




Ultimate goal

People often exercise for two main reasons: to have better physical health overall or to achieve weight loss.

Of course, there are also other reasons, such as improving blood circulation, developing athletic skills, toning the various muscle groups, and others.

In other words, the ultimate goal of a person who exercises is to improve his or her physical appearance or physical health.

While most people who do yoga can also improve their physical appearance and health, the ultimate goal of yoga is to reach a higher state of consciousness.

To achieve this, they execute yoga postures (asanas), practice proper breathing (pranayama), perform appropriate body gestures (mudra), and do internal cleansing (shatkarma) by getting rid of emotional blockages on a person’s energy centers (chakras).

Part of the nervous system involved

Exercising involves the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for reducing digestive secretions, contracting blood vessels, and speeding the heart.

It also counteracts the physiological effects of the parasympathetic nervous system. As a result, exercising produces a feeling of tiredness.

Yoga involves the parasympathetic nervous system, which counteracts the physiological effects of the sympathetic nervous system.

It is responsible for stimulating digestive secretions, dilating blood vessels, slowing the heart, and constricting the pupils. In other words, doing yoga produces a feeling of relaxation.

Equipment required

Exercising typically requires equipment, which is limiting in terms of the physical activities one can do. It is also limiting in terms of where one can perform the exercise/s.

Some exercises even require one’s participation in partner or group activities.

Yoga is generally self-sufficient. This means it can be performed without any equipment.

Even a yoga mat is not an absolute requirement. All a person needs is adequate space for the poses to be performed.


Exercise primarily focuses on physical fitness and health.

Yoga addresses both physical and mental wellbeing.

The breathing exercises or pranayama, meditation, and relaxation techniques incorporated in yoga can help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, improve focus and concentration, and promote mental clarity and emotional stability.

Approach to Physical Activity

Exercise is often high-impact and repetitive. Exercises are typically performed in sets and repetitions, with shorter rest periods between sets, and are designed to target specific muscle groups for maximum strength and endurance gains.

Yoga is low-impact and gentle on the body.

Yoga postures or asanas are designed to stretch and strengthen the muscles, improve flexibility and balance, and promote relaxation and calmness.

Yoga poses are typically held for a longer duration, allowing for deeper stretches and the release of tension from the muscles.


In conclusion, exercise and yoga are both beneficial physical activities, but they are fundamentally different in their approach, goals, and benefits. Exercise is focused on physical fitness, strength, and endurance, while yoga aims to harmonize the mind, body, and spirit.

While exercise is typically high-impact and repetitive, yoga is gentle and low-impact, promoting flexibility, balance, and relaxation. Additionally, yoga incorporates breathing exercises, meditation, and relaxation techniques, promoting mental wellbeing and emotional stability. Ultimately, the choice between exercise and yoga depends on an individual's fitness goals, physical limitations, and personal preferences.

Updated on: 30-Jun-2023

2K+ Views

Kickstart Your Career

Get certified by completing the course

Get Started