Teaching a Gentle Yoga and Meditation Class – Part 1

How to Teach a Meditation Class – Part 1

Meditation and Yoga Teacher’s Guide

Coming in the very near future, Mastery of Meditation and Yoga is going to offer a complete multi-media Online Meditation Teacher’s Certification Program, and as part of that project, is this article series which is going to teach you how to teach a meditation or gentle yoga class.  The Meditation Certification Program is something I have been looking to offer for some time now, but wanted to first insure that all the necessary material had been created and published before I did so.  Well, it only took three years of hard work to accomplish that , and now I feel the time is right for making this unique and comprehensive program available to you all.  

As I mentioned, this series is going to be a part of that training program and is one of the last few pieces of the puzzle needed to bring that course online.  Previously, I put together the Comprehensive Guide to Teaching a Yoga Class, and teaching a meditation class has many similarities to that.  Below is the approach I use in structuring the meditation or gentle yoga classes I teach.  It has been refined over the years, and the classes using this structure have been thoroughly enjoyed by the students.  

Similar to the yoga class, I will also explain the meditation class by breaking it up into three sections.  The first section I will call Orientation, the next section is the Warm-up and then the final section, I will call The Work.  This breakdown is for a class lasting around 1 hour.  Below is how these come sections together to form a great class, and a transforming experience for the students.

This series is in 2 parts.  In part 1 I will go over the Orientation and Warm-up phase, while in part 2 I will discuss the "Work" phase.  One final note before I jump ahead, is that this is also a great sequence for you to follow for your own personal yoga or meditation practice.

Teaching a Meditation Class Phase 1 – Orientation:

Objectives:

  1. Get the students settled in.
  2. Ensure the spacing is correct for safety and comfort.
  3. Get their mind and awareness into the here and now.
  4. Give a short overview of the class structure, guidelines and planned meditation.

Here now are details for the items above.

Items 1, 2, 3 & 4 Above:

As the students file into the class, I make sure the early ones move up and near to where I sit, as for some reason students always tend to keep more of a distance from the teacher than they need to.  I also of course try to ensure I sit in a way that I am visible to the entire class.  If possible a raised platform is very useful for this.

I am also making sure during this time that spacing is good between students, which generally means that they should be able to spread both arms out to their sides without hitting anyone, or the wall.  In addition, I am usually pointing out cushions, mats, water, etc to newcomers as well.  Shortly, I announce the start of the class, and immediately get everyone to start long deep breathing.

Unlike a yoga class, I spend much less time in this phase of the class, than I do for a yoga class.  This is simply because in the meditation class, the students are going to get ample time to meditate during "The Work" portion of the class, while in a yoga class, this is essentially the time I use to get meditation practice into the session.  So for a meditation class, I only spend a few minutes maximum in this long deep breathing, get into the moment phase and then quickly get to the warm-up stage.

During the long deep breathing phase though, I do try to give the details for the class structure and guidelines for doing the yoga, breathing exercises and meditation that is to come.  Specially any safety instructions.  See Beginner’s Guide to Yoga Practice and Guidelines for Pranayama Practice for more information on this topic.

In general, the class structure is as follows:

  • Orientation Period (which they are in).
  • Tuning in to their Higher Self and the Universal Energy.
  • Breathing exercises (pranayamas) to get their energy going.
  • Essential daily yoga exercises and yoga exercises for meditation.
  • 1 or 2 meditation sessions, depending on the class duration.
  • Ending prayers and visualizations. 

In general, the safety and practice guidelines are the following:

  • I tell them, I will demonstrate each exercise, which after observing they do with their eyes closed.
  • All breathing is done through the nose, unless otherwise instructed.
  • Use the modifications for any exercises they find difficult.
  • To not overdo, be careful with injuries and work around them whenever possible.
  • To not compete and not worry about how anyone else is doing.
  • Throughout the class to do the practice will full awareness.

If you are not able to cover all of the above, don’t worry, you can continue to instruct them in the Warm-up phase as well.  In general, I have noticed that for a meditation class lasting 1 hour, I always tend to run out of time and have to cut short the final meditation period, which is the key focus of the class, so make sure you don’t linger in this section for too long.  This completes the Orientation phase of the class, and then I move ahead to the Warm-up period. 

Teaching a Meditation Class Phase 2: Warm-up 

Just as for a yoga class, the Orientation period, insures they get their daily dose of meditation, in a meditation class, it is during the Warm-up period that I insure the students get their daily dose of yoga and pranayama. 

Here are the objectives you should shoot for in the warm-up phase:

Objectives:

1. Tune in to your Higher Self / Universal Mind.

2. Get the students energy going.

3. Do daily essential yoga stretches and yoga that is beneficial for meditation.  If you are teaching a Gentle Yoga class, expand this section and cut short the meditation period in the end.

4. Do pranayama that prepares the mind for meditation.

1: Tuning In

Always start a class with tuning in.  In yoga and meditation whether you have been explained it or not, you are dealing with cosmic energies, and such energies should be approached with respect, and the purpose of tuning in is ask your Higher Self and the Universe for Protection, Guidance and Inspiration.  This ensures the energies do not harm you, you are guided correctly and provided inspiration to see the journey all the way back to the Source.

This tuning in you should also do prior to doing your personal meditation practice as well.  There are many ways to tune in and accomplish the above.  Silent prayer, AUM mantra chanting or the beautiful Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo mantra that we use in Kundalini Yoga.  You can see an actual demonstration of this tuning in in the following video article:  AUM Mantra Video for Starting Yoga Class.

2: Energize the Students:

Since the students are going to get plenty of time to relax and practice awareness during the meditation portion of the class, during this phase it is healthy to do some energizing pranayamas.  The following 3 are good choices for this, and will help the students a great deal.  Pick one or two of them for you class, and vary it from class to class to give variety.

4 Part Deep Breathing

Kaplbhati Pranayama

Breath of Fire

3. Daily Yoga Essentials & Yoga for Meditation Exercises:

During this phase it is a good idea to cover some of daily essential work as recommended by yoga.  So try to do Butterfly Pose | Best Asana for Meditation, which is also excellent for sitting in meditation, and also do Forward Bend, to stretch the all important life nerve and promote flexibility.  Then, pick yoga poses that benefit meditation practice.  Remember that the students who signed up for this class are here for meditation, so make sure the yoga you select is gentle in nature and plays a role in helping with meditation.

A perfect example of such exercises is the great Spinal Warm-up Series.  This is not just great for getting their back, hips, neck, shoulders, etc warmed up, but this set heats up the cerebro-spinal fluid which runs through the spinal cord.  This is key, as it maximizes the energy flow during meditation and helps in promoting awareness by helping bring more prana into the brain and higher centers.  For some more details on how this works you can read the article Introduction to Kundalini Yoga.

Other places to look for good yoga for meditation exercises and sets are from the following collections: Yoga Poses for Meditation and Basic Yoga Poses | Yoga Positions for Beginners.

In part 2 of this series I will discuss the final phase of the class which is where they will learn and practice the meditation technique(s) you have decided for them.  Also note that by just extending the yoga part in the Warm-up phase, this becomes an excellent Gentle Yoga class as well, which is perfect for seniors and others not looking to do vigorous yoga.

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