Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Teaching Meditation in a Yoga Class: Using a Mantra

how to teach mantra
By: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed.

For some Yoga teachers, the idea of teaching meditation in a Yoga class may seem overwhelming. For other teachers, the practice of meditation may feel quite obscure, especially if the Yoga instructor is not personally familiar with the practice. The subtle feeling of unease at the thought of how to lead a group of students through a meditation session, in conjunction with the time crunch that many teachers experience towards the end of a Yoga class, can leave this sublimely nurturing practice on the proverbial back burner. 

There are many scriptural texts that illuminate the benefit of practicing meditation as part of a regular Yoga practice. One of the most famous Hindu texts is Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. In the Yoga Sutras, or brief aphorisms, Patanjali includes three different practices of meditation as the 6th, 7th and 8th limb of his Ashtanga Yoga system. In fact, the very word “ashtanga” is translated as eight limbs. The three aspects of meditation that Patanjali expounds upon in his sutras are: dharana, dhyana and samadhi. 



The first meditative practice in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, dharana, is the practice of focusing on a single object, mantra or phrase. The practice of dharana is pictorially captured by the image of a meditator focusing on a single candle flame in a highly concentrated fashion. The ability to focus on a single object helps a meditator’s mind to come to rest. In the same way, by offering your students a mantra to repeat as they meditate, you will be supporting their ability to concentrate on the reverberations of the mantra itself, instead of on the mental chatter in their minds. 

When the mind is in a state of unrest, the Buddhist texts refer to it as a thousand monkeys jumping from branch to branch. If you have ever tried to meditate for any period of time, you are familiar with the thousand-monkey syndrome! At times, it can be almost funny to witness the thoughts that fill our minds, often without our bidding. At other times, intrusive thoughts and traumatic memories can cause serious levels of anxiety and stress, which erode an individual’s mental and physical health over time.  

In traditional monastic settings and in the hidden meditation caves of the Himalayan Mountains, Yogis and Yoginis practice the physical postures and breathing exercises of Yoga in preparation for seated meditation. The asanas and pranayama exercises help to prepare the mind and body for meditation, as well as promote good physical health. Over the last decade, many contemporary researchers have become interested in the benefits of a regular practice of meditation. Depending on the type and duration of meditation, this ancient practice has the ability to ignite the frontal brain, alleviate depression and insomnia, lower blood pressure and promote better cardiac health. 

Although many meditation techniques may appear to be complicated, the practice itself is quite simple. The art of meditation is simply to rest in the inner quietude of one’s own being. There are many ways to allow the mind to come to stillness and rest in the spaciousness of the heart. Repeating a mantra during a meditation session is very helpful in this regard. Visualizing and repeating a mantra gives the mind a point to focus on. In addition, the vibrations of the mantra itself help to align the body and mind with the pulsation of the divine energy, which is the very essence of life. 

An easy way to introduce your Yoga students to the practice of dharana meditation is to download a recording of a mantra onto your iPod or other portable audio device. Some of the most well-known and effective mantras for meditation are: Om, Om Namah Shivaya and So Ham. Each one of these mantras will lead your students to a place of internal stillness, where the fluctuations of the mind quiet and the expansive state of well-being resides. Introducing your students briefly to the practice of meditation after Shavasana, and then asking them to sit in a comfortable seated position on their Yoga mat as they repeat the mantra you have chosen, will help them to glide easily into a calm meditative state. 



Virginia Iversen, M.Ed, has been practicing and studying the art of Yoga for over twenty years. She lives in Woodstock, New York; where she specializes in writing customized, search engine-optimized articles that are 100% unique. She is currently accepting yoga and health-related writing orders and may be contacted at: enchantress108@gmail.com

© Copyright 2015 – Virginia Iversen / Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division


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Monday, April 27, 2015

Teaching a Detoxifying Yoga Class: Pranayama

how to teach pranayama exercises
By: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed

Warm weather is upon us, and many Yoginis and Yogis alike are feeling the seasonal urge to detoxify after a long, cold winter. Well, the winter was long and cold, at least in the northern hemisphere. If you live in a warmer climate, the shift between winter and spring may not be as pronounced, but you will be most likely still be feeling the seasonal urge to wax your car, clean out your closet and plant some fresh flowers and herbs. Engaging in a seasonally appropriate detoxifying regime is one of the fundamental cornerstones of Ayurveda, Yoga’s health-promoting sister science. 




As we all walk through life, we pick up many unnecessary possessions, outdated ways of being, unprocessed painful experiences, and outmoded belief systems. By engaging in a physically and emotionally detoxifying regime on a seasonal basis, your load will be lighter and your spirit will be more likely to soar and stay positive through many different life experiences and circumstances. In terms of a Yoga practice, there are many ways to increase the detoxifying benefits of a regular practice of asanas, pranayama exercises and meditation techniques. 

If you are a Yoga teacher, by including ten or fifteen minutes of balancing and detoxifying pranayama exercises into your class, you will support your students in the process of clearing their bodies of lymphatic waste and deeply held stress, as well as assisting them in identifying and releasing negative thought patterns. Some of the most profoundly detoxifying pranayama exercises are Skull Shining Breath and Kapalabhati Pranayama. Additionally, by taking the support of Ocean Sounding Breath, or Ujjayi Pranayama, during the practice of the asanas, the detoxifying effects of your students’ Yoga practice will be substantially increased. 

It is estimated that the exhalation releases approximately eighty percent of the toxins in the physical body. By practicing Yogic-breathing exercises that reinforce and emphasize the exhalation, the detoxifying effects of a student’s Yoga practice will be increased quite naturally. Simply leading your students through a mindful practice of pranayama exercises, which balances the inhalation and exhalation, is an important first step for many Yoga students. Many of us tend to hold our breaths, inhale in a shallow manner and never exhale fully, because of the high level of stress and anxiety that most of us experience on a daily basis. When we hold do not inhale and exhale fully, toxins build up and our body remains stuck in “high alert.” 



* Square Breathing and Gratitude

The practice of Square Breathing is quite uplifting, when it is done in conjunction with focusing on gratitude. Most Yoga students can easily perform this beginning pranayama exercise. Square Breathing simply involves inhaling for a count of four, holding the breath for a count of four, exhaling for a count of four, and then pausing for a count of four. This four-count breath helps to elongate and balance the inhalation and exhalation. Practicing Square Breathing also helps to balance the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems, which will calm and energize the body and mind. An ideal time to lead your Yoga students through the practice of Square Breathing is during their practice of Shavasana

If you are leading your students through the practice of Square Breathing and you would like to add a gratitude component to the exercise, you may wish to suggest to your Yoga students that they think of something they are grateful for with each four count pause. The things, people or experiences that your students are grateful for can be large or small, transcendental or mundane. For instance, one of your Yoga students may be grateful for the healthy birth of her new child, while another Yoga student may simply be grateful for another day, a hot bath or a good cup of coffee! The most uplifting part of this breathing exercise is the simple feeling of gratitude, in conjunction with the balancing effect of Square Breathing. 


Virginia Iversen, M.Ed, has been practicing and studying the art of Yoga for over twenty years. She lives in Woodstock, New York; where she specializes in writing customized, search engine-optimized articles that are 100% unique. She is currently accepting yoga and health-related writing orders and may be contacted at: enchantress108@gmail.com


© Copyright – Virginia Iversen / Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

Please feel free to share our posts with your friends, colleagues, and favorite social media networks.