Understanding the Difference between Yoga Asana and Exercise

Yogāsanas have often been thought of as a form of exercise. They are not exercises, but techniques which place the physical body in positions that cultivate awareness, relaxation, concentration and meditation. They allow us to reach our higher nature through different postures. For example, when we are happy we sit in a certain posture; if depressed, we sit in another posture. The converse of this is the science of āsana where we consciously get our body into certain postures to elevate our consciousness.

Some of the key differences between asana and exercise are:

  Yoga Asana

Non-Yogic Physical Practices

1 Parasympathetic nervous system predominant

 

Sympathetic nervous system predominant

2 Static positions and slow relaxed movements

 

Rapid forceful movements

3 Normalization of muscle tone

 

Increased muscle tone

4 Low risk of injuring bones, joints, muscle and ligaments

 

High risk of injury

5 Low to very low caloric consumption

 

High caloric consumption

6 Effort is minimized, relaxed

 

Effort is maximized

7 Respiration and metabolic rate slows down

 

The breath and metabolic rate speed up

8 Promotes anabolism

 

Promotes catabolism

9 Energizing (breathing is natural or controlled)

 

Fatiguing (breathing is taxed)

10 Balanced activity of opposing muscle groups

 

Unbalanced activity of opposing muscle groups

11 Non-competitive, process-oriented and more of feeling part

 

Competitive, goal oriented and more of doing part

12 Limitless possibilities for growth in internally related self-awareness

 

Scope of growth in externally related self-awareness

 

Thus, Asanas are psycho-physiological in nature as compared to the exercise which is purely physiological in nature. In Asana gradual training is given to the whole body as well as the mind through particular neuromuscular mechanism involved in different postural patterns. This brings about specific changes gradually in the total personality of the individual, including behavioral changes. Therefore, it is the pattern of the posture involved in asana. And which is important and responsible to achieve stillness and health of body and mind.

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