Yoga vs Gym

Can Yoga help build muscle? If you spend hours pumping iron, you might have a hard time believing that it does. In this article, Sadhguru gives us his perspective on the ongoing debate: Yoga vs Gym.
Sadhguru Wisdom Article | Yoga vs Gym

Sadhuguru: The human muscular system is a phenomenal thing. What our muscles can do is fantastic. And this can be enhanced by strengthening them, but at the same time making them very flexible. If you do a lot of weights, your muscles will look big but without flexibility. If you see people who have grown big muscles, they cannot do a namaskar properly. They cannot even bend.

If you see people who have grown big muscles, they cannot do a namaskar properly.

If you just want muscles that look good, these days there are easier ways to do it. You could get bicep implants. The silicon doesn’t just go into the breast – it goes into biceps, into calf muscles, into everything. It does not matter that it is useless. You do not have to work hard, take cortisones and hormones and go on pumping iron. There are easier ways, if it is just about looking good.

Yes, bodybuilding gives you brute strength. But you can build the same strength in a completely different way and above all, you keep your body flexible, which is very important. There are various aspects to wellbeing, in terms of health, energy, the mind and the spiritual dimension. When we invest 30 minutes to an hour in the morning, we want to see that the benefit is across the board for us, not just in bunched up muscles.

If you want to build muscle, should you not lift any iron? You could, because physical exercise and activity have been taken away from our lives by modern technology. Everything is done by machines. Except for your iPhone, you don’t really have to carry anything. So, since you are not using your limbs throughout the day, light weight training in the gym is okay.

Yoga – Not About Exercise

Yoga is not an exercise form. It has other dimensions to it. To reduce Yoga to a gymnastic process would be a severe crime. But there is something called Upa-yoga, which means sub-yoga or useful processes of doing things, where there is no spiritual dimension attached to it. If you do Upa-yoga or Angamardana systems of Yoga, fitness is assured. Plus, you will not need any equipment. All you need is a six-by-six space on the floor. You will be super-fit and can build your muscle and everything. Angamardana and Upa-yoga involve the use of your own body weight to do all the exercises. Then, you will have no excuse that there is no gym around. You can exercise wherever you are because you still have your body. This is just as effective in building the body as any weight training in the gym is. It will make you look like a sensible human being and also make you very strong without creating any unnecessary stress on the system. The only thing is you will not become bunched-up with muscles. A whole lot of people have become like that. They think they are fit but I think they are in a straitjacket! It is not just strength or the bulge of your muscle but the flexibility of your body that is important for the proper functioning of the system.

Things that you never thought existed become a living reality for you, simply because a dimension beyond the physical has become alive.

In Yoga, we do not just look at muscular strength alone. Organ health is also very important. The yogic system is evolved so that organ health is also taken care of. Even if you have a lot of muscle, if your liver is not working properly, what is the use? It is very important that the body is flexible and usable. There is also something called organ comfort. One aspect is that most of the vital organs of the body are in the chest and abdomen region. These organs are not rigid, they are not fixed with bolts and clamps. They are loose, hanging in nets. Only if you sit with your spine erect, your organs will be in the maximum possible comfort. Now, the modern idea of comfort is to lean backwards and slouch. If you sit in such a posture, your organs will never be comfortable. They will not function the way they need to.

Keeping the body erect is not because we do not like comfort, it is because we understand and experience comfort in a completely different way. You can train your muscles to be comfortable with your spine erect but you cannot train your organs to be comfortable while slouching. There is no way to do it. So, we choose to train the body, so that our skeletal system and muscular system are comfortable sitting this way.

Yoga – Opening up the Existence

Yoga is not something that you do to slim down or for your backache or headache. Becoming healthy and peaceful will anyway happen but these are the side effects of Yoga, not the focus of Yoga. You don’t have to do Yoga to lose weight or to stay healthy. You just have to eat sensibly, play tennis or take a swim. The focus of Yoga is to set another dimension alive within you that is beyond the physical. Only when that is alive, slowly the existence opens up to you in a million different ways. Things that you never thought existed become a living reality for you, simply because a dimension beyond the physical has become alive.

Editor’s Note: Excerpted from Sadhguru’s discourse at the Isha Hatha Yoga School’s 21-week Hatha Yoga Teacher Training program. For more information, visit

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6 years 6 months ago

errr... according to your logic, someone who does yoga would have a flexible mind and someone who does strength training would have a strong mind. What a load of bull.

