Thursday, November 30, 2006

Teaching Hatha Yoga: My Yoga Students Do Not Want to Meditate

By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

Recently, I received an Email from a colleague about local Yoga students and their desire to “skip” meditation. It seems some Hatha Yoga students find it appropriate to get up and leave before meditation starts. In the area, where he is located, no Yoga studios have meditation, as part of the curriculum.

Apparently, there is a lack of interest and this would leave most Yoga teachers discouraged. However, these same students love asana practice. They state that meditation is boring, and they could be doing something useful, instead.

What can Yoga instructors do to explain the mental benefits of meditation? At this point, mentioning spiritual health benefits would fall on deaf ears. When students cannot appreciate anything beyond physical stimulation, it is doubtful they would appreciate anything that cannot be physically measured.

If we teach Yoga without mediation, is it really Yoga anymore? Is this how the Pilates Method was born? Should we “fold in” to popular demand, in order to keep our Yoga schools open? Should we create a new Yoga hybrid, without a soul?

There are many new and interesting ideas to develop the mind and body connection, but Yoga teachers should not be discouraged. When most of our students get a mind and body connection through asana practice, this is a small start for the evolution of Hatha Yoga in western culture.

We live in a culture of “Attention Deficit Disorder,” and it is difficult for people to focus and "unplug" from distractions. Most of our Yoga students are totally addicted to multi-tasking.

Some students quietly refuse to shut their cell phones off in class. No matter how many signs you post, there will be a Yoga student, who will leave his or her cell phone on, and it will eventually ring off.

No wonder, Bhakti, Jnana, and Karma Yoga, never got a serious "foot hold" here. Although Yoga teachers spend time on daily meditation; a deep meditation session may not be "popular" with your students, if there is a lot of nervous energy is in the room.

In this case, you could expose your students to a five minute session of mindfulness or Breath Awareness meditation. It is a start, and a brief tour toward their inner being. A brief five, or ten, minute relaxation sequence is also an option.

Very few of our students want to experience more than the 15 minute meditation segment, at the end of a Yoga class. Being distracted and multi-tasking is a normal state of mind to children. Unfortunately, many parents are in the “same boat.”

Therefore, teachers should not their waste time, lecturing students about the benefits of meditation. You would be better off creating a student handout about meditation for stress management and mental health. Reliable Information about the benefits of meditation will create interest among your students.

It is reasonable to say, that everyone should give their mind a rest. The ancient Yogis knew this and it is up to Yoga teachers to let the public be aware of the benefits of meditation, while you have their attention.

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Luci said...

Thank you Paul for this article. I have been teaching now for 3 years and have found that (at least in my locale) the students are interested primarily in the asana practice. I have been able to incorporate at least 5 minutes of meditation/breathwork in the beginning of class--bringing them to the "practice"--and 5 to 7 minutes of relaxation at the end. I've tried to add some of the "philosophy" and such to the class, but that has not been accepted well around here--so I tend to not delve into that area, or am very careful with which classes/students I can address this.

Just wanted to say thanks for the post as it does help to hear others encounter the same issues.


Anonymous said...

i have one class that minimizes meditation... when the time is right.. a little more will arrive.... small steps are best for my students.....
also I liked what someone once said.... " 15 or 20 minutes is very important for everyone....................if you don't have time for that then one hour would be appropriate..."

Anonymous said...

I begin my yoga class with a meditative practice. I typically have students who have to "rush off" before the end of the class so they miss final relaxation. With a beginning meditation session, all students get to participate!
Anna B.

Anonymous said...

Yes, to begin with my experience was also the same but now my students often remind me for meditation session also. the fact is that we do not train them for Pratyahara and Dharana and therefore, stepping up to meditation just after asana or pranayama will distract them.

parvezbdjsr said...

Its really very useful article for hatha yoga teacher, thanks for this good post.