The fundamental difference between yoga and other forms of exercise (running, working out at a gym, etc.) is that while regular exercise is intended to tone and strengthen the body, yoga’s intention goes well beyond body toning.
A typical yoga practice encompasses yoga exercises, meditation, and pranayama. Of these three techniques, yoga exercises work most directly on the density (blocks) and physical/energetic imbalances of the body. Each posture in a yogic practice breaks up physical congestion and adhesions in the muscle and soft tissue that literally block the flow of the body’s prana, or life force, through the body. Without the unobstructed flow of prana, the body becomes dense, toxic and emotionally protective. In addition, a yoga practice offers benefits in physical health, well being, stress reduction, fitness, and mental and emotional health.
Pranayama, or breathing techniques, are intended to drive the prana or life force into both the body and the mind. Once the yoga exercises have plowed through subtle physical blockages, old protective mental and emotional patterns that create the density of the body are cleared by the movement of the life force through specific pranayama breathing exercises.
Meditation is the final step on this road to deep transformational change and the shedding of emotional scars. With the prana now moving through the subtle energy channels (called nadis ) into both the body and mind, the ability to control your thoughts and to drop into a state beyond thought becomes possible.