Meditation and yoga are two methods of training that are gaining in popularity here in the West. Both have their benefits, and offer ways to train the mind and/or body. Although these two practices are closely related, there are many differences between the two. One may work better than the other for you, while another may find that the other is more beneficial. Let’s look at yoga vs. meditation so we can understand the differences.
Meditation – Primarily Mental Training
Meditation is a vague term. There are tons of different types of meditation, with mindfulness perhaps being the most popular right now. In any type of meditation, we sit in formal practice in order to cultivate a quality. It may be to train in present-time awareness, to practice compassion, or to tune into our deeper truth.
Meditation practices are largely mental trainings. While meditating, we are dedicating time and effort to cultivating qualities of the mind. There of course is a physical component in meditation, and you may even find specific practices for working with the body like a body scan meditation. Overall, meditation focuses on our minds and how we relate to experiences.
Yoga – Mental and Physical Training
Yoga, on the other hand, incorporates much more physical training. In even the gentlest of yoga classes in the West, you may find yourself sweating, working out your muscles, and building balance. Stretching, flexibility, and strength are foundational to yoga practices, where they aren’t in most methods of meditation.
Yoga also incorporates the mind and its connection with the body. It is not purely a physical activity. We are training to be present, be at ease, and focus on the breath and body. In this sense, yoga also includes some training for the mind. It’s not the same as meditation practice, but can be quite beneficial.
Is Meditation or Yoga Better?
The truth is that neither meditation nor yoga are really “better.” As an individual, you may find that what works for you doesn’t necessarily work for another. There has been quite a bit of research to find many benefits of yoga, and likewise quite a bit finding how meditation is beneficial.
At the end of the day, both yoga and meditation may be beneficial to you. Whether you’re trying to deal with your unhealthy coping mechanisms or just looking to add some healthy habits to your life, both yoga and meditation may help. It’s up to you to investigate what will be useful. Our recommendation is to try a bit of both and see which one feels most helpful. Which gives you peace, ease, comfort, and joy?
It also depends on what your goals are in practice. Do you want to build compassion, mindfulness, and clarity? Meditation may be the right choice. Would you prefer to work with the body, chronic pains, and mindfulness of the body? Try some yoga. You can’t go wrong either way, and can always do both!
Yoga vs. Meditation – Difficulty Levels
One of the things about both yoga and meditation is that they require practice. When you start, you may struggle. In meditation, you may have a wandering mind. With yoga, you won’t have the flexibility, balance, or strength that others in the class may have. This is normal. As a practice, you will get better!
Although both require practice, meditation is certainly the easier of the two. We say this because you don’t need anything to meditate. You can find a spare few minutes, and put on a guided meditation. If you’re looking for meditations, we recommend checking out Insight Timer.
Yoga, however, takes a little more effort. You can’t really do yoga while at the office in a few minutes. You can indeed do some stretching, but it isn’t quite the same. This doesn’t mean yoga is harder, but it does mean that meditation is often more accessible and easier to find time to do.
Getting Started with Yoga and Meditation
To get started with either yoga or meditation, we suggest finding a live in-person class or group. There are often affordable or donation-based options available. Practicing with a real teacher and community gives you the support you need to grow, as uncomfortable as it may be!
You can also start from home if it feels better for you. We love Yoga with Adriene for beginners. Her videos are simple, easy, and friendly. No experience necessary! To begin meditating, you can try a free 30 day meditation challenge here.