Meditation Vs Yoga, which is right for you? Both can greatly benefit you by offering mental stability and improved physical and spiritual health. But there are differences between the two practices, and which you choose depends on the goals that you have.
While these practices share similarities, there are key differences that may make one more suitable for you.
By the end of this article, you’ll have a better understanding of whether you should practice yoga, meditation, or both as part of your mental training and daily routine.
What is Yoga?
Yoga is a practice with both physical and mental health benefits that began in ancient India around 2700 BC.
The word “yoga” comes from Sanskrit and means “the union of your soul” and “the divine spirit.”
Today, we think of yoga as a type of exercise that strengthens your core increases flexibility, and improves your breathing, ultimately benefiting your physical, emotional health, and mental well-being.
During yoga, you perform a mix of challenging or “activating” poses while maintaining controlled, steady breathing. This stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for our “fight or flight” response.
When you shift to a more relaxing pose, the parasympathetic nervous system kicks in, helping your body and mind reach a calm and restorative state. And trust me, for anyone who’s held a twisting balance post and transitioned to a child pose, it feels amazing.
Yoga isn’t just for the body
There’s sometimes a misconception that yoga practice is just for the body, but it’s both a physical and mental exercise.
Practicing yoga regularly offers numerous health benefits, such as boosting your energy, lowering blood pressure, enhancing strength and flexibility, and easing symptoms of anxiety and depression. These positive effects can also lead to better sleep.
Many people embrace yoga as a way of life, using it as a healthy living holistic approach to connect their minds and body. Just like we do in traditional meditation, yoga involves focusing on an anchor in the present moment, in this case, the physical movements and sensations.
Integrating a physical practice like yoga into your daily routine can help you achieve a more balanced lifestyle.
There are many different styles of yoga, but they all share the common goal of positively transforming your life. If you’re looking for a way to combine physical activity with mental clarity, you might want to practice yoga. Let’s look at a few of these approaches.
Types of Yoga Practices
Yoga is a diverse practice that can be broken down into three main components: “Asanas” or physical exercises and practice postures, “Pranayama” or breathwork, and “Dhyana” or meditation. Together, they create a physical routine that helps improve focus, awareness, and inner harmony.
There are many different types of yoga, each with its unique approach. Here are just a few of the more popular ones:
Chakra Yoga: A spiritual form of yoga that combines elements from various traditions to activate the chakra energies along the spine.
Antaranga Yoga: A practice that focuses on seeking one’s inner path, often associated with Ashtanga yoga. Together, they’re known as Antaranga Sadhana, a term that means spiritual practice or discipline.
Iyengar Yoga: Developed by Indian yoga teacher B.K.S. Iyengar, this style emphasizes the structural integrity of poses, focusing on proper alignment and posture.
Vinyasa Yoga: Also known as “flow” yoga, Vinyasa involves performing yoga postures seamlessly without breaks, following the rhythm of your breath.
Hatha Yoga: A gentle practice that serves as the foundation for many other styles, combining basic poses with controlled breathing. It’s a great choice for beginners.
Ashtanga Yoga: A more structured and intense form of yoga, focusing on a specific sequence of poses to build strength and endurance.
Yin Yoga: A slow-paced, meditative style that emphasizes deep stretching and relaxation, holding poses for longer periods to release tension.
Kundalini Yoga: A spiritual style that combines movement, breathwork, and chanting to awaken the energy at the base of the spine and cultivate self-awareness and inner balance.
Bikram Yoga: Also known as hot yoga, Bikram is practiced in a heated room, involving a sequence of 26 poses and two breathing exercises to increase flexibility and promote detoxification.
Restorative Yoga: A gentle, soothing practice that uses props to support the body in various poses, promoting relaxation and stress relief.
Exploring different styles can help you find the one that best suits your needs, whether you seek a vigorous workout, deep relaxation, or a spiritual experience.
What is Meditation?
Meditation is the practice of becoming aware of yourself and your mind in the present moment without judgment. There’s always an anchor to keep your attention in the present moment, the most popular being your breathing.
It helps you connect with your thoughts, feelings, and sensations without being controlled by them. Originating from the Latin word “meditatio,” which means “to think deeply,” meditation trains your awareness, allowing you to gain control over your thoughts and detach from your reactive self.
While all religions include some form of meditation, such as walking contemplation or simple prayer, most people today meditate not just for religion but for the growing list of mental and physical benefits.
Meditation isn’t just for the mind
Just like Yoga isn’t just about the physical benefits, meditation practice isn’t just about the mental health benefits.
