Yoga and meditation are ancient arts that have been popular for centuries. Though yoga is more physical and meditation is psychological, they both promote a general wholeness of the body and soul. Even with the modern day gyms and work-out machines, no combination of exercises is as comprehensive in terms of full body workout as yoga and meditation.
Often we say we are doing yoga or meditation without really knowing the difference between the two. Well, today we owe it ourselves to know the difference. Let’s begin by defining each as an individual.
What is Meditation?
Meditation means a lot of different things to different people. Some people refer to it as zoning out of the current reality to concentrate on a happy place in your mind. Others define it as the incessant struggle to block out thoughts from your mind-hence the humming. These definitions do not come close to what meditation really is.
Meditation is essentially a Buddhist practice. It refers to mastering the ability to slow down and eventually stop the endless grind of the mind. This is achieved over time by learning our mind’s patterns and contouring them towards a calmer, positive outlook. An optimal meditative state is when the mind is cleared of all debris to a point of having a completely pristine, thoughtless, yet sharply alert mind. The optimal meditation state is achieved through an array of techniques geared towards promoting a deliberate deep-seated peaceful mind. It is an intensely spiritual practice that leads to a profound sense of physical and mental awareness.
What is Yoga?
Native to ancient India, Yoga is the ultimate marrying of all senses to the surrounding environment. Defined, the word Yoga primarily means Union. In this sense, practicing yoga seeks to unite our body, mind, emotion, and energy into a single symphony.
There are four main types of yoga. Each of the four aforementioned senses is supported by their own type of Yoga. The Yoga performed by physicalizing body movements is called Karma Yoga. Bhakti Yoga is affiliated to our emotions. It seeks to mellow our emotions while channeling their energy towards internal serenity. Kriya Yoga is the harnessing of energy from within and without to create a peaceful uniformity. And finally, Gnana Yoga involves using your mind and intelligence to achieve optimal balance.
Often, when we talk about doing Yoga, it is in reference to Karma Yoga. What we might not realize is in following the instructions of the various Asanas, we end up incorporating all the other types of Yoga therein. An Asana is any of the various postures one takes in the process of doing Karma Yoga.
How does Yoga relate to Meditation?
Yoga and meditation are intricately woven together. In fact, meditation is the seventh of the eight limbs of yoga. So, when hard pressed to define the relationship between the two, meditation is an advanced level of yoga.
It is important, though, to note that meditation is not a task or something that you can actively do. It is a state that you ultimately arrive to. While some advanced gurus can reach a meditative state without yoga, it is near impossible. Yoga is essentially used to prepare the body for meditation.
To reach the optimal state for meditation, all but one of the 8 limbs of Yoga will be applied. A meditative state begins with a relaxed body; this incorporates the second limb, Niyamas (Dos and observances), and the third limp Asanas (Exercises and Poses). Next, the fourth and fifth limbs of Yoga referred to as Pranayamas (Breathing exercises and Techniques) and Pratyahara (Control of the senses) create a sense of calm while drawing concentration inwards and shutting down the internal chatter. Finally, Dharana (Concentration) and Samadhi (An optimal conscious state) usher your body, mind, and emotions into a Dhyana (meditation) state.
In this day and age, Yoga is seldom mentioned in the same breathe as meditation. This is because contemporary yoga has been reduced to a fitness regime. In a bid to pursue the evasive 2% body fat, many of us miss out on the eternal benefits gained from taking time to meditate. It is quite possible that deliberately taking control of your state of mind could be the missing piece of the 2% body fat puzzle.
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