For most people, especially nowadays, relaxing from a tired day at work or school could mean binge-watching a TV series, playing five rounds of their favorite game, or just mindlessly scrolling through social media. No doubt, they are entertaining and can pass the time, but have you ever tried a relaxing activity that could benefit your body and whole well-being? If you haven’t, then it’s time you gave yoga and meditation a chance in your busy schedule! Unlike other pastimes that may take hours from you or even sacrifice your sleep, yoga, and meditation practices may only take you 15 to 30 minutes at best. Amazing right?
While many people assume that yoga and meditation are just about stretching, making awkward poses, and breathing in and out, it’s more complex. These ancient Indian practices which date back as far as 5000 years also consist of rituals, chanting, mantras, and prayers that allow you to achieve a calm mental state as well as other health benefits proven by scientific research and history.  So, before you go back to binge-watching for another couple of hours, take a look at the benefits of yoga and meditation, as you might just think it’s worth the shot!
Yoga vs. Meditation – What’s the Difference?
While both yoga and meditation are activities that can help you achieve a calmer state of mind and well-being, they also have their differences in terms of approach. Think of yoga as a relaxing dance partner who combines movement and mindfulness – stretching in various postures and controlling your breath at the same time.
Meanwhile, meditation is like an intimate conversation with your thoughts as you focus on your breath and let your mind wander to feel each sensation and release tension. In short, yoga can also be considered as a form of meditation but it is primarily a physical practice, while meditation is mostly mental. While they have their unique approaches, they work together in harmony and share similar benefits.
8 Wonderful Benefits of Practicing Yoga
Yoga, which means to “yoke” or “join” in Sanskrit, is an old Indian practice that combines breathing and posture work and has become a popular form of exercise that is a common activity done by individuals and groups of people around the world.  Surely, yoga won’t stay popular for thousands of years if there’s not much to gain, which is why many do this exercise because of the abundance of physical and mental benefits. With just basic equipment like a yoga mat or a meditation cushion, you’re good to go!
- Improves strength, balance, and flexibility – The flowing poses of yoga gently stretch muscles increase flexibility and make everyday movements easier. Meanwhile, holding yoga poses for some time can build core muscles which strengthen our joints and overall stability.
- Helps you sleep better – Due to the relaxing and tension-releasing effects of yoga both physically and mentally, having a yoga routine daily can help to improve sleep.
- A More Confident Posture – Since yoga focuses on mobility and also enhances flexibility that can realign muscles and the spine, ensuring a better posture
- Reduces Stress and Anxiety/ Better Mood – The gentle and relaxing yoga movements and postures also referred to as Asana, can reduce stress. However, this must also be paired with breath works to lessen tension.
- Enhanced focus and concentration – As yoga promotes mindfulness or being interested in the present moment, it can also sharpen concentration skills.
- Boosts Immunity – Practicing yoga over the long term can boost immunity according to studies, since it can also battle chronic stress and reduce prolonged inflammation (e.g. Heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, etc.) which negatively influences our immune system.
- Improves Self-esteem and Quality of Life – Recent studies have also shown that yoga can improve self-esteem and our perception of our body image especially among adolescents and young adults. It also improves quality of life, which has been viewed by researchers as an important contributor to people’s longevity and ability to battle chronic pain.
- Better cardiovascular health from breathing – In yoga, practicing pranayama or “yogic breathing” can improve our cardiovascular system by practicing how we control the pace of breathing. This can create positive changes in heart rate and reduce stroke capacity.
8 Wonderful Benefits of Meditation
Like yoga, meditation has also been practiced for thousands of years and has been used to put someone in a deep state of relaxation or a calm mental state. Its primary goal is for you to focus on your thoughts or your attention and to remove whatever heavy thoughts are filling up your mind and stressing you out which can enhance both physical and mental health. With this, the benefits of meditating may include:
- Reduces stress and anxiety – The gentle mindfulness techniques of meditation have been proven to combat stress and anxiety as it releases feel-good hormones like serotonin and oxytocin or the “love hormone” which can help us feel relaxed and be in a better mood.   
- Longer attention span – Since it promotes mindfulness or focusing on the present and pushing away worrying thoughts, meditation allows you to develop patience and concentration which in return can lengthen your attention span. A study found that even just meditating for 13 minutes daily can enhance attention and memory after 8 weeks. 
- Better sleep – Mindfulness-based meditation practices can help improve sleep, especially for those struggling with insomnia since it can help you redirect racing or anxious thoughts which are often triggers of insomnia. It helps you relax and fall asleep faster with techniques that often release tension and place you in a peaceful state.   
- Controls and reduces pain – Meditation can change our perception of pain by controlling or relaxing our state of mind since pain can be higher when we are stressed. By meditating, studies have shown that people can cope better with pain or even feel the sensation of pain decreasing. Symptoms of depression in people with chronic pain are also reduced.  
- Helps in fighting addiction – Developing mental awareness through meditation can help manage unwanted impulses or triggers that can keep someone addicted to a substance or an unhealthy activity like unhealthy eating or alcohol cravings. 
- Lowers age-related memory loss – Another benefit of mindfulness meditation is its improvements in attention and clear thinking which can improve memory. Various meditation techniques can increase these skills like Kirtan Kriya. This meditative technique is a combination of mantras or chants and the repetitive motion of fingers that help you focus on your thoughts.  
- Self-awareness is increased – Meditation does not only strengthen physical health, but it can also be an instrument for self-growth and understanding the self through practices like self-inquiry meditation. Meanwhile, other meditations teach you to identify self-defeating or harmful thoughts and prevent them from controlling you.  
- Strengthens emotional health and generates kindness- Meditation, like yoga, can also give you a more positive perception of life and improve self-image as you can experience fewer negative thoughts. Metta, or the “loving-kindness” meditation is a practice that helps you develop positive feelings towards yourself and then others. With this, quality of life is even better with increased positivity, empathy, and compassion. 
Yoga and Meditation can be done separately but they are also practices that can both complement each other well and bring double the benefits when done properly. Generally, it is advised to do yoga first before meditating to help loosen muscles or release any excess energy from the body which will stabilize or settle the energy in preparation for meditation. Now that you know the amazing health benefits that yoga and meditation offer, you can try them for yourself to personally experience the wonders that they can do for you.
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