How to Teach Meditation
How to Teach Gentle Yoga
[I have consolidated part 1 and part 2 of this series on How to Teach a Gentle Yoga and Meditation Class here in this one document. This is for ease of reference and in preparation for the upcoming Mastery of Meditation Teacher’s Training Program].
Update: I am happy to announce that the Online Yoga Teacher Training and Certification Program is now live. Head on over to check it out.
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:
- Get the students settled in.
- Ensure the spacing is correct for safety and comfort.
- Get their mind and awareness into the here and now.
- 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:
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.
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.
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.
[Part 2 is below]
Teaching Meditation Tips
Free Meditation and Yoga Teacher’s Guide
Teaching a Meditation Class Phase 3 – The Work:
In part 1 of this series on teaching a meditation class, Teaching a Gentle Yoga and Meditation Class, we covered the Orientation and Warm-up period and now we come to the most important phase of the meditation class, the Work section. In this section, you will actually teach the students a meditation technique and have them practice it as well. Depending on the level of your students you should choose the meditation accordingly. For a class with students of mixed proficiency you can teach meditations which have levels within them, such as the excellent Zen Meditation Technique, which allows students to practice at a level suitable to them.
Here are the objectives for this key phase of your class.
Objectives for Phase 3 of Your Meditation Class:
1. Teach a useful meditation technique.
2. Give instructions regarding safety, specially if the technique has advanced components such as breath retention.
3. Practice the meditation technique.
4. Perform ending prayers and visualizations.
5. Have a question & answer period.
1-3. Teach and Practice a Meditation Technique:
The whole reason for the class is for the students to learn and practice meditation with you. So this phase should be the primary focus of the class. Sometimes you can teach meditations based on special requests, or else you can pick ones you want to teach. You will find many meditations in the Free Online Guided Meditation E-book, and most of them have videos associated with them to help you see clearly how they are to be done.
In general, I suggest the practice of Zen Meditation, Silent Mind Meditation, Silent Mantra Meditation, and other awareness techniques for long term consistent practice in your classes. Such meditations continue to bestow benefits on those who practice it, and they allow each student to practice at their own level and pace. It is though often fun to practice meditation that require group chanting or other such meditation as well.
Special meditations which can only be done in groups are also especially appropriate for classes. Such meditations such as the Healing Circle or Sufi Meditations can be a great experience for the students as well. I will be uploading such unique meditations as well to the website and you will of course find them added to the Free Online Guided Meditation E-book.
Even though you are going to just teaching meditation, keep in mind that many meditations can be quite advanced, so don’t forget to follow the safety instructions that are given with each technique. Specially be alert when meditations require students to hold their breath, host difficult mudras (hand/eye positions), or require body locks. Such meditations should be approached with respect and intelligence, and developed gently over time.
In general, you are going to only have time for about a 20 to 30 minute session. Keep in mind that this is A LOT for a beginner. They might not be able to sit for this long, so be gentle with them. Instruct them that they can take a break after 5, 10 or 15 minutes, to stretch their legs and then restart again. The intermediate or advanced meditators should not be given this option. Unless they are about to injure themselves, encourage them to sit through the entire session. If you have a longer class, and have 40 minutes or more for the meditation phase, then I suggest breaking up this phase into 2 (20) minute meditation session, but giving the option for advanced students to continue right through the entire session.
There are lots of tips on this website regarding meditation practice, which will really help you be a better teacher and meditator, so be sure to check them out as well. Look at the related articles and article series listed below for such tips. One important tip though is the use of cushions for meditation, and I strongly recommend having these available to students in your class. Zen Zafus work best here. Check out the article How to Meditate, for more basics like this.
4. Ending Prayers:
At the very end of class, after the students have completed their meditation, it is nice to practice a few important prayers. Here are the 3 prayers I do at the end of every class.
To pray with power and focus, so the thoughts manifest in reality, have them inhale deeply hold their breath and then prayer/visualize. So before each of these prayers below, have them inhale, hold their breath, focus their mind and then do the prayer. Then exhale and move on to the next prayer.
- Visualize you and your life exactly as you want it to be.
- Send out a healing prayer to someone who you know needs it.
- Pray for peace and love on Mother Earth, and peace and love in everyone’s heart.
At the very end of the class you can end with a long OM or end with the mantra SAT NAM. Both are great ways to add a finishing touch to the class.
5. Question / Answer Time:
Since a Yoga or Meditation class has a certain rhythm and flow, I request the students to ask their questions at the end of class. As long as you are very clear in your instructions, have followed the guidelines laid out above and do good demonstrations for the poses and meditations, this works very well. So at the end of class, relax, sit back and allow the students who want to ask questions to do so, other students can stay for this period, or leave if they want to.
Summary of Teaching a Meditation Class:
So there you have a very detailed and comprehensive guide on how to teach a meditation class. I hope it gives all you teachers some good tips and guidance, and I hope it helps make your gentle yoga and meditation class a fantastic and transforming experience for your students.