How to guide a meditation class
If you have been conscious for the past couple of years, then you know there has never been a greater need for meditation. As we become more disconnected & distracted, our world is yearning to rediscover the ancient & sacred relationship with our souls. Knowing how to guide a meditation class is knowing how to reconnect our world to what we have lost, but hope to find, one meditation experience at a time.
Before we dive into the details, let’s get clear on what we mean by “guiding a meditation class”…
Guiding vs. Teaching a Meditation Class
One of the biggest sources of confusion for potential instructors is the new and often ambiguous terminology used by meditation teacher training programs.
Defining these two terms can help clarify the type of experience you are looking to offer:
- Teaching Meditation: Instructing clients on how to meditate, including demonstrating proper posture, breathing techniques, etc.
- Guiding Meditation: Guiding participants though a meditation experience designed to spark insight, healing, healthy self-reflection or constructive imagination
Most prospective meditation teachers don’t actually want to “teach meditation”, they want to guide it. Because knowing how to lead a guided meditation is a skillset that can unlock many professional doors in the personal development industry.
Unfortunately, most meditation instructor trainings are focused on creating teachers of meditation, not guided meditation facilitators. Graduates of these trainings are often left without the confidence, qualifications, or resources necessary to lead guided meditations effectively.
If you’re considering getting your meditation certification, make sure to check out my article on choosing the right meditation training or certification before you make a decision.
Getting proper training is a necessity if you want to guide meditation classes effectively. But once you are comfortable leading guided meditations, the next step is to learn how to run your own meditation class.
How to Structure a Meditation Class
Knowing how to lead a meditation group begins with having a defined structure. Guided meditation classes are usually done with a specific purpose or outcome in mind.
Before I explain how to structure your meditation class, I’d like to point out that this information is to be taken broadly. You should not feel constrained by the principles outlined, but rather, guided by them.
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to leading meditations, but there are best practices and proven frameworks.
Here is the general structure I suggest:
#1 - Start with a Topic & Discussion
Knowing how to start a meditation class is critical. The way you start each class sets the tone, expectations & focus for the experience.
I suggest always starting a meditation class with a brief discussion around a relevant quote or story that has a lesson to be gleaned from it. Beginning in this way helps to grab the class’ attention and bridge the gap between their previous activity and the coming meditation experience.
This discussion can be used to set a desired outcome, intention or line of inquiry for your meditation class. Experiences that have a focus typically are more effective & insightful, so think about how you can use your discussion to lead a meditation session with a purpose.
#2 - Progressive Relaxation
Once everyone is comfortable, progressive relaxation is the next step in guiding your participants into a meditative state. Start with several cycles of slow, focused breathing. Establish the rhythm of inhalation and exhalation for your participants initially by SILENTLY counting to yourself: 4 seconds on the inhalation, 2 seconds at the top of the breath, 4 seconds on the exhalation, and 2 seconds at the bottom of the breath.
Next, you want to help your participants release tension in their body, specifically in areas where we hold stress & other feelings/emotions. If you’re new to leading meditation classes, just keep it simple and have them relax the area around their eyes, release their jaw and drop their shoulders.
This is the most important part of the meditation, so allow at least 6 minutes of slow focused breathing & physical relaxation here so your participants’ brain waves have time to shift from beta to alpha.
#3 - Engage the Imagination
At this point, your audience’s mind and body are relaxed and they are ready to use their imagination. The purpose of this step is to help your participants explore their thoughts and feelings or prompt them to utilize this fertile state of mind to contemplate and self-reflect.
This is the place where you truly become an imaginative tour guide. You can use guided imagery or thought-provoking questions to direct the experience towards a specific goal or outcome.
#4 - Be Silent for a Time
Experienced meditation facilitators know that the secret to leading a great meditation class is maximizing the amount of time spent in silence. For your participants, the most impactful moments of a meditation class will always happen in the moments when you are not speaking, when your participants can explore their own thoughts, feelings & emotions without interruption or suggestion.
After you have engaged their imagination & inspired them with thought-provoking questions or guided imagery, allow time for silent self-reflection.
Before going silent, say something like, “my voice will be quiet for a bit…” It’s important that you say this to make your participants aware that you are intentionally creating the space for them to go within. Otherwise, they may be waiting for your next instruction rather than using their imagination to contemplate & explore.
#5 - Slowly Bring the Meditation to a Close
After a sufficient amount of silent reflection time has passed, gently reintroduce your voice by saying something like, “And slowly, coming back to the sound of my voice.”
This is a great time to ask your participants to take something with them from the experience. It can be in the form of a realization or a simple recognition of a feeling. Prompting a takeaway in this manner is important to help your audience remember the experience as they go forward and take something of value with them.
Then, bring your participants through a progressive re-engagement with their body. Starting at the feet, having them wiggle their toes & roll their ankles, slowly working the way up their body & torso, possibly asking them to stretch, etc. The idea is that you want to slowly bring them back into their body & transition them out of a meditative state and into a state of waking consciousness so the end of the meditation does not abruptly jolt them out of a deep state of relaxation, which can actually be harmful.
