Yoga and meditation have been practiced for millennia. At first, with a spiritual intent, and now yoga and meditation are to be for everyone. Practicing different yoga and meditation styles will bring you many various benefits, depending on how you practice them.
People who practice yoga and meditation experience many different benefits, including weight loss, longer lives, and improved symptoms. To experience these benefits and more from yoga and meditation, you need to set an intention for your practice.
Whether it is to relax more, lose weight, or have a more positive outlook on life, setting your intentions for your practice will help you achieve your goals and reap many of the benefits that yoga and meditation can offer.
Is Yoga a Form of Meditation?
Yoga and meditation are known to go hand in hand when explaining what each is, leading to some discrepancies of what each of them is. They both have been around for millennia; however, yoga’s origins are unique to India.
Meditation also originated in India; however, meditation expanded to different countries such as China, Korea, and Japan, with roots in Hinduism and Buddhism, much earlier than yoga. Meditation eventually expanded throughout the Jewish and Christian traditions, and by the 1800s, meditation and yoga had reached the western world.
Yoga is a form of active meditation, meaning that you are moving or holding positions (asanas) while focusing on your mind, breath, and balance. Yoga can also be used before meditation to help prepare your body and mind. According to Patanjali, meditation is a part of yoga, also known as Dhyāna.
You don’t need to practice both in tandem; however, trying to practice yoga while doing specific asanas, such as Parivrttaikapada Sirsasana or the split-leg handstand; it is essential to have focus and mental clarity during preparation and practice. If you don’t, you can severely injure yourself.
Should I Meditate Before or After Yoga?
There are different benefits to meditation before and after yoga. The time that you meditate is entirely up to you. However, you should consider your mental state and breath before jumping into yoga.
Meditating before yoga can help you regulate your breath and calm your mind, especially if you’ve been under a lot of stress. It is dangerous to practice yoga if you are under pressure and distracted. Even if you take a five-minute meditation while chanting a yoga sutra, such as yoga sutra 1.2 (Yogash citta vrtti nirodha), it will help throughout a yoga session to keep you focused.
Patanjali’s yoga sutra 1.2 is significant when discussing meditation. It states that yoga can focus the mind toward an object and sustain it without distractions, which is essential to set an intention during your practice.
Meditation after yoga practice is also suggested, especially after tiring, intense classes or sessions. Your body will need time to recover, and meditating after yoga practice will give your body time to recover and regain its strength. You can use some restorative yoga asanas to be more comfortable during your meditation.
10 Benefits of Yoga and Meditation
Millions of people around the world practice yoga and meditation for their own personal reasons. Practicing yoga and meditation in tandem can provide many different benefits to your physical and psychological health. Whether you’ve created your own perfect yoga room, meditation room or practice in a studio the benefits to your inner peace and overall health are so worth it!
1. Increased Flexibility, Balance, and Strength
As we age, the likelihood of us injuring ourselves from doing daily tasks increases. Being flexible, having good balance, and fundamental strength is vital for injury prevention as we get older. Starting when we are young gives us the best chances for retaining each of these as we get older; however, you can begin practicing at any age.
Some benefits of being flexible are that you will have improved posture and less pain, amongst many others. Some benefits of having great balance include that you’re less likely to injure yourself, especially your ankles.
One study showed that over 24 weeks, increasing the number of sun salutations you do will improve your muscle strength. Some benefits to having strength are more robust bones, and having an increased muscle mass will help you burn calories faster.
2. Improved Circulation and Heart Health
Modern diets and lifestyles aren’t very kind to our cardiac system, and many people have poor circulation and cardiac health. Some signs of poor circulation and cardiac health are:
- High blood pressure
- Muscle cramps
- Hands and feet are frequently cold.
- Shortness of breath
- Muscle weakness
Practicing yoga and meditation will improve your circulation because you are getting your blood flowing and moving. If you have poor circulation, start with a Vinyasa yoga that will get you moving before moving into a Hatha style that requires you to stay in some asanas for some time.
Studies have shown that even adults who start yoga in their 40s can experience cardiac and circulatory benefits from yoga. Yoga has also been shown to lower blood pressure, which reduces the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
3. Lower Stress Levels
High levels of stress are dangerous to anyone’s health. When you are under pressure, your body produces cortisol, also known as the stress hormone. Having chronic high stress and cortisol levels can contribute to:
- Headaches and migraines
- Stomach ulcers
- Chronic fatigue
- Depression and anxiety
Practicing yoga and meditation is known to decrease overall stress levels for anyone who practices. Practicing pranayama in yoga and meditation can help you reduce your stress levels.
Check out loving kindness meditation for a good way to relax and relieve stress!
4. Mental Clarity
Since part of yoga and meditation is to set an intention and focus, another benefit of practicing yoga and meditation is that you will have some mental clarity. Through the training and preparation in yoga and meditation, you learn how to apply them to your everyday life to help you think more clearly.
