It’s easy to confuse yoga and meditation.
Whilst they come under a similar branch, they are very different things.
I’m going to walk you through the definitions of both yoga and meditation. I’ll also show you how the two are more intertwined than separate things, and help you make a decision of what may be best for you!
What is yoga?
Yoga can be defined as a spiritual discipline first originating in India and incorporating specific body postures (asanas) designed to aid health and relaxation.
Yoga is a physical practice, and there are many different styles to choose from.
Depending on your goals, you may pick different yoga styles. For example, if you want to become more flexible, there may be certain asanas that will help you reach your goal.
If you would simply like to feel more relaxed and grounded and enjoy the many benefits yoga brings, then you could find value in any style of yoga.
Whichever style you choose, the ultimate goal remains the same – to unite the body, spirit and mind as one, ultimately achieving peace and liberation.
What is meditation?
Meditation is a trendy word at the moment. But what is it really?
Meditation is a mental practice, where a person trains to become more aware of their thoughts, emotions and thought patterns.
It is the process of consistently bringing the mind back to focus on a particular thought, or movement. For beginners, this focus with usually be the breath.
Generally, there is no goal with meditation, or there shouldn’t be. It can cause frustration or impatience when practicing meditation for the sake of a goal, and not reaching it.
This is counter-productive for the purpose of meditation.
However, a lot of people find great comfort in meditation, and find that a small portion of their day spent meditating can significantly increase their peace of mind and awareness.
Yoga AND meditation work together
So how is this relevant to yoga?
Well, meditation is usually practiced within yoga.
Although very different and distinct in the fact they could be practiced separately, they are the perfect combination when working together.
The physical aspects of yoga gently and naturally intertwine with the mental and emotional aspects to meditation.
If you find a great yoga class, there may be time at either the beginning or end of the yoga class for a guided meditation.
Meditation throughout yoga can actually help you through difficult poses. A great way to start is simply by focusing on the here and now.
When doing this in yoga, your brain focuses on the pose you are currently working through, and focuses on breathing through this. You’ll find that when you direct your energy to what is right in front of you, and not thinking about the past or future, things become more manageable.
And, you give yourself the space to enjoy the gift of the moment, rather than thinking about other things.
How can you get started?
After your next yoga practice, lay on your mat in sivasana (corpse pose).
Close your eyes, looking towards your third eye, and focus on your breathing. Focus on long, deep inhales and exhales, and try to clear your mind.
Begin to count from 1 to 10 in your mind with each breath you take.
Your mind will soon begin to wonder off. It’s important that you don’t judge yourself for this, and gently bring your attention back to your breath.
Continue repeating this for 5-10 minutes. It may help to have some relaxing music on in the background, or some incense burning.
Afterwards, notice how you feel. You may feel frustrated that you didn’t do it right, or you may feel more relaxed and peaceful.
Whichever you feel, try not to label it as either ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. Or ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Just accept that’s how it is, and let it pass.
Benefits of meditation
You can choose to meditate even if you don’t do it with yoga! There are so many valuable science-based benefits to a regular meditation practice:
- Enhances self-awareness
- Meditation helps you get in touch with your internal world. You’ll begin to more readily notice mood and thought changes.
- This can help you modify your behaviour, before it gets out of hand, which may have a positive effect on your relationships and daily life.
- Generates kindness
- Meditation is a form of self-love. And a form of self-acceptance. When you give yourself love, and learn to not judge yourself, you learn to do this for others too.
- There is also a really valuable meditation called ‘loving kindness meditation’. Practice this if you feel you need to show more compassion and love towards people in your life.
- Helps with pain management
- A regular meditation practice has been shown to help people who suffer from chronic pain, and make the pain feel more manageable.
- This doesn’t have to apply just to chronic pain. Anytime you feel in pain – physical or mental – give a meditation a go.
- Improve quality of sleep
- Often, we can be kept up overthinking things.
- Meditation can help to still and silence the mind, helping you get to sleep more quickly and peacefully.
So which is best for you?
This may depend on your circumstances, physical health and time-availability.
Practicing meditation alone requires little time, little physical ability, and can be practiced pretty much anywhere.
On the other hand, yoga requires a certain amount of time, a certain level of physical fitness and ideally you need a space with quiet and space to stretch out (although still not much).
It may also depend on whether you want to be focusing your attention more on your mind, or your body.
A regular yoga practice will provide you with a gentle, restorative exercise regime, improving your concentration, flexibility and strength.
Meditation will provide you with mental strength. It can help to increase your resilience, awareness and attention to the world around you.
Of course, I think both practiced together is the best way to feel the benefits. And incorporating meditation into your yoga practice can really make the practice feel more powerful, and productive.
If you’re just starting out with either yoga or meditation, let me know. Would be great to share experiences and ideas!