I’m by no means an expert in yoga… far from it. But I have been practicing basic yoga for many years alongside other forms of exercise, and in my experience, there is a fair difference between how I feel during and after yoga, compared to during and after ‘exercise‘ (note, I am not talking about playing a sport here, but pure exercise).
Yoga, generally starts with a short meditation and sun salutations… so looking inside and outside of one’s self, to give thanks to the life-giving sun. Each sun salutation begins and ends with hands in prayer position over the heart, where our truth lies. The salutations repeat in a flowing movement, using the whole body. The movements help us open ourselves to receive higher wisdom and knowledge. The only way in which this is similar to exercise, is that it is a warm up.
Exercise, by contrast, can have a different intention, and although most of us do it to stay fit and healthy, it can sometimes compartmentalise our bodies into separate areas (legs day / legs, bums and tums), which are targeted/judged for improvement, almost bringing about a feeling of dissatisfaction and non-acceptance of our bodies as a whole.
Whilst practicing yoga, I feel as if I am giving thanks for my body… like an expression of gratitude, a bit like a dance… whereas with exercise, it can sometimes feel like a bit of a chore, something I have to slog my way through.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy many different forms of exercise, as well as jogging, swimming, cycling and using weights. Sometimes, my body really just wants to jump around aerobic-style to loud music, to shake off the stress of the day. No doubt whichever form of exercise we choose, it will likely be of benefit to our health… but its important to connect with how it affects our minds, thoughts, self-perception and emotions.
I would encourage you, next time you do exercise, in whichever form it might be, to take note of how you feel before, during and after. Just become aware of what thoughts are going through your mind – are you loving and accepting your body with gratitude, or are you annoyed at it and wishing it were different?