Even for women who have terminal breast cancer, yoga and meditation have been shown to reduce anxiety levels and improve acceptance of the disease, which can help them think more clearly and enjoy the end of their lives.
5. Weight Loss
Yoga and meditation are great ways to lose weight and keep it off. Weight loss with these practices has physical benefits, but there are also psychological benefits of people’s relationship with food.
While individual yoga styles can help you lose a significant amount of weight, like Bikram and hot yoga, other styles, such as Vinyasa, will get your body moving and burn calories.
The link between meditation and weight loss is that you start to become more aware of what you allow inside of your body when you meditate. Mindful eating is a practice that is like a meditation for food, and naturally, people who practice mindful eating lose weight.
(Can you really lose weight doing yoga? The short answer is yes! To go more in depth on the topic, follow that link!)
6. Improved Symptoms
Many people suffer from different illnesses and injuries at some point in their life. Yoga and meditation have been proven to lessen the symptoms of:
- Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
- Nerve compression pain, such as sciatica and carpal tunnel syndrome
- Back pain
- Rheumatoid and Osteoarthritis
- Side effects from cancer treatments
Meditation has also been used in pain management for chronic pain sufferers to help them cope with their pain without medication.
Consult your doctor before using yoga and meditation to improve your symptoms of any illness or condition you have. You should work with a certified yoga instructor to create a plan that will work for you.
7. Longer Life
Many yoga gurus have lived long, fulfilling lives, including B.K.S. Iyengar, who lived to be 95, and K. Pattabhi Jois, who lived to be 93.
Yoga and meditation have been connected to longevity because they promote positivity, mental clarity, healthy eating, and many other things that will help people live longer, happier, more fulfilling lives.
8. Increased Levels of Positivity
Yoga and meditation can be challenging. It requires attention and breaks away from everything going on in your life. With that intention and focus, you should be reflecting on your practice afterward, acknowledging your achievements through your sessions.
Focusing on your practice achievements will carry over into your life and help you experience gratitude towards everything around you, rather than negativity. One study showed that even after one yoga class, people think more positively.
More optimistic people also tend to live longer than pessimists. A study showed that seniors who practiced yoga had a better outlook on life and more positivity than those who practice other exercise types. It might be time to learn how to live a lifestyle of appreciation.
9. Improved Sleep Quality
People who practice yoga and meditation report a better night’s sleep than those who don’t. A culprit of a poor night’s sleep is a mind that wanders and things. Practicing an evening yoga routine and relaxation and reflection meditation before bed is a fantastic way to prepare yourself for a good night’s sleep.
The skills from meditation and yoga also pass over as you are falling asleep. You can stop your mind from wandering off thinking about everything you have to do tomorrow or mistakes you have made for today. Yoga sutra 1.10 states the importance of a good quality of sleep, and even boredom and exhaustion can affect sleep quality.
10. Improved Coping with Mental Illness
Yoga and meditation practices have been used for a very long time in coping with various forms of mental illness, including and not limited to:
- Substance addiction
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention (ADHD) – Children’s or Adult ADHD
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Eating disorders including binge eating, anorexia, and bulimia
Studies have shown that those who have mental illness are less likely to experience comorbid mental conditions, such as substance abuse and depression.
Yoga and meditation can offer a path to healing and discovering your mental illness’s roots and lead you to a healing way by working with certified instructors and therapists.
A lot of these benefits coincide with the benefits of yoga anatomy courses online. You may want to check those out as well.
What is Better, Meditation, or Yoga?
Since both yoga and meditation offer many benefits, is one better than the other? — Absolutely not.
Both practices naturally occur in tandem, and it is entirely up to you if you want to decide if yoga or meditation is better for you. Many people prefer to use them as an escape from reality and recharge after a long day.
Both yoga and meditation can be physically strenuous, especially after long sessions that can sometimes place you in uncomfortable positions. They can sometimes cause mental distress if you’re practicing with a negative mindset or coping with mental illness. It is always best to work with guided meditation and yoga if you are starting out for support.
How do Beginners Meditate in Yoga?
Meditation seems like it can be easy, sitting with your eyes closed and breathing, but it is much harder than it looks. Meditation is learned and trained in what is best for you. Some great ways to meditate in yoga are to:
- Sit and start feeling the moment; focus on your breath. Count how long it takes to inhale and exhale and try to lengthen the time progressively.
- Keep in mind; it’s okay to scratch an itch or sneeze if you have to.
- If your mind starts wandering, try counting out loud to calm your mind. If you continue to get distracted, stop, and try again later.
- Increase the amount of time spent meditation by 30 seconds per session if you feel that you can meditate that long.
- Use a guided meditation, such as this one.
Practicing yoga and meditation offers many benefits to those who practice. Yoga and meditation can be done separately or together, before, during, or after practicing yoga. There are also some health conscious benefits of practicing yoga everyday. The most important thing to remember about yoga and meditation is that you should always set an intention before your practice to experience the benefits.