Yoga vs Sport

An interesting article how yoga differs from sport

Dear Nalus,

Thanks for an interesting post. I enjoyed the article and appreciate your sharing with the forum community.

It is always interesting to me how we view “yoga” as a definition of “asana”. The practice of yoga postures alone, without the intention of learning about one’s s(S)elf, and without the attention/mindfulness of what is being experienced becomes, in my opinion, a physical exercise, devoid of the qualities of a yoga practice.

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras define Yoga (YSI,2):
"Yoga Citta Vritti Nirodha"
variously translated as:
(Iyengar) “Yoga is the cessation of movements in the consciousness.”
(Desikachar) “Yoga is the ability to direct the mind exclusively toward an object and sustain that direction without any distractions.”
(Stiles) “Yoga is experienced in that mind which has ceased to identify itself with its vacillating waves of perception.”

It seems to me, then, that the experience of Yoga is different than yoga practice. The experience of Yoga is the goal. Practice is the means toward the goal.

Desikachar says (pg 80 in The Heart of Yoga) “The essential purpose of yoga practice is to reduce avidya (misunderstanding/misapprehension) so that understanding can gradually come to the surface.”

In my yoga training with Mukunda Stiles, the Yoga Sutras are emphasized. Asana - the physical postures - are one of the 8 limbs or component parts of a yoga practice - not the whole thing. Asana, further, is defined by Patanjali in a way which is entirely noncompetitive and non goal oriented. It takes time and effort to find the places of holding/fearing/egotistical striving which prevent us from being in the posture as an asana - but that is the practice part.

YS II,46: Sthira Sukham Asanam
(Stiles) “Yoga pose is a steady and comfortable position”
(Desikachar) “Asana must have the dual qualities of alertness and relaxation.”
(Iyengar)“Asana is perfect firmness of body, steadiness of intelligence and benevolence of spirit”

Our tendency as a society is to “do” something or “achieve” something. Preferably something which can be pointed to, shown to be different than the something that someone else has (that is - an achievement in comparison to other’s). We define ourselves by how similar or different we are from the people and objects we see on the outside. Sport is a very good example of this tendency. Yoga, and it’s practice through the medium of Asana, are not about doing or achieving (something which currently is not), rather, they are about experiencing what is.

You have touched upon a passionate point for me. I cannot perform asana for the purpose of body building, but cannot deny that Asana does benefit the body. Personally, the practice of asana is more inward than physical. As a yoga teacher, it is my role to assist the student to finding the practice of yoga asana which will lead them toward greater s(S)elf awareness - leading them to seeing what is within themselves all ready - meeting them and their goals within the context of all that Yoga and Asana have to offer. It is like a great stream. Some come for a brief drink to quench their thirst, and are off again on a great adventure. Others camp for a time at the shore, or return frequently to fill their pails, carrying the clear waters with them as they follow their path through the world. Others immerse themselves in the waters and swim.


Yoga offers a wide range of physical, mental, and emotional benefits that contribute to overall health and well-being. Here are some of the ways yoga can be beneficial to health:

  1. Improves Flexibility and Strength: Practicing yoga regularly can increase flexibility and range of motion in the muscles and joints. Many yoga poses stretch and lengthen the muscles, improving flexibility, while others build strength, particularly in the core, arms, legs, and back.

  2. Promotes Better Posture: Yoga helps to correct and improve posture by strengthening the muscles that support the spine and teaching proper alignment of the body. This can reduce the risk of back pain and injury and promote a more upright and balanced posture.

  3. Enhances Balance and Coordination: Yoga poses often require balance and coordination, which can help improve proprioception (the body's awareness of its position in space) and stability. This can be especially beneficial for older adults in reducing the risk of falls.

  4. Increases Energy and Vitality: Yoga practices, such as dynamic sequences and breathwork, can increase circulation, oxygenation, and energy flow throughout the body. Regular yoga practice can leave practitioners feeling more energized, refreshed, and revitalized.

  5. Reduces Stress and Anxiety: Yoga promotes relaxation and reduces stress by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which counteracts the body's stress response. Deep breathing, meditation, and mindfulness practices in yoga can help calm the mind, reduce anxiety, and promote a sense of inner peace and tranquility.

  6. Improves Mental Clarity and Focus: Yoga practices that involve concentration, mindfulness, and meditation can enhance mental clarity, focus, and cognitive function. Regular yoga practice has been shown to improve memory, attention, and decision-making skills.

  7. Boosts Mood and Emotional Well-being: Yoga releases endorphins, the body's natural feel-good hormones, which can elevate mood and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Yoga also encourages self-awareness, self-compassion, and emotional resilience, helping individuals cope with life's challenges more effectively.

  8. Supports Weight Management: Certain styles of yoga, such as vinyasa or power yoga, can be physically challenging and provide a cardiovascular workout, helping to burn calories and build lean muscle mass. Additionally, yoga promotes mindful eating and body awareness, which can support healthy weight management.

  9. Enhances Respiratory Function: Yoga incorporates breathwork (pranayama) practices that focus on deep, diaphragmatic breathing. These techniques can improve lung capacity, respiratory efficiency, and oxygenation of the blood, benefiting overall respiratory health.

  10. Supports Heart Health: Regular yoga practice has been associated with improvements in cardiovascular health, including lower blood pressure, reduced heart rate, and improved circulation. Yoga can also help manage risk factors for heart disease, such as stress, anxiety, and inflammation.

Overall, yoga offers a holistic approach to health and wellness, addressing the physical, mental, and emotional aspects of well-being. Whether practiced as a gentle form of exercise, a stress-relief technique, or a spiritual path, yoga has the potential to positively impact various aspects of health and quality of life.

Yoga and sports serve different purposes but both are great for your health. Yoga focuses more on flexibility, mindfulness, and inner peace. Sports usually aim to improve physical strength and endurance. Just like miami shores country club customer service is always reliable, yoga consistently provides a calming experience. Both activities have their unique benefits, and it's good to balance them for well-being in general.