There's an excellent article and discussion over at Elephant Journal about yoga and meditation. Author Philip Goldberg opens with the following:
I’ve always found it odd that so many dedicated yoga practitioners don’t have a regular meditation practice. More puzzling is that yoga teachers who can practically recite the Yoga Sutras by heart don’t sit regularly either, and they know that Patanjali gives hardly any attention to asanas but has a whole lot to say about the mind. In fact, the whole text can be seen as an elaboration of the second verse, in which the sage defines yoga as “the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.” (I prefer “cessation” to “suppression” and other terms that suggest force.) You would think that hundreds of scientific studies on meditation, not to mention the surge in yogic literacy, would have made meditating as common as stopping at Starbucks for a caffeine fix. Instead, a great many yogis are like the teacher with the New Years resolution: they know it would be a good idea, but they don’t get around to it.
Why don’t they? There are many reasons, of course, perhaps chief among them the rebranding of yoga as a physical fitness regimen and the almost exclusive identification of yoga with asana. But that doesn’t explain why people who know better neglect Patanjali’s dharana, dhyana, samadhi denouement.
The comments that follow the article are really engaging. One of the interesting points a few people made is about meditation students who neglect their bodies, and how it might be harder for long time meditation practitioners to start up an asana (yogic posture) practice. I have, from the beginning, had both asana and meditation practices, and in recent years, have added elements of pranayama practice and other pieces of the yogic path, while also expanding into writing Zen poetry forms and maintaining this blog as a practice as well.
So I'm probably not the best person to speculate on whether or not going from years of meditation to a more active physical practice like yoga asana is really difficult or not. One thing that is true though is that the older you get, the harder it is to add new body practices - whether that be sports, exercise routines, or spiritual practices like yoga. This isn't to say that people can't - older folks are doing so all the time. It's just that it's like learning new languages - the younger you are, the easier it often is to pick up.
Back to the original issue of yoga students not doing meditation, in addition to the obvious packaging of yoga as a money making exercise regimen, there are other factors in why so many yogis and yoginis don't make the connection.
1. Students are trained to pay close attention to their breath while doing the postures. The couple of more exercise-based yoga classes I experienced years ago were all about getting "your groove on." The loud huffing and puffing in the room had nothing to do with directed breath work, and had everything to do with developing hot bods.
2. Teachers fail to do justice to Savasana, which is essentially a form of lying down meditation. My Iyengar teacher regularly had us in savasana for a good 15 minutes, sometimes longer, knowing that it not only gives the body a chance to integrate the active work that had just been done, but also because he saw practice as a continual flow between active and receptive, between movement and stillness.
3. Teachers aren't, themselves, experienced in meditation, and aren't trained to view yoga practice as the whole 8 limbs, not just asana. And anyone who has taught anything before knows that it's hard enough to figure out how to teach what you know. If a yoga teacher isn't a regular meditator in some form or another, they just aren't going to go there - so the students in their class won't either, at least in the yoga context.
Saying this, it's certainly true that there are plenty of yoga practitioners out there doing the whole works. And also many others like me who have strong Buddhist meditation practices and also are yoga students. But it's interesting to consider how the dominant trends go along with the general mind/body/spirit split that permeates Western cultures. A split that is beginning to be broken down in many ways, but still bogs us down in so many other ways.