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Differences Between Yoga and Meditation

by Ashley Johnson

As the world gets more stressful and competitive, it can be hard to keep up with the pace of life. Unfortunately, this makes you more vulnerable to anxiety and depression that takes a severe toll on your physical and mental wellbeing.

In this context, the ancient eastern practices of yoga and meditation make it into the mainstream of modern life. Western societies are showing greater interest in incorporating this holistic approach for a healthier mind, body, and soul.

Most people who are just getting started tend to use the terms “yoga” and “meditation” interchangeably. Although these two phenomena are closely related, there is a fine line of difference between them.

Before we explain the differences between yoga and meditation, let’s look at a fundamental explanation of what they are.

What Is Yoga?

Etymologically, the term “yoga” is a Sanskrit word for “union.” In its simplest form, yoga is the union between mind, body, and soul. This union is achieved through the practice of various mental, physical, and spiritual exercises. The ultimate end of yoga is to achieve a state of being that connects your individual consciousness with the higher powers in the universe.

Yoga is more than just a set of exercises. It is a philosophy and way of life that helps achieve peace of mind and mental, physical, and emotional stability. If you are just getting started with yoga, you should know about its three primary practices, viz. Asana (postures), Pranayama (breathing), and Dhyana (meditation).

What Is Meditation?

Meditation is one of the eight limbs of yoga. It helps you develop a higher level of consciousness by controlling your mind and thoughts. It does not require any bodily movement, which makes it difficult.

Once you maintain stillness, you need to detach your mind from other thoughts by focusing all your energies on one point. The goal is to empty your mind to achieve mindfulness and get closer to your inner self by breaking the false reality of the world.

Differences Between Yoga and Meditation

Both yoga and meditation have so much in common that their difference often gets blurred. Therefore, in order to derive the maximum benefits from these practices, you should know how they differ from each other.

1. Physical and Mental Aspects

The most notable difference between yoga and meditation is their focus on physical and mental aspects, respectively. 

Yoga involves lots of movements, and is thus often considered a form of physical exercise. Some yoga poses can be physically challenging. Participants will have to regulate their breathing patterns according to their body position.

The idea is to improve mindfulness and be in the present as you shift between the poses, by maintaining physical balance and focus of mind. Besides peace of mind, yoga positively impacts your physical life by helping you improve your cardiovascular health, weight, flexibility, agility, and muscle strength. 

On the other hand, meditation is a mental aspect of yoga, requiring little to no movement at all. The focus is on the mind rather than the body. Like yoga, you can practice mindfulness by controlling your breath and clearing your thoughts to achieve a state of mental relaxation and tranquility.

2. Restrictions

The physical nature of yoga comes with some restrictions regarding how and when you can practice it. For instance, most asanas (positions) require you to be on an empty stomach or at least a couple of hours after a meal. Additionally, few yoga positions should be avoided if you have certain health conditions.

Meditation puts no such restriction on you. You just need to find a quiet place where you can concentrate your mind on a specific object or symbol without any distraction. However, that’s the most challenging part of meditation.

3. Sequence of Practice

Although you can practice yoga and meditation independently as a separate routine, it is typically better to meditate after you are done with your yoga session. 

It is normal to feel a little tired or exhausted after doing yoga. Meditating after yoga will help you to stabilize your energy levels and make you feel more calm and relaxed.

Yoga and meditation exist in a synergetic relationship with each other and, if done consistently, can improve your life within a short period. It is never too late to start doing yoga and/or to start meditating, effectively unlocking a secret to a healthier and happy life today.

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