Yoga and Zen (A Snippet of Their Concepts)

In modern times, people’s image of yoga is all that of asanas (postures). However, from a deeper study of yoga, we have learnt that yoga is a broad subject with many elements.

Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word “yuj”, which means “to bind”. It is ultimately the union of the body and mind. Sage Patanjali’s version of Ashtanga yoga has eight limbs, the sixth being mediation, and the eight, enlightenment.

Similarly, the practice of Zen has common misperceptions. While Zen-buddhism is a religion, Zen is not. Zen itself is neither religion nor philosophy. It comes from the chinese word “chan”, which is derived from the Sanskrit word “dhyana”, loosely translated as meditative state. The whole concept of Zen basically revolves around meditation.

While both yoga and Zen seem different, they actually share a number of similarities.

They are both paths to spiritual awakening; meditation being the main method.

Mediation is done differently through each way. Yoga focuses on keeping a silent mind; whereas Zen invokes thought, usually through a paradoxical riddle known as a “kōan”.

There are also no asanas in the practice of Zen, whilst yoga has approximately 840,000 of them.

Though pacing may be different, mediation in both fields are done with focused breath-work initially. They are both about finding control of the mind and finding inner peace.

Because of their common Buddhism background, simplicity is preached in both subjects. The eventual goal of both yoga and Zen, are to reach a higher cosmic order through meditation.

Vanessa Kwa
YTT September 2017