Yoga vs. Meditation: Which Is Best for You?

The terms’ yoga’ and ‘meditation’ describe practices that have been around for thousands of years but have only recently become popular in the western world.

To understand the differences between yoga and meditation, we need to understand what both terms mean and where they overlap.

Ultimately, the practice of both yoga and meditation is intended to help you grow personally, spiritually, and physically.

Let’s take a deep dive into yoga vs. meditation and learn the difference between the two plus the different styles to find the best practice for you!

What Is Yoga?

what is yoga

In Sanskrit, the word yoga means union. The practice of yoga is intended to unite the person practicing with the universe, source, a higher power, the true self, or whichever term most resonates.

In the western world, the term ‘yoga’ is most commonly used to describe the physical practice of asanas (yoga poses). When you head to a yoga class, you can expect to move through different poses that stretch and strengthen the body. Classes often involve breathing practices (pranayama) and some form of seated meditation.

However, at its root, yoga is a lifestyle that goes far beyond a physical practice. It’s a holistic way of life that focuses on the mind, body, and soul and has eight limbs:

  • Yama – kindness towards self and others
  • Niyama – self-restraint/discipline
  • Asana – physical postures
  • Pranayama – breathing practices
  • Pratyahara – withdrawal
  • Dharana – focused concentration
  • Dhyana – meditation
  • Samadhi – enlightenment

Yoga is a path to reaching ‘samadhi’ or enlightenment – something that requires the physical practice of yoga and seated meditation as well as self-growth practices.

Have you ever attended a yoga class and felt more deeply connected to a deeper purpose, the people around you, and positive energy? That is what yoga is all about – creating a union between ourselves and the deeper meaning of life.

What Is Meditation?

what is meditation

We have learned that meditation is one of the eight limbs of yoga, but what does meditation mean exactly?

Meditation is about stilling the mind, increasing awareness, and detaching ourselves from our thoughts. It’s about connecting with the present moment and letting concerns about the past or future melt away.

In other words, it’s about bringing all of your awareness to the present moment – through the breath, an object, or an activity – to create stillness in the mind.

Although many of us tend to picture a person sitting in lotus pose when we think of meditation, there are several other ways that you can practice meditation.

Mindfulness, for example, is the practice of being aware of the present moment, your state of mind, your words, and your actions at any given time. We can practice this immediately without needing to find 10 minutes to sit in silent meditation.

However, the practice of seated meditation will make it much easier for you to embody mindfulness throughout your day.

What’s the Difference Between Yoga and Meditation?

Technically, meditation is a way of practicing yoga.

Similarly, the physical practice of yoga can be a form of meditation.

For example, vinyasa yoga is often referred to as a moving meditation where we move the body into a different position every time we inhale or exhale. By bringing deep focus to our yoga practice in this way, we’re meditating.

Asanas were originally used as a way to make the body more comfortable to sit in meditation for long periods of time. If you’ve ever tried meditating first thing in the morning without stretching first, you’ll probably have noticed that your practice was interrupted by fatigue and stiffness.

Although the terms yoga and meditation are used to refer to different practices, there are lots of overlaps that make them incredibly similar. We can see this clearly when looking at the end goal of both yoga and meditation – to still the mind, calm the body, and connect to a higher source of power.

If you’re new to both meditation and the physical practice of yoga, we recommend experimenting with different styles of both practices to discover which one has the most benefits for you.

Yoga vs. Meditation – Which Is Better for You?

When deciding whether yoga or meditation would be better for you, it’s important to come back to your reason for wanting to practice in the first place.

If you’re suffering from tightness, discomfort, and lack of mobility in the body, the physical practice of yoga asanas is probably the best choice for you.

If you suffer from stress, anxiety, or mood swings, you may find that the practice of meditation is more beneficial for you. However, it’s worth noting that meditation can be much harder than it looks when you first start. If you try practicing seated meditation and find that it makes you feel worse, it might be more beneficial to get started with a physical yoga practice before dipping your toes into the world of meditation.

It’s also worth noting that yoga and meditation offer a range of different styles you can choose to practice.

Let’s have a look…

The Different Styles of Yoga

When considering the physical practice of yoga, there are several styles that you can choose from – all of which differ hugely from one another.

Here are a few of the most popular styles of yoga and what you can expect from a class:

Vinyasa Yoga

An intense practice where you move between poses each time you inhale or exhale.

Hatha Yoga

Hatha yoga involves holding poses for several breaths, which makes it easier to keep up with a class and is also great for strengthening the body.

Yin Yoga

Deep stretches held for 2-15 minutes in order to access the deep tissue in the body – great for mobility and flexibility. See What is Yin Yoga to learn more.

Restorative Yoga

Spending 15-20 minutes in restorative yoga positions supported by props as a way to calm the nervous system.

The Different Styles of Meditation

Meditation can be practiced in many different ways – the important thing is to find the practice that works for you!

Here are some of the most popular styles of meditation.

Silent Meditation

Sitting in silence for a certain amount of time focusing on the breath, the body, or an object such as a candle or spiritual object.

Walking Meditation

Going for a slow walk where you use all five senses to bring your attention to the present moment – the sounds around you, what you can smell, what you can taste, what you can see, and the feeling of the ground beneath your feet.

Mindfulness

Bringing your awareness to the present moment throughout your day. Being mindful can mean paying attention to a task that you’re performing, your emotions, and your connection to other people.

Chanting Meditation

Repeating a word in silence or out loud that helps you to clear the mind and connect to a higher power.

How to Combine Yoga and Meditation

Yoga and meditation can be combined to create a practice that does wonders for your mind, body, and soul.

If you have the time, you might like to practice asanas before spending some time in seated meditation.

Alternatively, you can use the practices of yoga and meditation interchangeably on any given day, depending on what your mind and body need and which practice you think will bring you the most benefits.

The important thing to remember is that the end goal of both yoga and meditation is the same. This means that it doesn’t matter which practice you choose, the important thing is that you practice.

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