What Is The Difference Between Yoga And Meditation?
This is exactly the same confusion I had years ago when I was searching for answers to my life’s problems. And I am sure, any beginner who has just taken on the journey of self-improvement will have this question too, as Yoga & meditations are without a doubt, the most powerful tools for you to explore.
Below is a very simple and complete guide on the differences between Yoga and Meditation.
So, what is the difference between Yoga and Meditation?
Meditation is part of Yoga, just one of the many steps that you need to take to become a Yogi. To be precise, there are 8 steps (I will elaborate more on this soon). To draw an analogy, it is like the martial arts, and Kung-fu being just one of the style among many. So, in that sense, meditation is not a separate concept from Yoga, but an essential and extremely important step towards the final goal of Yoga, which is Samadhi. Samadhi is the state of ultimate liberation, moksha, nirvana or being one with the higher consciousness or divine.
But, this is a very simplistic way of understanding the differences between Yoga and meditation. There is more to it in fact, and for that, we need to have better clarity on the concept of Yoga first.
The below question will clearly show you the difference between Yoga and meditation.
What is Yoga?
Yoga literally means “Union”, or to connect or ‘Yoke’. The purpose is to connect with the very source of creation, and Yoga is the only way you can achieve that.
The word Yoga is actually the Western mispronunciation of the Sanskrit “Yog”, which in turn originated from the word “Yuj”. Yuj was a tool, which was used in Ancient India to join cattle or horses, they were strong and heavy enough to keep the wild horses together.
Similarly, it is the ‘Yog’, which keeps the wild horses of our mind in one place. In Katha Upanishad, our minds were compared with wild horses, always wandering here and there, either in past or in future, in regrets or in fear. Even Swami Vivekananda termed the mind as “the drunken monkey”, in the late 19th century when he introduced the concept of Yoga to the West.
So, it is necessary to keep these wild horses under control, to make sure they run in one direction instead of running wherever their instinct takes them to.
It is the same with mind, it needs to be focused in one direction, in order to achieve greater goals in life.
|The word “Yoke” in fact means the same as “Yuj”, amazing…is not it? Do you wonder on the similarity, it’s not surprising at all, considering the fact, that Sanskrit is probably one of the or probably THE oldest language, it is natural that many languages either came out of it or got influenced heavily by its beauty?|
So, the Yoga is essentially a mechanism, by which you stay connected or unify yourself with the higher power…
The higher power may also mean the true self or the inner self, the Atman, higher consciousness, divine or the cosmic power which drives everything.
Now, as I said earlier, that Yoga is a broad subject, it not just one single thing. Unfortunately, it is the body twisting part of Yoga that gained prominence in the western world, which is Asana (one of the limbs in the 8 limb Yoga system).
Asanas, no doubt have endless benefits, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg…
What are the 8 limbs of yoga?
8 limbs Yoga is known as “Ashtanga Yoga” in Sanskrit, Ashta means eight and Anga means Limb. Each of the 8 steps is a step by step process to reach the final goal which is to become a Yogi or attain Samadhi.
These 8 steps are below…
Let us understand them in brief…
Yama means to control or restraint. There are 5 ways you conduct self-restraint, which are Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (Truthfulness), Asteya (Non-stealing), Brahmacharya (Sexual restraint) and Aparigraha (non-greediness)
Niyamas are rules or laws basically to maintain self-discipline. There are 5 ways namely Saucha (Cleanliness of mind, body & thoughts), Santosa (Contentment), Tapas (Persistence), Svadhyaya (Self-study), Ishvarapranidhana (Surrender to supreme or divine, or the personal god)
Asana originally meant to be seated in a firm position where your spine is straight and erect, yet relaxed and pleasant. The purpose of this position is to let the energy rise above the spine.
Asanas are the ones that became incredibly popular in the west which eventually became known as Yoga. Asanas are combinations of different body postures that are aimed at achieving specific results. The objective of the Asanas is to train the body and its internal organs in such a way, that they function at their optimum level of efficiency.
Think for a moment, if you have a high fever or any discomfort in your body, would you be able to concentrate or focus on anything? No, your mental efficiency will go down, cause your mind will divert its attention to the discomforted zone of the body.
So, Asanas are extremely useful to energize & train the body to prepare for the next level of Yoga.
Pranayamas are a series of breathing techniques or breath control. Prana means life energy or cosmic force, Yama means to control, together Pranayama is a method of controlling or channelizing the life force, or the Prana, the same means chi in Chinese.
Pranayama also is quite a large subject with several types of yogic breathing techniques to achieve specific benefits. Pranayama has tremendous health benefits and also its incredible ability to induce calmness and meditativeness. In this practice, the practitioner primarily keeps his or her conscious focus on the breath.
Pratyahara is a method by which a practitioner withdraws his senses from the outer world which helps them to start looking inward. This is a crucial step before Dharana, and after Pranayama when you have energized your body.
In this method, you learn to avoid distraction by the information gathered by your 5 senses. For example, ignoring the smell of coffee, or the melodic tune of Pink Floyd song playing in the background not letting you focus on the task at hand.
Pratyahara takes the central place in the 8-limb yoga system and prepares you for a deeper level of meditations like Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi.
Once you have mastered the practice of Pratyahara, withdrawal of senses is complete, you come to the stage of Dharana, which in simple terms means focus. It is the one-pointed concentration, fixing one’s attention at one thought or one object, which could be the focus on breath, bodily sensation, mantras, etc.
