DIFFERENCE BETWEEN YOGA AND MEDITATION:
Yoga is philosophy and a science, which has several techniques to achieve SELF-REALIZATION. Meditation is one of those techniques; but meditation is the heart of yoga. Yoga includes: Pranayamas (Breathing techniques), asanas (Postures), mantras, Relaxation of the body and the mind, meditation (It is beyond the relaxation of the mind), enlightenment (Freedom from the mind), and finally Samadhi (Ecstasy or union with your inner divinity). The last step is the main goal of a real yogi because yoga means “UNION.” That is the union with your inner Being: Your ultimate reality beyond time and space.
Please read my articles: << What is Yoga? >> and << What is meditation? >> (Links at the bottom).
If you want to know which is better then you most know what you want.
What is better yoga or meditation? It depends how far you want to go and what your objective is. Define your objective then see how far you want to go.
Let us explain more about yoga and meditation so you can understand better what is best for you.
YOGA THE INTEGRAL PATH!
There are several types or styles of yoga; but yoga is only one. The style you choose depends on what you want. Some people pay a lot of importance to asanas, others to meditation, others to pranayamas, others to mantras, etc.
A person, looking to practice yoga, should have an idea about the styles of yoga and choose the one that fits his/her needs. That person should know the difference between yoga and meditation and he/she should know that yoga is not just asanas.
The main types of yoga are: Ashtanga Yoga or Raja Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Jnana or Gnana Yoga, Karma Yoga and Bhakti Yoga. Then we have Hatta Yoga, Vinyasa Yoga and modern yoga such as hot yoga and others.
Nowadays people pay a lot of attention to the physical body, they want to look good. This is the reason why many people are looking for asanas, and then they register to a yoga which offers a more physical activity.
Real Yoga is integral; it means it includes everything: The practices of the main yoga types. Meditation is a very important part.
IS IT POSSIBLE TO PRACTICE MEDITATION WITHOUT YOGA?
Meditation and Samadhi are the main or deepest levels of yoga. Yes, anyone can seat down to relax the body and get into meditation without any other technique or practice. Nevertheless, techniques such as pranayamas, mantras, asanas, etc. help in the process of meditation.
Asanas, for example, relax the body and get rip off stress. So, relaxing is easier when doing meditation.
Pranayamas help to boost the energy, in other words, they vitalize the body and the mind. That helps the practitioner to relax easier and get better results when meditating.
Mantras are like “Magic” words which help to relax the body, the mind and ring energy to specific areas (Usually the chakras).
Concentration or being focus on something is the key to meditate properly. This requires a special control of the mind that comes out from mental relaxation.
MEDITATION IS REALLY DEEP!
Meditation requires a lot of concentration and, of course, control of your mind until one can reach Samadhi: the experience of Atman, who is beyond the mind and beyond any voice in the head. That experience has not voice, it is just a deep understanding without any voice; it is a very intuitive silence full of joy.
Yes, Yoga can be practiced without that experience. But that experience is the real objective of yoga.
Asanas, pranayamas, mantras, etc. are great and they help a lot to feel better and grow spiritually; but the experience of Samdhi is not possible without meditation.
If you are not interested on the experience of Samadhi, but you want to feel better and have some strength and flexibility then yoga asanas might be enough for you.
YOGA OR MEDITATION?
Yoga and meditation need each other. They give you the most when you practice both. In other words, meditation alone works, but combined with yoga works better.
Keep in mind that yoga asanas cannot take you to Samadhi, but meditation can do that.
The bottom line is that you decide which one fits your need. The same with any yoga style: The best yoga is the one that fits your needs.