5 years ago

For me personally, Yoga cannot replace Strength Training and the Strength Training cannot replace Yoga.

Do both and get the benefits of both - they are not mutually exclusive.

7 years 1 month ago

Yoga cannot replace weights and weights cant replace yoga! How many people have started building beastly muscles as soon as they started lifting weights? In by-gone era, both men (in the fields) and women (in kitchen) used heavy equipment, were they appearing like beasts?

Already there are so many misconceptions of women lifting weights, please don;t propagate false message like this for selling yoga!!

6 years 6 months ago

Namaskar Vishal, The lack of zero degree posture happens to me after a day of hurried physical activity and/or mental activity. I started paying attention to how I hold mind, body and emotion and whether they are aligned. I eliminated the unnecessary intefering old traits, habits and disturbances through self-attention. It may be time to consult one of the trained teachers for corrections to daily practices. Pranams.

7 years 10 months ago

Wonderful article makes so much sense. I do yogasana for my well being and keeping my body healthy and use dumb-bells to develop my muscles. In my personal experience, Suryanamaskar is something everyone needs to do to have a healthy body and sound mind !

4 years 10 months ago

Well I don't have good body at all am very thin no muscles ??

7 years ago

Yoga is not about brute strength. It teaches you more holistic approach to life. The benefits of yoga extends to all aspects of your life.

6 years 6 months ago

Namaskar Vishal, The lack of zero degree posture happens to me after a day of hurried physical activity and/or mental activity. I started paying attention to whether mind, body, emotion are aligned within myself and that they are not pointed in different directions. Spend time with Sadhguru's audio. video, articles, media regularly. Also, it could be the time to consult one of the trained teachers for corrections to daily practices. Pranams.

7 years 10 months ago

That's so great to read !

7 years ago

"people doing yoga probably don't care about being able to lift 200 kg"

Is that True ? People might not care about things which is beyond their capacity... Sometimes people hide their inability to do things under the guile of Indifference

6 years 6 months ago

Yoga can be used for any thing. Check the youtube videos on great master "sri chinmoy weightlifting" you will know for your self.

7 years 10 months ago

wounderful i too carry weight when i teen ,but very difficult to maintain,but yoga make it easier and maintain my body weight controlled automaticaley my experinced choise is hata yoha,thankyou SADHGURU,

6 years 11 months ago

Neither everyone doing weight exercise can lift 200kg..

6 years 3 months ago

Thts a valid question, I would say. Weight training gives lots of benefits but one of the drawbacks which it has is it creates rigidity in the body. Any rigidity in the body will gradually reach upto the mind and vice versa. Ofcourse lots of stretching routines can be inculcated into the training regimen so as to remove the rigidity. Which is what something like Angamardhana/ Hatha yoga does. They have other bigger benefits but one of the fundamental physical benefit is that it can create flexibility.Coming to your question, a person who do yoga can he lift that much amount of weight? He wont be able to do right away. But if such a person trains in lifting weight then he can lift such huge amounts of weight in a shorter span of time than a person who doesnt do yoga and just does plain weight training. Thats because of the better aerobic capacity, quicker recovery due to the increased oxygen flow and by establishing better mind body connection. All these benefits come naturally by doing Asanas.

7 years 10 months ago

any news/guidence for weight gain

6 years 9 months ago

Involve your brain in your movement, and your whole being will benefit.

6 years 2 months ago

This article is full of silly misconceptions.

a. Strength training does NOT cause rigidity if you STRETCH (something which any instructor will tell you is crucial). There are SEVERAL bodybuilders who are amazingly flexible.

b. Strength training is crucial to long-term health. It builds bone density, LEAN muscle mass, stamina, heart health, and boosts mental health and focus too. It is something most people ignore, to their detriment.

c. You will NOT become Arnold overnight : I WISH it were easy. How big you become depends on your how much you eat. If you don't eat like an Sumo wrestler, you will only gain LEAN muscle mass. And women simply don't have the hormones to become buff without supplements.

d. Each area of fitness (stamina, strength, speed, flexibility, balance etc.) has its benefits. It is simply ignorant and unscientific to demonize any one aspect.

7 years 8 months ago

Great article. It has made such a good point. If your main goal in working out is to just look good then go the easy way even if the added stuff to your body is useless but if you are after health then adding effort to the things you do makes it worthwhile.