Different types of mindfulness meditation, body scan meditation, etc can be classified as Dharana.
But again, for many Sanskrit words, there is no equivalent English, Dharana is more than concentration, in fact, Patanjali explains concentration as the “binding of consciousness to a [single] spot.
Many say it’s not the concentration, but the consciousness which is focused at one point…a powerful experience, I have experienced it a few times in my life and that feeling is indescribable.
Dhyana is the next step of Dharana, Dhyana takes the practice of Dharana which is basically focusing on one single thing, to the deeper level of meditation. This is the stage where absorption or union begins, the gateway to samadhi.
In Dharana, you keep your focus on the object, but in Dhyana, you become one with the object. In Dharana, you focus on the light, but in Dhyana, you become the light.
This is a deep level of absorption, closer to the union. A stage where the superhuman qualities of human beings start to unleash.
Samadhi is the final state when the absorption is complete, you have merged with the divine, the source of creation, and when human consciousness becomes one with the cosmic consciousness.
This is the state of euphoria, endless bliss, and unbelievable joy. It’s a state where you have gone beyond your 5 senses, beyond all identities & boundaries of human limitation, and false perceptions. It’s the state where you have access to the endless intelligence of the divine.
So, where does the meditation fit into??
Let’s understand the meaning of meditation…
What is meditation?
The English word meditation has a different meaning, originated from the Latin word “meditatio” which means to think over, to reflect or to consider or study. So, in that sense, the meaning of meditation can be misleading, as, in real meditation, you are not supposed to have any thought at all.
It’s a thoughtless state or a no-mind state. Powerful isn’t it? Just be like that even for a minute and see the amazing sense of joy and clarity you will have in your life.
Also, in the West, when we say meditation, we mainly refer to mindfulness type of meditation or focus on the breath. It comes under the category of Pratyahara or Dharana, mainly to deal with increasing our focus and relaxation.
These types of practices have gained huge popularity in the West, due to its calming effect on the mind where even a little bit of respite from the increasing amount of stress and anxiety seems like ultimate liberation.
But, honestly, most of them are just relaxation techniques targeted at reducing thoughts…
and in that sense, hardly very few would have experienced the power of Dhyana. Dhyana is a state where there is no mind, where you are in touch with your deeper self, the vast intelligence that exists within you. That is magic, and it takes time and devotion to this art to learn that.
So, to keep it simple if we refer to Mediation in Yogic terms, you can combine Pranayama to Samadhi as different levels of meditations, something like basic to advanced level.
By the way, meditativeness should be part of our daily life, not an activity that you keep for a specific time in the day.
We should be meditative in every activity we do…
whether we take a shower or clean our surroundings, we eat our lunch or talk to someone…
in every activity of our life, meditativeness should happen naturally so that when we seat for Dhyana, we just move into it effortlessly and open the door to Samadhi.
In brief, meditation is just the preparation for the higher level of “Yog”. That is the fundamental difference between Yoga and Meditation, or should you even refer to this as a difference?
#1. Meditation vs yoga which is better?
The answer is Yoga Asana (That is what Yoga means to most of the people), because of its wide variety of benefits and its multipronged approach. Yoga has solutions for all kinds of health-related goals be it mental or physical.
You can use yoga asanas from powerful stretching to intense exercise, from increasing focus and attention to reducing anxiety and depression. You can even use yoga asanas for training your internal organs like the digestive system, reproductive system, and even your brain so that they function at their best…
Now, let’s come to meditation…
Why did I say Asanas are better? Let’s understand what meditation is once again…
As, I have already stated earlier, that the western understanding of meditation is about reducing the anxiety level & the number of thoughts in our mind so that we feel relaxed.
So, it’s more like a relaxation exercise for many…
Meditation in English actually means to think over. But, in reality, you are supposed to have no thoughts at all.
The Sanskrit meaning of Dhyana is different, it’s a state where you have no mind. No thoughts equal to no mind.
That is Dhyana state, no thought, and no mind, only then you can see things with uncluttered vision. It’s a state of tremendous clarity and true wisdom. This experience is indescribable, only through practice and being there, you would know the beauty of it.
The Dhyana state is extremely powerful, and the objective of Yoga asana is to prepare you for that state. That is why Asana comes much before than Dhayana, even before Pranayama. It is the Pranayama to Dhayana state, which you can group as Meditation.
You can never achieve the Dhyana state (A deep state of meditativeness), with a distracted and restless mind, or a body that is diseased or full of aches and pain.
Yoga Asanas prepares your body, mind for that…without Yoga asanas, you can never achieve Dhyana, at least for most of us.
So, yoga is the tree and meditation or dhyana is like one of the branches in that tree. But, in terms of accessibility, Meditation is easier than Yoga, no doubt.
For Yoga Asanas, it’s extremely important for you to be present in front of a Guru, or a master who knows the subject well. It requires lots of hand-holding and needs you to follow strict instructions…
It’s a great discipline, that needs to be inculcated in a classroom by an expert. Doing it inaccurate will cause more harm than probably benefits or no benefits at least.
And that’s one of the reason, why you do not see many Yoga courses online. In contrast, there are numerous meditation courses online.
so, you decide what you should do first, what is your goal?