Yoga v. meditation: comparative advantages?

Medical experts frequently recommend that their stressed-out, emotionally jangled patients take up meditation or yoga, but what are the comparative advantages of the two?

Meditation helps people calm their racing minds and control their tension-racked bodies.

Yoga seems to do similarly, but also entails considerable physical movement, which seems a net plus. If so, what’s the point in recommending meditation, other than some people are too deconditioned or infirmed to do yoga?

I think it’s largely a matter of different strokes for different folks. Some people don’t have the mental discipline to hack meditation (I’m rather poor at it myself), some aren’t interested in the physical exertion required for yoga.

Aside from the physical effort, for yoga, you really need to wear appropriate clothes and roll out a mat. If you have, say, a 15 minute break in your day, it’s much easier to meditate in your office.

Also, the quality of relaxation is very different. After a yoga session, I feel really blissed out and disconnected and given the opportunity, I’d probably just drape myself somewhere soft and lay there for an hour. After meditation, I feel sharp and deep, like my brain has been tuned up. It makes me feel eager to get on with the day. Your experience may vary.

I would mostly agree with Podkayne. Yoga is great when you have the time, space to move, etc. Meditation alone can be done just about anywhere.

I need this.

I know absolutely nothing about meditation. Any pointers on helpful websites/books/whatever that will help me learn?

Sitting meditation is an aspect of Yoga. Yoga is a means to “yoke” mind to body. Different types of sitting meditations produce different mental effects. For instance, yogic meditation is generally meant to decrease awareness of external stimuli while zen meditation is intended to broaden it. For example, there was a study done with yogis, zenmasters, and controls, wherein each group was subjected to a series of monotonous clicks while meditating
and hooked up to an eeg. The typical response from a non-meditator is to habituate to the noise so that while there is a noticeable increase in beta activity during the first few clicks, subsequent clicks evoke less and less. The yogic meditators never registered ANY clicks as they had completely shut out the stimuli. Zen meditators on the other hand, never habituated to the clicks–it was like every click was a completely new experience.

You simply can’t achieve the same one-pointed stillness of the mind with the physical feedback received during movement.

The physical exercises of Hatha yoga are designed to relax and tone the body, and are often practiced without meditation in Western society. But the exercises, along with breathing exercises, were originally meant to be used along with meditation practice, and one strenghthens the other.

Basically, by keeping the physical body in shape, and relaxing the ol’ monkey body through stretches, and a routine, makes it easier to meditate. Without aches and pains and grumbles, your mind is more easily focused in meditation, which is, simply, a method of relaxing the daily chatter of mind. Of course, that’s a basic level; there are a lot of advanced practices that help to gain greater focus and clarity.

So, you can do physical yoga exercises just for the body benefits, or, meditation for the mental aspect, but the two practiced together enhance each other greatly.

The best advice I have on starting either practice is to not approach it as some great mystical unapproachable hoohah. It’s a method devised by human beings to better themselves, and the term practice just means to do it and see what happens. A good teacher really helps though, even at the basic gym level.

In my teens I started to meditate in bed to control myself better. I spent a couple hours a night suppressing my movements, because I had Sydenhams Chorea and the symptoms were severe. I can’t do what I could in my teens, but some of the stuff still helps. I can excerise control that I never could have otherwise on my mental and physical glitches. I can still picture in my mind exactly where my hands and fingers are when I close my eyes and think about it. I used to wake from sleep at any noise in the house that indicated someone was around. I could also wake exactly at any time I wanted to. It was all about training the mind and body to do what I wanted instead of being out of control. Doctors have expressed disbelief, that I could have stopped doing things without medicines and their intervention. I’ve lost a lot of the abilities I had since 1999 when something sent my immune system into overdrive. I tried a bit of Yoga and liked it, but I didn’t stick with it.

Great information. Please keep it coming.

Go someplace quiet where you will not be disturbed. Set a timer so you don’t have to worry about losing track of the time. (That’s the goal, actually!) Five minutes is fine to start. You can increase the time as you grow more experienced. Get into a comfortable position. (I have to do seated meditation—if I lie down, I fall asleep—but if you can do it lying down, that’s about the easiest pose there is.) Close your eyes and deliberately think about each part of your body in turn, relaxing anything that is tense or uncomfortable. When you feel comfortable, start to count your breaths. But don’t count above “one.” Just count one, one, one, over and over again with each exhalation. Don’t try to force yourself to breathe at any particular pace, or really suck in air for button-busting deep breaths. You should breathe a bit more deeply than usual and a bit more slowly, but don’t obsess over it. If your attention drifts, that’s okay, just bring it gently back to counting your breaths.

There. You now know everything I know about meditation. Go forth an achieve enlightenment. :slight_smile:

Actually, I should add that you need to practice this. Believe it or not, it’s a skill. You may even feel like it’s pointless for the first several sessions, that your mind is jumping all over the place and you’re not “meditating” at all. But don’t be critical of yourself. Everyone’s attention wanders. That’s part of the process. Just gently bring it back each time. With practice, your mind wanders a little less (though it always will wander) and you’ll feel more relaxed at the end of the session. The super cool thing is that once you get better at it, if you’re feeling frazzled, wherever you are, you can just close your eyes and take some deep slow breaths and you can begin to draw forth that feeling of calm and focus.

Even practicing as rarely as once a week, but doing it consistently, can be beneficial. I feel like I’m a really sucky meditator, seriously, but I still find it a very helpful practice when I can’t schedule a full yoga session into my life.

And I totally agree with elelle that hatha yoga and mediation reinforce each other. IME, every yoga session includes some mediation. And as I mentioned, each meditation session really needs to begin with relaxing the physical body. Learning one contributes greatly to the other.

After about four years I could recall anything I saw. Be it a hike or how to do something. Reading about how to do something took effort, where as having seen something done correctly burned it in permently the first time. I could recall a hike like playing back a movie for any of the hikes I took. This didn’t hold true for places I saw many times as the multiple visits made it so I couldn’t replay it back in my head like a movie. I lost this ability after about 15 years. Sydenhams interupts your thoughts and is distracting. I also got used to processing thought in the back ground when using meditation to overide the Sydenhams impulses. I eventually always had a voice in the back of my head doing extra like a word asociation exercise as the world went by. You really have to commit to meditation to gain great control, but it’s worth it.