6 years 9 months ago

Physical strength without emotional, mental... strengths gets you only so far. There all kinds of strengths and keeping them in balance makes you stronger overall.

5 years 11 months ago

This post tells you that body-building and strength training are the same thing. They are not. It also forgets that there is such a thing as strength training with body-weight exercises. I expect better from you. I am disappoint.

7 years 7 months ago

If people that do yoga are "strong, very strong" I would like to see them do a 200 kg deadlift or a 80 kg snatch or bench press a 100 kg...

6 years 8 months ago

if a person has this question in mind then strenght training is good for him.

5 years 8 months ago

Hatha yoga is a complete path in itself to reach the Ultimate; it's not just a set of exercises which you do to become stronger than somebody else...there have been many powerful hatha yogis (for example Malladihalli Sri Raghavendra Swamiji), who could do much more than lifting heavy weights...don't assume hatha yogis to be less strong...they are strong not only in the physical sphere, but also in many other dimensions,

7 years 4 months ago


I am doing shambhavi mudra from jan 2011 and also initiated for Hata yoga on Dec 15 2012.
It has
been 2 years plus with shambhavi and about 4 months now with hatha yoga.
My Overall flexibility has improved and i am vey grateful for that.

, i have a huge concern. I am not able sit properly in Ardha
Siddhasana. It is very painful in upper half of the legs and they are at
30 degrees from the ground. I feel so irritated that i am not able to sit properly in cross legged posture.

Will i ever be able to sit without pain and my legs at zero degrees. It is already 2 years now with shambhavi.

Please Help me.

Vishal V

6 years 7 months ago

Increase the count of doing Pathangasana and sisupalasana slowly.

5 years 8 months ago

If A implies B, that doesn't mean that C will imply D, just because C does not imply B!
Nobody is belittling working out in a gym, okay, at least analyse the article in its right perspective...or do you want to be titled Mr Happy Critical, just for the sake of criticizing something baselessly...

7 years 4 months ago

Hi Vishal,
I had the same problem . I used some other Asana , massage , Acupressure and I am getting rid of such problem.

I have also quit smke, non-veg. alcohol, tobaco ete. for ever.
My life is going great .

So I would like to say that please look on some other available therapies for your problem. Taking help from other therapies or medicine is not bad thing :-) and I am not saying as any disrespect towards Shambhavi.
Shambhavi is a great gift to us.

Thank you,

6 years 7 months ago

Just saying ,The same ball can be thrown in your court as well ,cant it?, "People resort to weight training and want to get big because they are insecure of the way they are" lol any thing can be played both ways man :).

5 years 8 months ago

Ridiculous! If your Yoga practice has lead you to be this narrow minded, you're doing it wrong. First of all, assuming the only reason anyone lifts weights is to look good/strong is flat out ignorant. I lift to gain strength, how this translates into the look of my body is a side effect. Second, I don't even own an iPhone... I work in a WAREHOUSE where I am on my feet all day and am required to lift heavy things. Therefore my work in the gym pays off when it comes time to do my job.

But the ridiculousness doesn't end there... here's something that will blow your mind... not only am I one of the strongest guys at the gym, I'm also one of the most flexible people in Yoga class. I am direct evidence that this entire entry is nonsense. I am able to deadlift over 300 pounds while also able to plant my heels firmly on the mat during downward facing dog. How is this possible if what you believe is true? Promote what you love instead of bashing what you hate!

- Enoch Satyananda

*Formerly certified Personal Trainer AND Intermediate Yoga instructor.

7 years 4 months ago


What are those other asanas you did

6 years 7 months ago

Lol, I dont see why there is any reason to get butt hurt here. He never said it is wrong ,did he?. If it works for you well and good . Its kriya yoga after all :). The only thing is if you consider a wider demographic ,most of us would rather do something else then dead lift 200kgs. I my self wont mind such an ability but then again i would rather spend my time is some thing else which is more worth the while for me. Its all just a play of perception.

5 years 8 months ago


7 years 3 months ago

in all honestly, people doing yoga probably don't care about being able to lift 200 kg. How often in your life are you going to use the ability to lift 200 kg unless you are working with heavy machinery? Nobody in my social circle can lift and they couldn't care less. People doing yoga care about how flexible their body and mind is (the 2 are inter-related), being balanced and having heightened awareness. Because these are things you use every day, every second of your life. If your body and mind is not flexible, it becomes a burden. if you are not balanced, you make wrong decisions. if you do not have heightened awareness, you do not live life completely.