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Yoga vs. the Gym: Is One Really Better Than the Other?

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In 2014, the United Nations General Assembly decided to honor the ancient Indian physical, spiritual, and mental practice by creating the International Day of Yoga, scheduling it on the summer solstice –a nod to how yoga gives thanks to the sun. It was a remarkable move that turned Yoga from a trendy, upscale workout to a legitimate practice recognized not only for its health benefits, but also for its spiritual and mental benefits.

With more than 175 countries now celebrating International Yoga Day, it’s no surprise that it’s becoming the workout of choice for many people, and with more and more free Yoga apps and videos online, more people are finding it to be more accessible than going to the gym.

But even with more than 36 million people in the country now practicing Yoga, there are still gym hardliners who believe that pumping iron is the only way to get fit. Conversely, there are also some Yoga nuts out there who believe that anything other than a Downward Facing Dog is harmful to your body and your chakras.

The truth, however, is that both have huge benefits, and you could even combine the two and make a very well-rounded and holistic workout routine that builds muscle, burns fat, bring your mind and spirit into harmony, and have fun.

Here’s a few reasons why we need to stop seeing as ‘Yoga vs. Gym” and start seeing as ‘Yoga AND Gym”

Doing Both Burns Double the Calories

On average, a full 1-hour long Hatha yoga class can burn around 400 calories, with power yoga pegged at 600 calories. This is equal to a moderately intensive weight training or body weight exercise circuit. Combine the two, and you burn more calories for the same amount of effort. Of course, it’s all about scheduling it: do both, but not at the same time.

Or, alternatively, consider doing a high intensity workout at the gym, like HIIT or CrossFit, and then do a more relaxed Yoga workout the day after. This saves you from being too fatigued, therefore maximizing your workouts. And the great thing about yoga is that there are numerous varieties that can fit your fitness goals without sacrificing gym time: aerial yoga, which is yoga done while suspended on hammocks, is offered in many gyms across the country, which means you can squeeze in both workouts in a single day. Ideally though, it would be better if you spaced out your gym and yoga workouts: your body continues to burn fat and calories long after you finish exercising, so giving your muscles an ample amount of time to recover and maximize their fat-burning capabilities.

Doing yoga before or after a workout definitely doubles the calories you can burn, and both yoga and gym can aid in fat loss.

Gym Workouts Build Muscle, Yoga Tones Them

man and woman in the gym
Image by Sebastian Šoška from Pixabay

In addition to strength, yoga is best known for building flexibility. Gym workouts, particularly weight training, obviously builds up strength and muscle mass. However, studies by researchers have found evidence that the flexibility yoga develops actually makes your muscles stronger, amplifying the strength you get from weight training and thus maximizing your gains. This is because muscles naturally tighten up after weight or strength training. When they’re too tight, they won’t be able to move as much, limiting the range of motion you have access to, ultimately limiting your workout.

By augmenting your strength or weight training at the gym with some Yoga, your muscles are able to stretch, untangling the fibers and minimizing tightness, thus maximizing your workouts. But even without strength training, certain types of yoga can still give you those toned, sleek abs and arms without having to lift heavy weights.

By toning your muscles, you keep them flexible, which, in turn, lowers your overall risk of injury. It also helps your joints remain healthy; if your muscles aren’t straining every time you exert effort, your joints and cartilage will remain supple to old age. Doing some light yoga before a workout will stretch your muscles out properly, increasing their strength and keeping the tendons and ligaments from straining too much. Doing yoga after workouts, on the other hand, will keep your muscles from cramping or getting too tight by keeping the muscle fibers from getting tangled up.

Yoga and Gym Workouts Reduce Physical and Mental Stress

The gym can be tough, both physically and mentally, but luckily, yoga involves a whole lot of meditation. Meditation has been proven to drastically reduce cortisol levels (that is, the ‘stress’ hormone) in the body, which in turn allows your body to recover faster and your mind to have higher levels of mental clarity.

Even better, Yoga has been shown to drastically reduce symptoms of depression. By giving you more opportunities to be mindful about other things, the meditation you do for yoga allows your mind to rest from anxious and depressive thoughts. Of course, it’s always best to consult a mental health professional when it comes to depression, but yoga, meditation, and working out at the gym all help you reduce depressive symptoms.

Cross-training is Always Good For You

Mixing yoga with the gym is a great way to get some cross-training into your workout. Not only will the variety of exercises keep you from getting bored or burned out (the leading cause for quitting the gym), cross training with both yoga and gym workouts eases the strain you put on your muscles with repeated workouts.

When muscles do the same action over and over again, they’re susceptible to RSI, or repetitive strain injury. By mixing yoga with your other gym workouts, you’ll be able to avoid straining the same muscles with the same activity. Of course, because you’re constantly varying your exercise, it makes you more mindful, boosting mental clarity and improving your overall coordination.

It Doesn’t Have to be Either Or

If you ask us, it’s not a question of ‘yoga vs. gym, which is better?’, but rather, more of “let’s do yoga with our gym workouts”! The difference between doing yoga and doing gym workouts are varied, this much is true, but when combined properly, it is a huge boost to your health.

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