Finally, ask your participants to open their eyes. I suggest offering your participants a conscious action to acknowledge the experience they had and solidify any insights into their memory. If possible, have them write for a few minutes in a journal, about anything. If that’s not possible, simply asking everyone to stay off their phones for at least 10 minutes.
Helping your students to carve out just 10 extra minutes free from digital distractions at the end of a meditation class can be just what they need to allow the insight they had to sink in deep enough to have a lasting impact, so don’t forget to suggest something like this every time.
5 Tips to Run a Meditation Class Like a Pro
1. Prepare & Practice Your Performance
Leading a meditation class is a performance. Unless you are a master guided meditation facilitator, it is important to plan and rehearse your meditation beforehand.
Script out what you’re going to say and rehearse it. Knowing specifically what you’re going to say for the introductory talk and during the meditation itself is critical to iron out the kinks and align your goal with the needs of the participants. Until you have facilitated 20 or more meditations, I would even suggest that you use a meditation script during the meditation session.
While you may be nervous the first few times, as you continue to develop your ability to facilitate and see the benefit you are able to bring to people through guided meditation, your nerves will gradually subside. Even highly experienced facilitators rehearse to calm nerves and feel confident when it comes time to lead.
2. Assume a Posture of Confidence
When you begin your introductory talk, sit or stand up straight, with your back tall and hands placed in a comfortable position. You can interlock your fingers with your index fingers pointing to touch at the tips for example. Return to this position with your hands whenever you’re not using them for something else.
This is known as “anchoring” in public speaking and it will help you avoid nervous hand movements and improve your focus on what you want to say. Using this anchor when you rehearse beforehand will also help you recall your words during the experience and allow you to speak with confidence.
3. Play Ambient & Featureless Meditation Music
Background music is important to give participants’ wandering minds something to focus on throughout the meditation. Additionally, music helps mask distracting noises inside and outside the room (loud breathing, coughing or traffic outside). When selecting your music, be sure to choose music without lyrics and variable volume.
As a bonus, incorporating music into your guided meditation class will help you to feel more comfortable during periods of silence. Feeling comfortable with long silences separates those who know how to guide a meditation session effectively from those who don’t.
4. Take Extra Care to Set Up Each Participant
Every participant needs to be comfortable. If someone isn’t comfortable, they will be constantly shifting & moving, distracting other participants and may end up blaming you for their inability to engage meaningfully in the meditation experience.
So, make sure you have at your location everything your participants will need to be comfortable for their meditation experience. If you’re leading virtually, be sure you inform each participant what they should bring to the call & how they should prepare a space in their home or office to meditate free of interruptions. And if you see something, say something; don’t let a participant assume a posture that you know is going to be uncomfortable after a few minutes. Be bold in making sure everyone is snug as a bug before beginning.
A few times throughout the meditation, suggest to the class that they shift or move if they need to get more comfortable. Many people feel like they need to morph into a mannequin and be completely still to meditate “properly”. This is obviously not true, but some people force themselves to dwell in a meditation-ruining position of stagnant discomfort because of it.
5. Allow for Ample Silence
Like I mentioned before, for your participants, the value of a guided meditation is discovered in the silent spaces of the experience, not when you are guiding them.
Allowing time for your participants to engage in an internal dialogue and contemplate is essential. And experienced facilitators have the confidence to hold this space, without feeling like “they aren’t doing enough”.
Make sure you allow enough time for your participants to follow each piece of guidance you give them. Like I mentioned in the previous section, there should certainly be a segment of your meditation class dedicated to silent reflection, but you should seek to create as much silence throughout the entire meditation experience as you can without compromising the effectiveness of your guidance.
For more tips to master guiding meditation, read our blog post on 9 Tips for Leading a Group Guided Meditation Session or How to Teach Meditation Techniques – For Beginners.
How Much Should You Charge for a Meditation Class?
The price of your meditation class depends on what others in your area charge, your credentials, class size, session length and what your business expenses are to run each session.
A typical meditation class price ranges from $15 – $25 per hour, per student. Of course, one-on-one sessions charge substantially more per hour.
To be honest, meditation classes are a fun way to gain valuable experience leading group guided meditation sessions, but they will not be the biggest money maker. Creating workshops or group coaching style offers will be a more lucrative next step for you to take, after you feel comfortable leading meditation classes.
My articles on how to start an online meditation business & how to create a workshop will be helpful for you to gain some insight on how to create valuable offers in this industry.
Learn How to Lead Guided Meditations
There are two ways to become a meditation teacher. You can do it yourself by reading books on guided and therapeutic imagery, download scripts online and learn through trial and error. Or, you can take years off your learning curve by enrolling in a guided meditation facilitator training.
Here at The Guided Meditation Framework™, we teach coaches, therapists, practitioners, yoga teachers and other professionals how to lead outcome-oriented guided meditations. Our approach covers how to implement this tool in both 1-on-1 sessions, and how to integrate it into group events, retreats and workshops.
To learn more about our approach, check out our free demo to get a walkthrough of our program from start-to-finish.