People often ask whether Yoga is a meditation practice. You may say so. However, there is an essential difference between the two. While yoga is, or may be, a type of meditation, meditation is not yoga.
Here in the western world we look at yoga from the physical point of view while in Asia it is more about meditation.
Here, let us explain.
Yoga as exercise
Look at eastern cultures. Japan. China. And take a look back at the western world. We worship a human body. We go crazy over slim bodies and pumped up muscles.
However, in the Far East gyms are not as popular because people see their bodies as sanctuaries that need to be protected. So, the young and old take on yoga as a stretching and meditation practice.
In the most basic sense that’s what it is. You relax, focus on stretching each muscle, focus on feeling every bone in your body.
And there is nothing wrong with seeing it a simple stretching practice. In fact, stretching is incredibly important because that’s how you keep your body strong and flexible.
Yoga as meditation
As we mentioned in the beginning, yoga can be seen as a meditation practice just because every action you take must be focused and precise, but not fast. However, yogis simply take this practice a step further. Yoga meditation has a variety of forms. It can be silent, or, if you feel like it, you may incorporate incantations or mantras and say them out loud. Which is a completely different experience.
As a practitioner of most yoga types, you will focus on the Tristhana, or three attention points: breathing, posture and a looking place. Depending on which aspect of the tristhana you focus most, yoga can be a meditation (focus on breath) or a physical exercise (posture).
Also, yoga can be taken up as a way to challenge yourself. For example, Ashtanga Yoga is a form of practice that requires rigid preparation.
Essentially, yes. Yoga is a meditation practice but given the range, the history of yoga and the way it spread to the western culture, it is understandable that people see it very differently.
What I want to encourage you to do is start practicing yoga every day and try to get to know yourself through it.