Both meditation and yoga are life-changing habits most should adopt, but many conflate the two because they achieve similar benefits.
But is yoga a form of meditation? Many consider yoga a form of moving meditation, after all, it’s a great way to relax the mind but some opt for combining meditation with exercise to achieve similar results that yoga in this case can give. Even though yoga and exercise complement each other.
Now, I can’t give a clear-cut answer on whether yoga is a form of meditation because both are to a large degree subjective experiences, and for some, they aren’t mutually exclusive.
I can’t invalidate someone else’s experience if they see yoga as a form of meditation, but I see the two as separate, but both are avenues to achieve similar benefits.
And even though both of these practices are so personal, they still adhere to certain parameters of either quieting the mind or achieving some form of harmony with the mind and body, as it’s the case with yoga.
Photo by Max Nikhil Thimmayya
Meditation Is a Mental Exercise
Although yoga can be used for this purpose as well, meditation is more geared toward those that want to have more control over themselves.
It’s not uncommon for the mind to drift to different places that give us undesirable feelings. While we may not be able to eliminate all the negative thoughts stemming from the mind, we can certainly become indifferent to them and allow them to coexist – that’s the byproduct of consistent meditation and focusing our attention inwards, what we can control, and the present moment.
It opens a whole new world but so does yoga, in the sense that it can yield us a strong sense of peace by keeping a certain posture throughout the day, all subconsciously after consistent yoga.
Of course, yoga is a bit of a broad term and always depends on which yoga exercise you are doing, but in general, most yoga exercises consist of holding certain poses.
What’s relieving about meditation is that because it’s more of a mental exercise, it could provide a bit more flexibility in the position we choose to do the practice on.
Some choose to meditate lying down or combine meditation with something else, which are both valid forms of meditation so long as we keep our attention in the present.
Now, meditation is more of a mental exercise because you’ll often face your inner shadow, which some see as the darker side of meditation.
After all, with meditation, you are allowing your thoughts to coexist with you, and that can get dark at times if you bring out the ‘worst’ part of yourself to light, acknowledge that it’s part of you and then let go of it, as opposed to running away from it.
With yoga, it’s not as common to face these thoughts since it partly consists of having peace of mind and bringing the mind and body together through poses, so the body feels its best.
Should You Do Yoga or Meditation First?
They aren’t mutually exclusive and can be done in any order, but since meditation can feel more intense mentally, some opt to do yoga first as it gets you in a state of mind where meditation becomes easier. After all, the calmer your mind is, the more likely you are to enjoy the meditation.
But it’s not always about enjoying the meditation as it is about growing personally from it, enjoyment is a bonus, and over time, you will enjoy it if you condition your mind to do it consistently, but the same can be said for yoga.
Others find meditation easier at first, especially those who aren’t affected by dark or confrontational thoughts, and it’s easier in the sense that meditation at its most basic form just consists of being in the present moment and sustaining your attention there. At least, you’d be in a meditative state.
The Present: Yoga vs. Meditation
Meditation helps us navigate the present by making us more versatile and accepting things as they come, rather than grieving or denying, and allowing us to make the best out of our present situation so that the present situation can rival a future one might be longing for.
We tend to be happier before we achieve something that we know we are gonna achieve rather than the actual achievement in itself.
The mind is used to creating this anticipation, and the same can be said for something we don’t want to happen – we tend to imagine things worse than what they are, and forget the present.
But by becoming more versatile to the present and open to what’s about to happen, we build mental strength by default and it teaches us not to attach our expectations to an outcome, but instead, the process.
So in that sense, meditation goes more in-depth into that than yoga, from my limited experience with yoga. Meditation helps us take a step back and not fall into this roller-coaster of “what’s gonna happen” or obsessively dwell over what’s already happened.
Now, with yoga, it’s not a requirement to be present, you can use yoga as an exercise if you’re not interested in the meditation side of things. So if you have a hard time keeping your focus on the present, you can still practice yoga.
But meditation as we know it requires that you are in the now to reap the rewards of a flow state and experience the peace of mind many speak so highly of during the meditative state – it’s not an exaggeration, and you’ll only have that concept of peace once you’ve had first-hand experience with meditation.
If your goal is just to be in the present moment by default, meditation will take you further, speaking from personal experience. But don’t neglect your body in the process just to focus on the mind, I recommend combining meditation with yoga, some form of exercise, and optimally the three.
Quieting The Mind
Both yoga and meditation can help us in quieting the mind by bringing peace to it. But with meditation, it can also be the opposite, considering how much the mind dislikes meditation and sitting with ourselves.
It’s important to still meditate, even if you don’t want to, to get past this artificial barrier put by the mind, since the mind will resort to anything to get us out of meditation.
Either by distracting yourself with thoughts or thinking about how much time left it’s of meditation. The same can be said about yoga, but if you choose to do the two, you have one habit to fall back on when the other one fails.
So instead of training your discipline in one practice, you do it with two. And I’m aware that more isn’t always better and some do better just focusing on one at a time.
But when it comes to quieting the mind, I’ve found that meditation goes more in-depth with quieting the mind, especially once you reach this flow state that almost mimics enlightenment, in the sense of getting a strong sense of peace.
When you find distracting thoughts with meditation, your job is to bring your attention back to your breath or what was keeping you in the present moment. If it happens during yoga, try being conscious of the yoga practice and you’ll be in a meditative state while doing yoga.
It’s not like doing meditation is hard and you can easily combine the two simply by choosing where you move your attention two, so in that sense, yoga can be a form of meditation if you associate yoga with a calm state of mind, it can help you be in the now.
Both meditation and yoga can yield results faster or slower, depending on how you practice them, but generally speaking, it takes around the same amount of time for the two to reap the rewards.
Admittedly, for me, it was just a matter of days, but understandably it will take some longer, and the wait is worth it, as both practices can serve you for life and have your future self thank you for picking up the habits.
But try not to give up before you see the light at the end of the tunnel, that will be the true test of discipline.