If so, what is the difference between yoga and a fitness regimen?
Maria Filippone, Senior Teacher at TheHotTT
For many of us, taking our first yoga class begins with the clear intention to become more physically fit and toned. It is often this exact same intention that motivates most people to walk through the doors of a gym or fitness studio. So what is the difference between a yoga and a fitness regimen? A yoga student that is deeply committed to a regular practice learns relatively quickly that the physical aspect of yoga is simply one part of the wonderfully rich world called Yoga. According to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, the eightfold path which literally means ‘eight limbs’, the physical aspect of yoga – the asana – is just one limb of the 8. An important limb however, as it prepares the student’s body to sit with ease and grace in meditation. The Sanskrit word ‘Yoga’ translates as the union or yoking of the body, mind and spirit. We return to our yoga mats again and again because of how good it makes us feel in both body and mind. We experience an increase in energy and a significant decrease in our stress levels. We soon find that once we have finished class & rolled up our mats our practice of yoga has only just begun. We become curious to learn more about the remaining limbs and how practicing yoga off our mats gently guides us on how to live an even more meaningful and purposeful life.
Jelena Lepesic, Senior Teacher at TheHotTT
I believe that any fitness regimen can be yogic in it’s practice, as much as yoga can be perceived as an exercise. The difference lies in the focus of the practitioner. For example: a focus could be practice oriented or it can be delivery oriented. Therefore, a yogic practice with a focus on the practice itself creates awareness of the authentic essence within. In other words, this practice serves as an exercise directed for the soul. Since the goal of this type of practice is driven by awareness and communication with the moment and circumstances of all parts involved it is very inclusive and as a result nurturing to the whole being. On the other hand, any practice of a fitness regimen with a focus solely on the delivery or performance of the body is a practice mostly directed towards the ego, or the body-mind. This serves its purpose, but it could be less nurturing to the whole being, and more exclusive to specific parts of the whole being. This creates separation whereas the yogic focus on the practice itself creates union. The good news is that the focus changes frequently. As the focus changes, the consciousness changes. And if we get complacent, well it’s time to choose another focus.
Lisa Marie, Support Teacher at TheHotTT
Yoga and a fitness regimen are different from one another, because yoga addresses two aspects that are generally neglected: flexibility and balance. The stretches incorporated in a gym workout or running generally only target large muscle groups like hamstrings, whereas yoga gives your body increased flexibility all over. Tight shoulders? Got ‘em covered! Then, there’s balance: we all need better balance, and yoga strengthens your core muscles, muscles around your joints, and generally improves your awareness of your body in space. Ankles that are prone to rolling and sprains are both strengthened and made more flexible so that they are less likely to roll, and less likely to tear if they do roll. Basically, yoga gives you the balance so that you are less likely to teeter-totter; the strength to catch yourself if you do wobble; and the flexibility to bounce instead of breaking when you do fall, because we all fall down occasionally! Life is full of unexpected bumps in the road – yoga prepares your body for all of them! Lastly, your yoga practice will gradually allow you to be more patient with your limitations and grateful for your blessings as you see your body and practice change slowly and gently.
Jeannie Savage, Support Teacher at TheHotTT
When I first started, I thought that yoga was just for a workout. Then I learned that yoga and a fitness regimen have some drastic differences. I believe most sports focus strongly on the physical aspect, being able to jump serve in a game of volleyball or perfect your free throw in basketball. Yoga creates more awareness in your body and in your mind. Yoga brings the physical challenge while incorporating meditation and breathing exercises. You can apply meditation and breathing exercises any time in your life in any situation. You only need yourself to do it. If you practice it on the mat, why not practice it in other places? You can practice this while walking around town, driving (don’t zone out in meditation, but breathing exercises are okay) or in a situation that you aren’t enjoying. When you have a consistent practice and you are in the postures; you learn how to communicate with yourself better, more effectively and learn the ways to encourage your body. If you’re able to do that, the physical practice becomes easier or more doable. The things you experience and learn in your yoga practice, floods over into any and every aspect in your life.