A lot of people go to the gym due to health consciousness. They are using exercise equipment that may be helping their bodies but are harming the environment. Many exercisers find that running on a treadmill is easier, and therefore they prefer it over running outdoors. Those who face dust allergies or live in cold temperatures do not have an option but to remain indoors for their workouts. There is also a sense of encouragement from joining a gym. By joining their local club, they become a part of a group that strives to be healthy.

While the treadmills these gym-goers choose appear to be rather simple machines that wouldn’t require high amounts of power, one treadmill can burn the equivalent of fifteen 75-Watt light bulbs while in use. Most people would never want to have five lights switched on in their house, let alone fifteen, yet most people have no problem using a treadmill. While most treadmills are not constantly running, they still use energy while in standby mode. Some local gyms are also crowded enough that their machines are in almost constant use, burning large amounts of energy. The temperature rises in the gym, causing the use of fans and air conditioning in addition to the level that it is constantly running at. The lights at most gyms are consistently on and using electricity, even if no one is working out. The soda vending machine alone at a local gym can use about 10 times the amount of a home refrigerator. When we add all costs together, our gyms are slowly leaving a large carbon footprint on the Earth. The carbon footprint can be reduced by practicing Yoga, which is a sustainable alternative to gyms and perfectly in line with the circular economy.

The circular economy is a principle of manufacturing products in which the resources cycle in endless loops. This means that for the production of a product, manufacturers take as little new resources as possible from the planet. The product is manufactured in such a way that it can be recycled again and does not end up as waste. During recycling, the entire product should then be reused in such a way that it supplies the raw materials for a new product or is completely biodegraded. Circular products can, therefore, make consumption more sustainable and form a solution for the future.

What yoga and the circular economy have in common is the way they look at our environment. Both approaches see our earth as one. Every part, every organism is connected and forms part of the whole. This means that we cannot enrich ourselves immeasurably on earth without harming ourselves.

Across all categories of the 2016 Yoga in America Study, yogis were nearly twice as likely as the general population to act in an environmental-friendly way. The study highlights that over 50% of practitioners report eating sustainable foods and living green compared to a third of Americans. Yoga practice and philosophy teach mindfulness and ethical guidelines, known as the yamas and niyamas. The yamas and the niyamas cultivate the quality of compassion (karuna), which inspires individuals to live in an environmental-friendly lifestyle.

The first yama is non-violence at the level of thought, speech, and action and applies to our environment, our fellow humans, and ourselves. Non-violence influences dietary and consumer choices that do no harm or less harm to the environment. Vegan, vegetarian, organic, and locavore diets are all based on non-violence. Vegans and vegetarians don’t want to harm animals. Organic foods reduce pollutants. And locavores search for humanely raised meat and dairy. Non-violence also means ensuring all people and animals have access to fresh air and clean water. Pollution, whether from the food we grow, the energy we use, or the products we manufacture, negatively affects air and water quality and therefore human health.

The niyamas tell us to cultivate contentment and purity. Contentment is the other side of non-hoarding. We know we have enough and we are content with what we have. We accumulate less stuff, use less energy and water, and have a smaller environmental footprint. When content, we take what we need and leave the rest.

Yoga can be a very eco-friendly and circular practice as it can be performed anywhere, indoors and outdoors without requiring an enclosed area like a gym with air-conditioners, televisions, treadmills, and other equipment.

How practicing yoga is as good as going to the gym?

  • A study in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine shows that yoga can build strength in addition to flexibility. Flexibility may actually be the key to that strength. When our muscles and the tissues that surround them are super tight, we’re not able to move as much weight with a full range of motion in the gym. Doing yoga helps loosen up those tissues so we can get more out of your strength sessions.
  • Research in the International Journal of Yoga shows that yoga not only reduces stress but can help lower anxiety and depression, too. (It can also help battle insomnia, helping people who have it to sleep sounder at night, per researchers in Southern India.) There are as many types of yoga as there are machines in the gym, each having their unique benefits.
  • A study in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology found that yoga can ward off heart disease, keeping our heart in good form. Since that’s one of the key reasons people do cardio in gyms, to boost heart health, it’s interesting to note that similar benefits can be reaped from a yoga class. The twisting, stretching, and folding of a yoga practice are good for the digestive system, the circulatory system, the lymph system, and more. It’s a great way to detox the body and can improve your cardiovascular system. And all this while developing stronger muscles. A gym workout is focused just on strengthening muscles and boosting cardio.
  • Yoga is a different experience in a yoga studio, but we can easily practice yoga at home, outside, or in small spaces. All we need is about 6 feet by 4 feet and we have our own yoga studio. A gym workout requires more equipment and more space.
  • Yoga eases our aches and pains. A gym workout increases them. Yoga slowly stretches muscles and opens the energy channels of the body. The increased flexibility keeps muscles and joints lubricated and healthy. Weights and treadmill can cause strain which leads to soreness and injuries.
  • Yoga helps us breathe easier. During times of stress, it’s easy to forget to breathe, really breathe, and not just shallow breaths. Without deep breaths, it’s harder to think clearly and fatigue can set in. Yoga focuses on the breath so that when we need it most, those deep breaths are the norm.

Yoga teaches us how to live in and interact with the world around us. We learn that we are not isolated but deeply connected to every living being. As we learn to live the yamas and niyamas, we learn that they apply to everything. As we become more mindful, we are more compassionate. When we feel compassionate, we are more likely to make choices that have a positive impact on life around us.