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5 Ways Yoga Is Not Just For Fitness

Yoga will likely make you fitter, but it's goal is not just exercise. Erica Rodefer Winters explains 5 important ways that yoga differs from other forms of fitness.

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No matter how much we in the yoga community try to get the point across that yoga has a deeper purpose, a lot of people still think of yoga as little more than a trendy fitness regime. While there are many yoga pet peeves I could talk about, nothing annoys me more than hearing someone put yoga in the same category as step aerobics or Zumba. Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s great that people do yoga as a part of their fitness routine and I realize that for many, the fitness approach is exactly what brings them to the yoga studio in the first place, which is great! But yoga offers SO much more, it can be frustrating to see so much emphasis on the physical.


Here’s a little list you can send to the people in your life who just don’t seem to understand that yoga is much more than a hobby that helps you stay fit. It’s a lifestyle that not only improves your health, but overall quality of your life—and maybe even the lives of those around you.

Fitness is a great side effect, but it’s not the goal. It’s true. Some people start yoga classes with little more than physical fitness in mind, but it doesn’t take long to see that there’s a lot more to yoga than that. A good teacher will help you see this and piques your interest to learn more.

Yoga is all about balance. I’m not talking about the ability to balance on one foot—though yoga can certainly help to cultivate that, too. I’m talking about overall balance. If you’re a high-strung overachiever, yoga can help you to slow down. If you tend to be less active, yoga can restore your energy.

Yoga invites you to dig deeper. In yoga you study the way the body moves. You learn how muscles work. You practice how to engage the tiniest muscles that you might not use otherwise and how to let go of tension in the muscles that you overuse. In order to really study your body, you have to study the thoughts in your head and the stresses in your life that cause you to tense those muscles or make it hard for you to let go. It’s not just about controlling the muscles, or even about controlling your thoughts—but about understanding how your lifestyle and the world around you affects them both.

Yoga can make you a better person, not just give you a better body. You could argue that a great fitness routine could also make you a better person by making you feel better. But that’s just the beginning for yoga. The complete practice of yoga includes meditation, self-study, ethical observances—and it was designed to reveal your true self, not just a healthier body.

Yoga can change the world, not just you. Yoga is all about connection—the connection between your body, mind, and breath. But it’s also about your connection to the world as a whole. Yoga philosophy tells us that what we do impacts our neighbors far and near because we’re all connected on an energetic level. If that’s true, then taking good care of yourself is also a way of taking care of everyone else. It’s a beautiful concept and it certainly sets yoga apart from fitness in a profound way.

What other differences have you observed that set yoga apart from other fitness classes?