The history of yoga and meditation dates back thousands of years. At first glance, yoga and meditation look the same. However, they have a lot of major differences. While meditation can be a part of yoga, there is much more to it than simply being another step in the yoga process.
The Mayo Clinic describes yoga as combining physical and mental disciplines in order to help ”achieve peacefulness of body and mind.” Meditation is then the practice of “developing intentional focus — minimizing random thoughts about the past or future.”
Originally, yoga was used to create outer harmony and inner joy but has come to have several meanings, including exercise, combining the individual and transcendental self, and preparing your mind for meditation.
While there is still some disagreement over whether or not yoga can truly be considered exercise, there is no doubt there are true benefits that come from practicing yoga. Not only does it help provide peace of mind, but yoga can also assist people who have suffered a stroke as well as people who have musculoskeletal and mental health issues.
Some of the physical benefits include increased stamina, flexibility and strength. Yoga can also help with alleviating chronic lower back pain, fine-tuning body systems and even achieving longer crunches! While the physical benefits are excellent, yoga also helps to “improve… psychological(ly…) and even to have better resilience or general mental well-being.”
In the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres book, The Sivananda Companion to Yoga, they say “if your muscles are relaxed, then your mind must be relaxed. If the mind is anxious, then the body suffers too.” Even going back 2,000 years, the sage Patanjali, thought to be the author of one of the classic yoga works, defined yoga as “that which restrains the thought process and makes the mind serene.” It was only through a combination of yoga and meditation could a person become still.
Even a two-month trip to a yoga studio can lower anxiety and help with depressive disorders. In addition, yoga can help reduce stress and be in better control of emotions.
While going through yoga, emphasis is placed on breathing and being in the moment rather than worrying about the distractions of life. At times, this is referred to as meditation, the simple act of clearing the mind and concentrating on the present.
Though meditation looks similar, it is more than just another step in yoga. Positive Psychology describes meditation as seeking “to find a better connection with our body in the everyday moments(…) and create stronger awareness for how our emotions influence our behavior.”
When you think of meditation, it’s easy to think of the stereotypical person sitting in a lotus position saying Om, but there is much more to meditation and the Om phrase than what is portrayed. Om is sacred, at times referring to the creation of the universe; other times, it is the only known as the first sound in the universe but has also come to be used commonly in meditation by the western world. By using Om, you can center your thoughts on one solitary subject, becoming one in body and mind. It can bring inner peace to a mind that flits from subject to subject.
But more than inner peace, meditation even has some physical benefits, such as better breath control, which, in turn, can help to lower stress levels. Other benefits include decreasing blood pressure, improving sleep and even helping fight addictions.
Practicing meditation can calm the mind and help to focus on the present, and all it takes is allotting time out of the day to sit, be calm and still. Be aware that it is difficult to start meditating for an hour at a time. Some may even call it power napping instead of meditation, but taking even five minutes to calm the mind can be beneficial.
The Meditation Bar, located on the North Capital of Texas Highway, is focused completely on meditation and how it can help in everyday life. Other excellent meditation centers in Austin include Kadampa Meditation Center and Transcendental Meditation.