When we talk about meditation, what we’re often speaking about is the meditation methods. Yoga asana, for example, could be one procedure to help calm the mind.
The limbs of yoga that originate before meditation (dhyana) are pratyahara which means pulling your awareness away from the outer world and observing yourself from inside, and Dharana, which includes concentration. Both these limbs of yoga could be viewed as methods to help prepare you for meditation, and as yoga instructors, I would claim that it is OK to teach these without having a separate skill in meditation procedure. To me, they are a massive piece of schooling yoga.
Schooling vs. Promoting
I believe that when it comes to meditation in the context of yoga, it can be improved, but not taught. However, the methods for meditation can be prepared. For example, the 6th limb of yoga is focusing (Dharana).
The concept here is that when we focus on something (mantra, the breath, or a flame), the mind becomes calmer and the state of meditation is more likely to happen.
What Meditation Methods Relate to Yoga?
Here are some of the meditation procedures that I include when I’m instructing yoga.
Observing yourself from inside (Pratyahara)
This is the 5th limb of yoga and something I think is vital in a yoga session — particularly at the beginning, whether you mark it as pratyahara or not. It can be followed in just a few minutes in the mode of examining the body or taking the time to recognize what thoughts are going on in your head. When I sit down to do my morn meditation, this is how it starts, and sometimes it will only be this.
Pratyahara can also be exercised within the yoga postures or asanas themselves as a way to explore a stance in more depth and promote a higher perception of your body.
Concentration (Dharana )
The yoga Sutras don’t direct just one way to focus, so concentration in the context of yoga to assist someone with meditation could incorporate a focus on a mantra, the breath, or a flame (trataka) — to name merely a few things. Like Pratyahara, Dharana is a different way to help calm the mind and possibly serve you for meditation.
You could argue that you’re exercising dharana in your asana method because there’s focusing on the breath and sometimes attention or focus on a point in front of you in some of the balancing postures. This is called Ekagrata or one-pointed center.
Trataka or candle staring is yoga practice painted in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, which includes staring at a candle without winking, until, tears start to rise. You might get confused looks if you start your yoga class in this way, but it is a yoga meditation method in concentration.
What Meditation Procedures Can’t You Train?
I would say, the meditation exercises that can’t be trained with a yoga skill would include those exercises that are trademarked or any programs with a distinct composition or means. This would consist of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, Transcendental Meditation™, and Vedic meditation — to name just a few.
I would then go further and say, related to the teaching of yoga asanas — don’t teach anything you don’t individually exercise yourself.
The utility of imagery in guided meditation enables each person to place themselves in a position in their minds that is relaxing to them.
There are also some meditations which could probably be quite hard for some people to do. For instance, some of the Buddhist loving/ kindness or Metta reflections, which I individually especially love doing, but they can involve giving good wishes to people you’re having a problem with. I can see how probably this might be hard for some people and could create some deep-seated concerns.
I think the most simple solution is to teach what you know and love to exercise yourself, giving you are allowed or qualified to do so. So, if you love mantra or particular chakra meditations… further, they’re things you exercise and have expertise with; then I think it’s OK to teach them without having an extra qualification in reflection. Despite this, if you’re showing a trademarked system without being qualified to do so and you have no experience training something, then I wouldn’t go there.
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