I tried a yoga class and I hated it. Can I skip yoga and just stretch or meditate?
No, you can not. I am sorry you had that experience.
There are dozens of types of yoga. Just because you did not like one class does not mean that yoga is not for you. Actually, the first time I ever did yoga I did not like it. It was too slow and the teacher was too chill for me. Thankfully, I found an Ashtanga teacher that was a better fit. Over the years I have changed what I like, and now I enjoy many types of yoga. I stay away from those power yoga classes that feel like fast aerobics in a 90 degrees crowded though. Some love that style because they sweat heavily and poses are only held for 2 seconds. I prefer traditional yoga with long holds for a deep stretch or difficult strength. I also really love Kundalini yoga. You do have to enjoy teacher’s voice and personality. Thankfully, that is easy to test out these days with videos instead of meeting everyone in person first.
To meditate effectively we do yoga. It allows the body to be flexible enough to sit long periods. Just stretching is different than yoga because it does not create that union of the body and spirit. Also, it is unlikely in simple stretching to get deep stretches especially of the ribs and back. We also work on balance, strength, and twisting in yoga. Nothing beats a good twist to wring out the organs and spine. Remember that even though yoga has many benefits, we first do it for expansion of ourselves.
The best way to practice is at home doing poses that are right for your body that day instead of in a group class. You do have to learn how to correctly do the poses first. A teacher giving in-person adjustments is best but there are some material and videos that give very specific instructions for each pose. Not everyone has the discipline to practice at home… or like me they have dogs and cats wanting to join or other distractions. You do still want to have a teacher(s) as a guide sometimes as you progress. Around 99% of the time, I do not go to classes since my city is all power yoga or beginner yoga. I do catch a Kundalini yoga class when I can or a Yin yoga with good live music. My dog loves park yoga with me, so he can socialize with the cute girls.