incorporating meditation into yoga Photo: @tonylupinacci | Instagram

How to Incorporate Meditation Into Yoga

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Meditation is integral to yoga. Physical yoga postures came into existence to prepare us to sit in stillness and experience higher states of awareness. In the science of yoga, sensory withdrawal, concentration, and meditation naturally follow the practice of working with the body and the breath.

On a personal level, meditation teaches us to be present. Allowing time for meditation practice during your classes grants your students a method for fully embracing each moment of life. This state of presence – the harmony between body, mind, and beyond – is yoga. Without meditation, there is no yoga!

As yoga instructors, we understand that meditation is a fundamental component of yoga essential to a well-rounded personal practice. However, yoga teacher training courses often need more in-depth advice on how to guide meditation in the context of a yoga class. This article will provide teachers with the confidence to develop classes that allow students to explore yoga as a practice for holistic well-being.

Article Topics

Integrate Meditation Into Your Yoga Class

Let your students know what to expect before practice by providing a class description and a few words about meditation. You can also offer a concise and motivating class overview before teaching. With a proper introduction, students will feel enthusiastic and curious about the opportunity for meditation practice.

Class Structure

A man on a yoga mat in a meditation position

Photo: @happyyogadays | Instagram

Although some teachers begin practice with meditation and continue with movement, the best time for meditation is after the physical postures. As mentioned, asana prepares your body, mind, and nervous system for meditative states.

To transition from asana to meditation, encourage students to keep their attention inward as they gently shift to a stable seated posture. Adding a short pranayama practice between savasana and meditation can also ease practitioners into a calm and relaxed mental state.

Whether you are teaching meditation to beginners or veterans, it is tempting to offer a lengthy script of suggestions or visualizations to help facilitate meditation. However, everyone in the room will be approaching the meditation portion of the class from a place of silence. Ideally, the first part of the practice already established the perfect conditions to slip into single-pointed concentration. Therefore, after checking that your students are in a proper meditation posture, offer a simple method of silent meditation, along with some words of wisdom or encouragement, and begin.

Class Timing

Even 5-10 minutes of sitting intentionally in silence benefits your students. On the other end of a suggested timeframe, sitting for 20-30 minutes is a lot for some. Here is a basic framework for working with timing the components of a complete yoga practice, depending on the length of your class.

  • 75-Minute Practice: 5-10 minutes of grounding and warm-up, 45 minutes of asana, 5 minutes of Savasana, 5 minutes of pranayama, and 10-15 minutes of meditation
  • 90-Minute Practice: 5-10 minutes of grounding and warm-up, 55-60 minutes of asana, 5 minutes of Savasana, 5 minutes of pranayama, and 15-20 minutes of meditation
  • 120-Minute Practice: 15 minutes of grounding and warm-up, 60-70 minutes of asana, 10 minutes of Savasana, 5-10 minutes of pranayama, and 20-30 minutes of meditation.

As you gain experience teaching, you’ll find your rhythm of transitions, cues, and other elements of yoga (chants, kriyas, etc.) that feel inspiring to practice and share with others.

Make Your Yoga Class More Meditative

In addition to seated meditation sessions in asana classes, a yoga instructor can create a more meditative atmosphere during the physical part of the yoga practice. Here are some suggestions for teaching in a way that encourages self-reflection.

Set an Intention

Setting intentions, as a group or personally, can help students cultivate focus, ease, and presence. Examples of intentions that encourage inner focus during an asana practice include:

  • To feel peaceful throughout the practice
  • To maintain awareness of body and breath
  • To observe thoughts and feelings
  • To be aware of the senses
  • To accept each moment and experience without forming opinions or judgments

Cue Awareness

Along with cues and instructions for physical alignment and breathing, teachers can incorporate suggestive cues that guide students into a holistic experience of the present moment. Awareness-based cues include:

  • Maintaining single-pointed focus (with the eyes and with the mind)
  • Allowing thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations to come and go 
  • Practicing acceptance and non-attachment
  • Paying attention to each inhalation and exhalation
  • Focusing on the subtle body (energetic) during the asana practice
  • Reminders to guide a wandering mind to “here and now.”

A meditative asana practice could also include time and space to pause between physical postures. Instead of rushing from one asana to the next, let your students rest in simple standing, sitting, or reclining positions where they can fully experience the effects of each asana in a neutral position.

Allow Time for Integration

Finally, encourage students to take time at the end of the session for self-reflection, to re-state any set intention, and to offer gratitude. Remind them that they can maintain a state of presence and inner peace not only on a yoga mat or during a meditation practice but also in daily life.

By incorporating meditation into your yoga class and intentionally guiding your class in a manner that encourages awareness, observation, and self-inquiry, yoga instructors provide a framework for an authentic experience of yoga – a personal process of self-discovery that transcends the body and mind.