Yoga and meditation: Know their similarities and differences

The routine, the pace of life or changes can agitate us and make us feel that we need a moment of calm. When this happens, we usually turn to practices such as meditation or yoga; and it is often believed that these are practices that always go together and, although they may be, they do not necessarily have to be associated.

How are yoga and meditation similar?

As we mentioned earlier, both yoga and meditation are disciplines that can go hand in hand, and to understand the similarities between them, we must review what they are and what they entail.

As we have discussed in previous posts, yoga -although in recent years it has gained prominence for its benefits in the field of fitness- is a practice with more than 5000 years old and is based on Indian philosophy. With the practice of this discipline, the combination and synchronization between body and mind is worked through different postures -or asanas- and breathing techniques. In addition, during yoga practices, meditations are often introduced. Yoga means "union", and so much so, that its objective is to promote well-being and balance through the combination of the above elements: it is not simply a workout, but a lifestyle.

On the other hand, the term "meditation" is used to describe the various meditative disciplines. All of them aim to reduce stress levels and modify a person's emotions; in this way, meditation is a way to be calm through stillness of both body and mind. Current meditation practices have their origins in certain Asian religions and spiritual traditions, and are believed to help bring greater awareness and acceptance of one's life by improving concentration and conditioning the mind. Meditation is an ideal practice for those seeking to learn to live in the present and become less immersed in their thoughts, in fact, it is believed that by achieving a deep state of relaxation, it can improve both a person's health and well-being.

If we focus on the similarities that both practices share, we should note that meditation comes from "Dhyana", which is the seventh principle of yoga as formulated by Patanjali - an ancient sage - to achieve union, and thus well-being. Dhyana is essentially a state of consciousness: that is, it is a spiritual state in which one has successfully achieved the ability to pay attention within oneself and leave behind external distractions, thus transcending the restless state of mind.

Between both practices we find some shared benefits. Both disciplines bring clarity and peace of mind, improve sleep and concentration in daily life, help reduce stress, improve mood and bring well-being. In addition, they also share certain needs during their realization: it is required to concentrate on the body and be aware of it, they require paying attention to the breath, as often it may even be the one that marks the times or patterns during practice, and in both, thoughts are allowed to flow.

What are the differences?

Essentially, meditation is about being calm, without the need for physical exercise. During its practice you should be still -either sitting or lying down- and concentrate on your breathing in order to become aware of your body and the space around you. To do this you can concentrate on the objects that accompany you, sounds or your own breathing depending on the type of meditation technique you practice.

Yoga, on the other hand, means union, but it is also the means to reach that state; and in order to reach it, the eight principles of yoga formulated by Patanjali must be taken into account: Yama -the ethical principles and rules for living in society-, Niyama -which consists of the individual disciplines and attitudes towards oneself-, Asanas -postures-, Pranayama -the control of the breath or life force-, Pratyahara -sense of abstinence-, Dharana -concentration-, Dhyana -meditation- and Samadhi -spiritual ecstasy-.

As you can see, the ways in which they are practiced are totally different: while meditation is about stillness, yoga involves movement, but the practice of one is not at odds with the other, but can be totally complementary.

Which one is better?

Choosing the one that best suits your needs will depend entirely on you and how you feel, as both practices have numerous benefits and can help you manage your stress and promote calm.

Keep in mind your goals and your limitations: i.e., if you have any injuries they may prevent you from doing certain asanas during yoga practice, or if your time is limited and you can only do your practice after lunch, it may be better to set aside your yoga practice for another time as some asanas should be done on an empty stomach -or at least without the heavy feeling you get after eating-. On the other hand, if your goal is to improve your body power, increase your flexibility or strength, you'd better start practicing yoga in order to achieve your wellness goals and feel all its benefits.

There is no one discipline better than another, it is best that you spend some time trying different types of yoga and meditation and find the one that best suits you. Don't limit yourself to one of these disciplines, we encourage you to continue with your yoga and meditation practices, it's just about finding the time!