Difference Between Yoga and Meditation
Etymologically, the word “yoga” is an English mispronunciation of the Sanskrit word “yog,” which means to yoke, i.e., to bring two entities together so that they are forced into a close relationship. The word “meditation” is an English word meaning “the practice of thinking deeply in silence to calm the mind.”
[ii] Purpose of Yoga
According to Arya/Hindu religious-philosophy, human consciousness (Atma) is a subtler aspect of the higher consciousness considered the one source of all creation. It is constantly present as a witness (Atma) with and within the human brain-body system. Connecting with this witnessing, consciousness (and thus with higher consciousness) will enable the individual to fully utilize the capacities of the brain-body system and evolve to a higher level of consciousness. This connection is achieved by creating a “Sattvic” mental state, which in turn will activate the “Buddhi” function of the brain. Yoga is the means to do so.
[iii] The Practice of Yoga
The practice of yoga involves the following eight steps or “Ashtanga” yoga:
- Yama refers to the control of negative emotions such as envy, jealousy, enmity, greed, selfishness, passion, etc. These and similar such emotions excite and disturb the mind, preventing it from attaining a tranquil mental state or “Sattvic Guna” essential for the activation of the consciousness in an individual;
- Niyama refers to the observance of a set of disciplines in physical and mental activities, e.g., holding on to good thoughts, regularity and punctuality in schedules, abstaining from overindulgence in mental and physical activities, etc.;
- Asana refers to the set of “yogic” exercises to be conducted in coordination with the inhalation and exhalation of one’s breath. Apart from strengthening the muscles, these exercises facilitate the proper flow of subtle energy within the brain-body system. During the performance of the exercises, the practitioner has to mind-scan various parts of the body to ensure that the conditions prescribed for the particular exercises being performed are being followed. This requires directing the mind to and letting it dwell upon these spots for a few seconds. This exercise develops the habit of stilling the mind for a few seconds;
- Pranayama: This refers to conscious breathing or breathing with awareness, which facilitates full and deep inhalation and exhalation of the breath. Yoga theory postulates that breath contains “Praan” or energy, and conscious breathing allows the brain-body system to absorb maximum fresh energy and expel maximum used energy;
- Pratyahara refers to the internalization of awareness by maintaining a state of observation (witness) of the body’s actions and its mental activity;
- Dharana refers to the focusing of the attention—the student learns to fix the eyes and the mind on a particular object initially for a few seconds and gradually increase the duration;
- Dhyana: In this step, the practice of Dharana is turned inward by keeping the mind focused on one thought and gradually raising the duration the mind remains with that single thought; and
- Samadhi refers to the state when the meditating mind becomes one with the meditated object. Henceforth, the journey is one of personal self-realization, and the practitioner travels alone guided from within.
Meditation generally refers to the effort of emptying the mind of all thoughts and gradually increasing the duration of this state. It does not prescribe any particular step. Nowadays, however, Buddhist and yoga teachers use this term for the combined yoga steps of Pratyahara, Dharana, and Dhyana.
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 Yogsutra of Patanjali.
 Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary.
 History of Indian philosophy by Radhakrishnan.
 An essence of the Yogasutras of Patanjali by D.V.Sridhar & A.Muthu.