Is Yoga Exercise? Exploring The Styles Of Yoga For Physical Exercise & Beyond

reviewed by Liz Burns 500H RYT

Is yoga exercise? The quick and easy answer is yes.

But under which category of exercise does yoga fit?

In this article, we’ll delve into the multifaceted nature of yoga. We will explore the following topics:

  • Definition of Exercise
  • Yoga as Physical Exercise
  • Yoga Styles Vs. Physical Exercise
  • Yoga Beyond Physical Exercise
yogi in rishis twist

Definition of Exercise

To embark on this journey to reveal the transformative power of yoga, let’s begin with first defining “exercise.”

According to Webster’s dictionary, exercise is defined as “physical activity that is done in order to become stronger and healthier.”

Think of exercise as a way to intentionally move your body to improve your health and well-being. And as we know, exercise comes in many forms: including aerobic exercise, strength training, and even bone strengthening.

All of these involve some type of physical movement that potentially results in a healthier body.

Does yoga fit into this category of exercise? It certainly does, but is there more?

woman doing yoga as exercise

Yoga as Physical Exercise

So, let’s get into the question of ‘is yoga exercise?’.

Let’s start by acknowledging that yoga is indeed a form of physical exercise. When you step onto your mat, you engage in a practice that involves movement, stretching, and strengthening.

Yoga poses, known as asanas, challenge your body’s strength, flexibility, and balance.

Through regular practice, you can improve your physical fitness, tone your muscles, increase your range of motion, and develop better body awareness.

However, what sets yoga apart from conventional exercise is its holistic approach. While other workouts often focus solely on physical fitness, yoga integrates the body, mind, and breath, creating a comprehensive experience that nurtures all aspects of your being.

Flowing Yoga Styles and Physical Exercise

Flowing yoga styles, such as Vinyasa Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga, and Power Yoga, offer a dynamic and energetic practice that takes physical exercise to a whole new level.

person doing a headstand in yoga

These styles synchronize movement with breath, creating a fluid and continuous sequence of poses that seamlessly flow from one pose to another.

The flowing nature of these styles not only challenges your physical stamina but also brings an added cardiovascular element to the practice, elevating the heart rate and promoting endurance.

Is Yoga Exercise?: Vinyasa Yoga

Often referred to as “flow” yoga, Vinyasa Yoga focuses on the seamless transition between poses, guided by the breath.

It incorporates a variety of standing, seated, and balancing poses that are connected through smooth and intentional movements. The constant movement and continuous flow in Vinyasa Yoga builds heat in the body, increases blood circulation, and enhances cardiovascular health.

As you gracefully transition from one pose to another, you engage your muscles, improve strength and flexibility, and develop a heightened sense of body awareness.

group of yogis in warrior 2

Is Yoga Exercise?: Ashtanga Yoga

This style of yoga is sometimes referred to as the “Eight Limb Path.”

It follows a specific sequence of poses that progressively become more challenging. It is a physically demanding practice that requires strength, endurance, and focus.

Ashtanga Yoga combines synchronized breath and movement to create a flowing practice that generates heat within the body. This heat helps purify the muscles and organs while enhancing flexibility and strength.

The rigorous nature of Ashtanga Yoga provides a robust cardiovascular workout, as the continuous flow of movements elevates the heart rate and stimulates the entire body.

Is Yoga Exercise?: Power Yoga

This form of yoga is inspired by Ashtanga Yoga. It is a dynamic and intense practice that emphasizes strength, stamina, and physical exertion.

It incorporates elements of strength training and cardiovascular exercise to create a challenging and invigorating experience.

two men in a yoga twist with blocks

Power Yoga classes often include a variety of poses and sequences that are performed at a faster pace, allowing you to build heat, increase heart rate, and engage multiple muscle groups simultaneously.

The continuous flow and powerful movements of Power Yoga enhance muscular endurance, promote weight loss, and cultivate a strong and toned physique.

In comparison to traditional exercise routines, flowing yoga styles provide a unique blend of strength, flexibility, and mindful movement.

While conventional workouts often focus solely on specific muscle groups or isolated movements, flowing yoga styles engage the entire body in a comprehensive and integrated way.

The continuous flow of poses challenges and strengthens muscles, improves flexibility and range of motion, and enhances balance and coordination.

Simultaneously, the emphasis on breath and mindfulness cultivates mental resilience, reducing stress, and promoting a deep mind-body connection.

group of yogis in forward fold

Vinyasa Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga, and Power Yoga are just a few of the many styles of yoga. Yet, when practiced, you embark on a transformative journey that not only benefits your physical fitness but also nourishes your mental and emotional well-being.

