Can practicing yoga provide the strength, muscle tone and health benefits that lifting weights does? In my experience the answer is NO! Bikram yoga provides these benefits in a different way and so much more. Please note that obviously, lifting weights is very beneficial for strength, muscle tone, improving bone density and other things.
Yoga is about breathing, proper alignment and being still which creates strength and flexibility. Many inflexible people think they cannot attempt yoga. Please know this is absolutely not the case. Regular practice builds one’s strength. The strength it takes to hold a posture creates flexibility. That is when you are able to express a ‘deeper’ version of the posture.
I lifted weights for many years. Not only did I dislike it because I found it boring and monotonous, I also saw little to no physical results. (I am aware that many people lift weight and get results.) I have been practicing Bikram yoga for just over two years, since Feb 2012. Within weeks I began to see changes in my muscle tone, strength and flexibility. The muscles yoga develops are longer and leaner than the bulkier muscle that results from lifting heavy weights. The weight of your own body and gravity create the resistance. You can see not only the progression of my standing bow posture below (top and bottom left), but also the difference in my muscle tone. The photo on the right shows a back bend. When I first began I could only hang my head back, nothing else! ( I was not even thinking about getting a photo of that back then.)
There are also numerous other physical and mental benefits of the yoga. By practicing in a heated room, the practitioner sweats A LOT! This rids the body of environmental and ingested toxins. I quickly noticed my skin was clearer and those mysterious upper arm and thigh mini bumps vanished. (These can also be due to a lack of vitamin A.) The yoga teaches you to be in the present moment. You must think about each posture to make sure you are executing it to the best of your ability. There are no distractions of a TV or music. I believe this helps strengthen your ability to focus outside the hot room and to practice patience and tolerance too. Even though we do the same sequence of 26 postures in each class, I don’t get bored because each class feels different and there is always a deeper expression of the posture we are trying to reach. Bikram yoga may not appeal to everyone, but it CAN help everyone and I can’t imagine life without it now. The physical benefits are fantastic but there is so much more.
P.S. I also teach five spin classes per week and follow a whole foods plant based diet. Some practitioners do yoga as their only physical practice. Most yogis compliment the results of their practice by following healthy diets and lifestyles. I mention this because in order to be balanced and healthy what you eat is always a critical factor.