Because meditation has a powerful impact on the nervous system, regular meditation has been shown to make physiological changes like reducing aging, improving cardiovascular health, reducing chronic pain,, and reducing age and stress-related diseases such as dementia and cancer.
With the growing evidence of how meditation can improve emotional and mental stability, meditation techniques have been integrated into psychologists’ and psychotherapists’ training courses and therapeutic exercises to boost the psychological well-being of patients.
Meditation is an umbrella term
Meditation is the name given to any practice this involves focusing on the present moment to improve your well-being. Even classical yoga comes under the category of movement meditation.
There is a very broad range of meditation practices and courses, here are just a few:
Focuses on a single point of reference, such as a mantra or your breath, to help calm the mind and develop concentration.
Involves paying attention to your thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations as they arise without judgment, promoting self-awareness and presence in the moment.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
A structured program that combines mindfulness meditation with yoga and other practices to help reduce stress and improve mental well-being.
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)
Integrates mindfulness meditation with cognitive therapy techniques to help prevent relapse in people with recurrent depression.
You can read more about the different types of meditation here.
Combining Yoga With Meditation
Incorporating meditation into your yoga practice can lead to a more holistic and fulfilling experience, combining the physical benefits of yoga with the mental and emotional benefits of meditation.
“Yoga is not about touching your toes. It’s what you learn on the way down.” – Jigar Gor
By exploring different styles of meditation, you can find the one that best suits your needs and enhances your overall well-being. Many people find that a consistent yoga practice helps them develop a stronger mind-body connection.
Benefits of Yoga and Meditation
As you start on your meditation journey, you’ll notice a variety of benefits that can enhance your overall well-being:
Improved mental health
By incorporating mindfulness and breathing exercises into your meditation practice, you’ll be able to focus your attention more effectively.
With regular practice, you’ll find that your mind becomes more resilient to stress and distractions, providing you with a sense of calm and clarity.
Enhanced cardiovascular health
While yoga is known to benefit the sympathetic nervous system, meditation can help lower your blood pressure. When you practice both yoga and meditation, you’ll activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which slows your heart rate and promotes overall heart health.
Positive changes in the brain
Both yoga and meditation have the power to change your brain positively, leading to improvements in learning, memory, and focus. Additionally, breathing exercises in meditation can supply extra oxygen to your brain, further supporting cognitive function.
By incorporating meditation into your daily routine, you’ll begin to experience these transformative benefits, ultimately improving your mental, emotional, and physical well-being.
Differences between Yoga and Meditation
Group setting vs. individual
Yoga is typically practiced in a class setting, while meditation is often done alone. However, group meditation and meditation retreats are also available.
This is where it starts to become a little blurred. While yoga focuses on physical sensations in the body, in some practices so does meditation. Where they differ is that because meditation is the umbrella term, it also includes focus anchors such as mantras, sounds, and thoughts themselves.
Yoga provides a holistic approach to both the mental state and physical health, while classical meditation focuses more on mental and emotional awareness and improvement.
Yoga poses require more physical energy and is considered a form of physical exercise, whereas meditation is a more relaxed mental practice that can even induce sleep. Choose yoga for a workout and meditation for calming the mind.
One is part of the other
The practice of yoga incorporates meditation as part of its holistic practice, with physical poses being only one component. Both practices promote mindfulness and can be combined for a balanced, healthy lifestyle.
Meditation usually involves closed eyes, while yoga engages all the senses with open eyes and movement. The sensory experience differs, but both practices promote self-awareness.
Meditation typically involves sitting or lying down, while yoga includes various poses that can be challenging at first. Choose meditation if mobility is an issue, or yoga if you prefer more movement. Engaging in a physical practice such as yoga can be an excellent way to reduce stress and enhance overall well-being.
Yoga and meditation can offer you numerous benefits and can be incorporated into your daily life.
You don’t have to choose between yoga and meditation, as both practices offer unique benefits that can greatly enhance your overall well-being.
If you have limited time, you can choose a short meditation or if you have more time, maybe enjoy a longer yoga session, both are depending on your preferences and schedule.
You may also find that you enjoy group yoga classes for social interaction, while meditation provides a chance for introspection and personal growth.
By incorporating both practices into your daily routine, you can experience a reduction in stress and anxiety, improved mental and physical health, and a greater sense of calm and inner peace. If you’re interested in maximizing the benefits of both practices, consider combining yoga and meditation in a way that suits your lifestyle and personal preferences.
Ultimately, both practices can complement each other, leading you on a journey of self-discovery, balance, and overall wellness. As you progress in your yoga practice and meditation practice, you’ll likely notice improvements in flexibility, strength, and mental clarity.