When I first began my yoga teacher journey, meditation was not my thing. In fact, it took everything I had to not groan in distaste during my 200-hour yoga teacher training when it was time to do a meditation lecture or practice.
I was there to learn how to teach yoga and in my mind meditation wasn’t really yoga since you didn’t move.
I firmly believed that I would always be a strong, powerful vinyasa yoga teacher, helping people get fit and healthy bodies through vigorous movement.
Having been an athlete all my life I was comfortable with the body, I knew how to stretch it to its’ limit and back off just when I reached the edge. But just because that’s what I wanted out of a practice didn’t mean that’s what was best for my students.
It wasn’t until I began to work with students that didn’t have the same physical mindset, that I realized focusing only on the physical was not only delivering just a sliver of the practice to my students, but it was stealing the opportunity for them to train their minds. I realized that if I was going to help my students reach their goals, I needed to level up my knowledge about the practice of meditation.
I began practicing meditation on my own - reading about it, taking trainings, attending workshops, and diving head first into the waters of meditation. When I reemerged, several years later, I surfaced with four new certifications, several weeks living and studying with Buddhist monks, a 300-hour yoga teacher training, and hundreds of hours of exploration.
This exploration may have started as a way to learn how to better serve my students, but it ended in a total transformation of my teaching and my understanding of the yoga practice itself. I also realized that I was not alone in my feelings of being ill prepared to be able to serve students that were searching for meditation teachers.
In fact, I found that most 200-hour yoga teacher trainings only spend a few hours on meditation - leaving yoga teachers feeling stumped to share meditation with their students.
So, no matter if you’re new to meditation or you’ve been practicing for years - here are 10 simple ways you can incorporate meditation into your classes!
1. Open your class with meditation.
Incorporating meditation into your yoga classes can be as simple as taking those first few minutes of class to release the day behind them. Have your students check in with how they are feeling, have them turn their gaze inward and become an observer of their body and their mind. Allow them to take a moment to breathe and be present before the movement begins.
2. Savasana when needed.
Savasana is one of the easiest places to weave meditation into the yoga practice. I firmly believe that Savasana should last at least 10 minutes if you are teaching a class that is one hour or longer. The first five minutes of Savasana are dedicated to leading a short-guided meditation before I leave students for another five minutes in silence.
You can walk your students through a relaxing breath, allowing them to visualize a golden light around their bodies, or lead them through a visualization of the warm sand on a beach – allow them to be an observer of their own mind.
3. Create mindful movement.
Have alignment cues down? What about mental and energetic cues? Challenge your students to stay present and be aware of each and every pose as they move through the class. This will allow them to be mindful of how their mind and body moves through different sequences.
4. Focus on the breath.
Hopefully your students are already breathing, if not it’s time to call 911! Just kidding, but in all seriousness if your students are already familiar with breath and have already led themselves through a pranayama exercise, remind them to stay with the breath throughout the entire practice.
Turning your yoga class into an exercise and exploration of breath is a simple way to begin to teach your students about the foundation of breath awareness and meditation.
5. Meet your students in the middle.
One of the first things I learned about teaching meditation is to meet my students where they are at. Ask them about their meditation goals, what they hope to get out of it, and how much they know about the practice.
If they are hoping to do a five-minute guided meditation a few days a week while in class, do that. If they want to learn how to set up a home practice, or take their meditation practice further, help them with that. It can be as simple as asking your students what they hope to get out of meditation and meet them there.
6. Don't forget to incorporate mantras.
Weaving a simple and powerful mantra such as “I am enough” or “Inhale-peace, exhale-stress” is a wonderful way to evoke emotion and purpose into your practice. It also allows your students to enjoy the moment and to begin thinking about how their yoga practice goes beyond the mat. Mantras are simple, powerful, and can be a wonderful introduction to meditation for so many new students!
7. Educate your students on the benefits of meditation.
I have found a lot of students don’t try meditation because they don’t see the benefit of adding this practice into their life. They perceive meditation as being a mythical practice in which you can somehow shut your mind off completely and be devoid of thoughts.
Although quieting the fluctuations of the mind is a wonderful benefit to meditation, educate your students on how meditation can reduce their anxiety, improve their blood pressure, and heart health. That way they can see that it’s so much more than just “doing nothing”.
8. Offer a workshop or a free introductory class.
Offering a meditation specific intro class or workshop is one of my favorite ways to share the practice with my students. Many people are interested in the practice, but they just don’t know where to start. Teaching your students the foundation of the practice in a workshop or in an introductory class might be what they need to start their own practice.
9. Explain how yoga is more than poses.
I have found one of the most meaningful ways to encourage my students to explore meditation is to remind them that yoga is more than poses. I educate them on the eight limbs of yoga and tell them that a yoga practice incorporates all eight limbs.
When we move our bodies through poses it’s one eighth of the practice into the other seven. This explanation will help round out a yoga practice and allow them to explore new elements of yoga.
10. Explore your own meditation practice.
It can be very challenging to try to teach or share something that you do not practice yourself. Even if you are at the beginning of your own personal meditation journey, or you have been practicing for years, keeping your own personal practice fresh will allow you to share the practice with ease. It will also give you your best inspiration for classes and provide you with new ways to weave the practice into your daily yoga classes.