Distinguishing Yoga from Meditation: Exploring 10 Key Differences

Last Updated on February 14, 2024 by Lifevif Team and JC Franco

If you are new to the world of Yoga, you might wonder if what you are practicing is actually a form of meditation. While some believe that Yoga is, in fact, a form of meditation, others are aware that Yoga is more physically demanding than any form of meditation is. What does that mean? Does that mean that Yoga is not meditative? If you have been wondering how Yoga and meditation might be different, you have come to the right place to learn more.

10 ways Yoga is different from meditation:

  1. The impact on lifestyle,
  2. The time required for practice,
  3. How the art is practiced physically (positions, stretches, poses),
  4. Limitations on practitioners in terms of health status,
  5. Where and how the art can be practiced,
  6. The way in which it is taught/learned,
  7. The overall impact of the art on body, mind, and spirituality,
  8. Diet and fitness impact,
  9. The stages of progression (and associated difficulty),
  10. Meditation is a part of Yoga, but Yoga is not a part of meditation.

If you are trying to decide whether you need to try out Yoga or meditation, or maybe even both, you will be interested in how these two practices differ from each other in the abovementioned ways. If you want to learn more to decide which practice is best for you, take the time to read through the various ways in which Yoga differs from meditation below.

Yoga vs. Meditation

Nowadays, Yoga and meditation seem to be the modern way to keep fit and healthy, but what are these two practices, and does one really differ much from the other? A lot of newbies to the mindful living lifestyle want to know the answers to these very questions. 

I believe that Yoga and meditation, while similar, are two different things. I also think that meditation forms a part of Yoga and that both practices are the most beneficial to practitioners when they are practiced simultaneously. Let’s take a closer look at how these two practices differ and why meditation can be considered a “part of” Yoga.

1. Impact on lifestyle.

Yoga does not just impact a portion of a practitioner’s life. It is actually a way of life that is followed and, therefore, affects the entire life of the individual. 

When you are genuinely dedicated to Yoga, you live your life in a certain way (you can be as strict or lenient as you see fit, however). When fully ensconced in the world of Yoga, practitioners practice regularly; have a certain mindset towards life and a particular world view. 

On the other hand, meditation can be practiced and beneficial to absolutely anyone, regardless of their approach to life, their beliefs, and their world view. If you are looking for a way of life to follow that is healthy for body, mind, and spirituality – Yoga is it.

2. Time required for practice.

Is there really a specific time and place for everything? I say yes, there is. 

Meditation is something that can be used and practiced anytime and anywhere. In fact, you do not even need to set time aside for it. You can meditate in the few minutes that you have between meetings or at home before you head out for the day. The point of meditation is that it can be used to calm a busy or stressed mind and can be called on anywhere, when and as it is required. This is where Yoga is quite different. 

Yoga, on the other hand, might be hard to do in the office with others looking on or in the car in the parking lot during a busy day. If you start practicing Yoga, it is important to set regular time aside to practice it. 

3. How it is practiced – the physical aspect.

As already mentioned, meditation is a mental art practice, whereas Yoga is both mental and physical. 

When meditating, there is no physical requirement of the practitioner. Even paralyzed people can learn to benefit from meditation. When practicing Yoga, there are various ‘asanas’ to be applied, which will have a practitioner transitioning from one pose/position to the next, while maintaining a meditative physical and mental state. While meditation is strictly a mental practice, Yoga calls on physical ability. 

4. Health status limitations.

Not everyone can do Yoga (or should do it). If you have particular health concerns, it might be better to skip Yoga. Pregnant women, people with glaucoma, sciatica, and high blood pressure should avoid Yoga or at the very least, have the poses and stretches modified to minimize their risk. Meditation, however, is quite different in that anyone can practice it, regardless of their health status. 

5. Where & how it can be practiced.

There is quite a big difference in where and how Yoga and meditation can be practiced. Yoga requires a bit of space for moving around, albeit a small amount of space. Meditation has fewer requirements in terms of where and how it can be practiced. 

If you are stressed and having a bad day, you can even meditate in your car between appointments or before you head home. Yoga, in contrast, requires a bit of time to do. Because it is both a mental and physical practice (not just mental like meditation), it requires a bit of time and a suitable place to practice. Yoga is also done in comfortable clothing and no shoes, whereas meditation can be done as you are – no need to change.

6. How the art is taught.

It is quite important to attend a Yoga class with a certified and experienced instructor if you want to ensure that you reap the full rewards of Yoga. Being taught by a qualified instructor also ensures that you don’t do something wrong and put your body under undue stress or pressure. As students progress to more difficult levels in Yoga, the poses can become more complex, which requires guidance and instruction. While some people do learn Yoga at home via YouTube, it is not recommended. 

Meditation, however, can be taught in a class or learned at home online. There is no real risk of hurting yourself as it is a purely mental exercise and has no physical action attached to it.

7. Overall impact on body, mind, & spirituality.

While meditation is aimed at helping an individual find a sense of inner peace and calm, Yoga is aimed at achieving more than just a mindset. 

With Yoga, meditation is used to come to a sense of inner peace and calm, but the poses and transitions from one stretch to another are aimed at stretching out the body and toning the muscles. Yoga is designed to have a positive impact on body, mind and spirituality, while meditation is aimed merely at calming the mind and finding inner peace (which is great for quelling feelings of stress and anxiety). 

8. Diet and fitness impact.

You might wonder if Yoga and meditation promotes a healthier lifestyle, or requires it. Meditation does not require an individual to follow a particular lifestyle of healthy eating and fitness. However, Yoga does – at least it promotes it. 

Yoga focuses on an all-round approach to living. While the practice of Yoga takes a certain amount of time each day, the lifestyle promotes healthy eating and fitness too. It is also said that Yoga should be practiced on an empty stomach (or a very light meal prior), whereas meditation does not have this particular requirement attached. If you are looking for a healthy lifestyle practice, Yoga is it.

9. The stages of progression (and associated difficulty).

Many people wonder how hard their Yoga classes will get. They also wonder if meditation is a type of practice that gets harder with each passing year. Meditation is something that can be taught, and there is not much to expect in terms of difficulty progression. Yoga is quite different in that regard as it gets more complicated or challenging as a practitioner grows in the art. 

There are various types of Yoga that you can practice, and with each type, there is an entry-level class that naturally and steadily progresses. What starts out as very simple and basic Yoga for you, is priming you to becoming a more agile practitioner who can master some of the poses that once seemed impossible to you.

10. Meditation is a part of Yoga, but Yoga is not a part of meditation.

While Yoga is not a meditation, meditation does form part of Yoga. The part of Yoga that requires an individual to quiet the mind, become mindful, and focus is, in fact, meditation. You cannot start doing meditation and hope to enjoy the same benefits of practicing Yoga. However, you can join Yoga classes and benefit from the practice of meditation, too, as it forms part of Yoga.

Practicing Yoga Offers the Benefits of Both Yoga and Meditation

Even though there are differences between Yoga and meditation, they both complement each other quite well. If you are looking for a practice that promotes a healthy lifestyle and offers the benefits of both a physical workout and meditation; Yoga is a fine choice. 

JC Franco

JC Franco is a New York-based editor for Lifevif. He mainly focuses on content about faith, spirituality, personal growth, finance, and sports. He graduated from Mercyhurst University with a Bachelor’s degree in Business, majoring in Marketing. He is a certified tennis instructor who teaches in the New York City Metropolitan area. In terms of finance, he has passed the Level I exam of the CFA program.