Yoga vs Bodybuilding: What The Difference?

Yoga and bodybuilding can both benefit your physical and mental health. Which is better — yoga vs bodybuilding — depends upon your body and specific fitness goals.

They can both can help you become fitter and gain strength, help relieve stress and improve mental acuity. This article examines yoga vs bodybuilding in detail to help you determine which one is the best exercise for you. 

Comparing Bodybuilding and Yoga

Sources record that in excess of 20 million people, or about eight percent of the US population, practice yoga. Yoga stands out over bodybuilding for its holistic focus and the flexibility it provides.

Similarly, about 30 percent of American adults engage in bodybuilding. Bodybuilding stands out over yoga for its immediate benefits in reshaping your body. 

Below you will find a detailed comparison of yoga vs bodybuilding. The comparison is based on the way each exercise benefits your mind and body. 

The Benefits of Yoga

Man performing Marjariasana or Cat Pose on yoga mat

You can practice yoga anywhere you can place your mat. A mat is the only equipment you really require, although many practitioners find props such as blocks and straps helpful.

People of any age or fitness level can practice yoga, and all asanas, or postures, can be modified to accommodate fitness or mobility constraints.

If you're new to yoga, a class in a studio, online, or through an app can help you learn the basics. 

Yoga has several benefits for your physical body. It is known to:

  • Increase flexibility
  • Increase muscle strength and tone
  • Improve metabolism
  • Increase respiration
  • Relax muscles and aid muscle repair
  • Increase your range of motion
  • Encourage weight loss, and
  • Improve circulatory health

Yoga builds functional strength and teaches balance. It can also improve athletic performance. Unlike other activities such as bodybuilding and running, yoga lengthens muscles rather than shortening them. 

Although yoga does burn fat, it does so more slowly than many other exercises. Likewise, yoga improves the appearance of your body more slowly. While hot yoga and some more energetic schools of vinyasa can bring your heart rate into the cardio range, practitioners of other schools will need to add cardio training to their regimen to be fully fit.

Yoga integrates your body, soul, and mind and is considered a spiritual discipline as well as a physical workout. It relieves stress, promotes relaxation and focus, and improves sleep.

Practicing yoga encourages you to breathe more efficiently, move through pain, and better function in times of mental stress. It helps to calm the mind, and teaches you to remain calm in any situation.

Yoga is appropriate for someone who wants a holistic regimen and for whom building functional strength is more important than building muscle size. Yoga also is suitable for those who want to prevent and recover from injury.

The Benefits of Bodybuilding

Advanced bodybuilder doing exercises with dumbbells

Although you can bodybuild with just bodyweight, most bodybuilders use free weights and weight machines at a gym. If you're new to bodybuilding, consider asking a trainer at a gym to provide a brief, free orientation.  Online workouts, apps, or small group classes also can teach you the basics.

It should be noted that experts generally don't recommend bodybuilding for the very young or elderly due to concerns over the impact on growth and/ or injury.

The benefits of bodybuilding are that it:

  • Increases ligament strength and forces bones to become denser, preventing the onset of osteoporosis
  • Improves heart and lung health
  • Builds strong, powerhouse muscles 
  • Builds stamina and endurance
  • Improves self-confidence and teaches mental endurance

Bodybuilding also benefits the mind because it boosts energy and helps your body release endorphins, which improve mood, fight pain, and help you sleep better.

Bodybuilding works quickly to reshape your body and help you build strength and lose fat and so is appropriate for those who want to gain a lean, fit appearance quickly. Those who enjoy competition — with themselves and with others — will find a suitable outlet in bodybuilding. 

Athletes also can improve performance through bodybuilding. For example, putting on muscle mass can make you stronger on your feet. The increased muscle weight helps a pitcher throw harder and a bigger muscle mass dissipates impact from a punch or a hit in football. 

Bodybuilding does not build flexibility, however. If you work some muscle groups more than others, bodybuilding can lead to asymmetries and imbalances that can set you up for injury. 

Occasionally, some overly competitive bodybuilders may tend to load up on protein while neglecting other vitamins and nutrients. They can even develop muscle dysmorphia, spending too much time in the gym, and compulsively comparing their physique with that of others.

The Final Word on Yoga vs Bodybuilding

Choose yoga if you want a holistic workout that promotes functional strength and links body, mind, and spirit. Likewise, if you seek to build flexibility, balance, or recover from injury, yoga is your best choice. If you want to accept your body's limitations each day rather than competing with yourself or others, choose yoga.

Bodybuild if you want to strengthen your muscles and ligaments quickly. It will help change the shape of your body and build self-confidence. If you like to compete with yourself and others, it's a good choice too.

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