Through these flowing yoga styles, you build both muscular and mental resilience, fostering a deep mind-body connection that cultivates balance and harmony within.

Yoga Beyond Physical Exercise

While yoga offers numerous physical benefits, its true essence extends far beyond the physical realm. Yoga serves as exercise not only for the body but also for the mind, emotions, and spirit.

The physical nature of yoga can be thought of as an entryway to a more holistic connection to mind, soul, and spirit.

When you step onto your mat, you begin a journey of self-discovery and self-awareness. The practice of mindfulness in yoga invites you to be fully present in each moment, cultivating a deep sense of awareness and grounding.

two women in upward facing dog

As you focus on your breath and sensations in your body, you develop the ability to quiet the mind, reduce stress, and find mental clarity amidst the chaos of daily life.

Moreover, yoga acts as an exercise for your emotions. Through the practice, you learn to navigate and release emotional tension stored in the body.

The mindful movement and conscious breath work in yoga provide a safe space for emotional exploration and healing, allowing you to cultivate greater emotional well-being and resilience beyond the yoga mat.

In addition to targeting the mind and emotions, yoga also addresses the spiritual dimension of your being.

Through meditation, self-reflection, and connection with your inner self, yoga offers an avenue to tap into your spirituality and expand your consciousness. It invites you to explore your deeper purpose and find a sense of connection with something greater than yourself.

The Integrated Practice: Physical, Mental, and Spiritual Dimensions

Yoga weaves together the physical, mental, and spiritual dimensions into an integrated practice, creating a truly holistic experience.

two people meditating

Let’s explore a brief example of a yoga flow that ties these elements together, allowing your body, mind, and spirit to align harmoniously.

  1. Begin in Mountain Pose (Tadasana), standing tall with your feet hip-width apart and arms relaxed by your sides. Close your eyes and take a moment to center yourself, focusing on your breath.
  2. As you inhale, raise your arms overhead. Exhale as you fold forward into Forward Fold (Uttanasana), allowing your upper body to relax and release any tension. Feel the stretch in the back of your legs and let your head hang heavy.
  3. Inhale, lift halfway into a Forward Fold with a Flat Back, lengthening your spine and gazing forward. Exhale, step your right foot back into a lunge position, aligning your front knee directly over the ankle.
  4. On the inhale, raise your torso and arms, coming into Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I). Feel the strength and stability of your legs and the expansion through your chest. As you exhale, bring your hands back to the mat and step back into Plank Pose.
  5. From Plank Pose, lower down with control into Chaturanga Dandasana, keeping your elbows close to your body.
  6. Inhale, arch into Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana), lengthening your spine and opening your chest.
  7. Exhale, lift your hips and press back into Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana).
  8. Take 3-5 breaths in Downward Dog, grounding through your hands and feet, feeling the lengthening of your spine and the release of tension in your back.
  9. From Downward Dog, step your right foot forward into a lunge, repeating the sequence on the other side. Inhale, rise into Warrior I, feeling the power and strength within you.
  10. Exhale, bring your hands back to the mat and step forward into Forward Fold.
  11. On an inhale, lift halfway with a Flat Back, finding length in your spine. Exhale, fold forward, and slowly roll up to standing, returning to Mountain Pose.
  12. Take a moment to notice the sensations in your body and the calmness in your mind.

This flowing sequence not only engages your muscles, increases flexibility, and improves balance but also encourages you to stay present, focusing on your breath and cultivating mindfulness.

yogi in a low lunge

As you move through each pose with intention and awareness, you create a sacred space where your body, mind, and spirit unite in harmony.

Through this integrated practice, you begin to understand that yoga is not just a workout routine; it is a transformative journey that extends beyond the boundaries of your mat.

Yoga empowers you to grow physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, infusing every aspect of your existence with a sense of purpose and connection.


While yoga is undoubtedly a form of physical exercise, it encompasses so much more. It is a practice that embraces the entirety of your being—body, mind, emotions, and spirit.

Through the physical aspects of yoga, you build strength, flexibility, and balance. The flowing yoga styles infuse your practice with dynamism and cardiovascular benefits. Yet, yoga’s true power lies in its ability to nurture your mind, emotions, and spirit.

By cultivating mindfulness, emotional well-being, and spiritual connection, yoga offers a transformative journey that goes beyond the confines of a conventional workout.

Embrace yoga as a holistic practice and unlock the incredible potential it holds for your overall well-being and personal growth.

If you enjoyed reading ‘Is Yoga Exercise?’, there are more ways to embrace the practice. Consider reviewing some of our articles related to various forms of yoga, the deeper meaning of yoga poses, or the history of yoga.

Photo of author
John Cottrell is an Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher and Certified Yoga Therapist residing in Salt Lake City, Utah.

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