How to teach meditation techniques – for beginners
What was that old adage again?
Give someone a meditation feed their soul for the day
Teach someone to meditate feed their soul for life?
Ehhh, I don’t think that’s it, but that certainly doesn’t make it any less true!
As stress, anxiety, depression & burnout are on the rise, there has never been a greater need for meditation.
Those who know how to teach meditation techniques to their clients, co-workers, students, friends, family & loved ones are playing an increasingly important role in the global conversation on mental health and workplace productivity.
For coaches, therapists, practitioners or personal development industry professionals who desire to master the ability to guide healing & insightful meditation experiences, I would suggest that you check out a guided meditation teacher training.
However, if you are seeking to start your own practice, or show others meditation techniques for stress reduction, then I hope to lay out a few simple meditation techniques you can use to benefit yourself and those you care about.
#1: What’s the best posture for meditation?
The best posture for meditation is the most practical & accessible position in which you can remain comfortably still with your spine straight. Whether you are seated, lying down or even standing is not especially important during a meditation.
It’s only important that your posture doesn’t cause any unnecessary tension in your muscles, and that your spine is in alignment (from your neck down to your tail bone). This will ensure your airways are open, your lungs are free to expand with each breath, and that your brain & spinal cord are free to send healing electrical signals throughout your body as possible.
#2: What’s the best meditation breathing technique?
There is a vast amount of breathing techniques associated with meditation. However, if you are just starting your own practice or teaching meditation to beginners, I suggest the simple technique of Resistance Breathing.
Resistance Breathing is achieved by breathing in any manner that restricts airflow on the inhalation and exhalation. The most common way to do this is to breathe in and out through the nose, but you may also create resistance by breathing through pursed lips, hissing through clenched teeth or any other method that slows the flow of air.
Slow, focused inhalations and exhalations (NOT deep breathing) are what you should strive for in meditation if the goal is to gain more focus, relieve stress or find clarity. If you want to know the exact science behind how resistance breathing during meditation affects our brain & nervous system to reduce anxiety, feel free to check out my article on how meditation & mindfulness reduces anxiety.
Try taking a few cycles of resistance breathing now. Breathing in through the nose and out through the nose. I like to count 4 seconds on the inhalation, pause for 2 seconds at the top of the breath, then count 4 seconds on the exhalation, pause for 2 seconds at the bottom of the breath, then repeat.
#3: What do you focus on when meditating?
When I meditate, I focus my attention on a few different things, depending on why I chose to meditate and what stage of relaxation I am in.
It’s helpful to break up what to focus on when meditating into three different categories:
1. BODY POSITION & BREATH:
When you first sit down or lie down to meditate, your focus should be entirely on getting your body in a comfortable position and beginning to start your resistance breathing. You want to take your time to get this right because if you aren’t comfortable, you won’t be able to enter a meditative state. Once your body is in a good position, start slowing down your breath using the resistance breathing technique we outlined above.
Never feel like you need to stay completely still, you are a human being, not a mannequin. Scan your body for any places of holding, tightness & tension, and release it as you exhale. If you need to move, scratch an itch, cough or anything that will make you more comfortable, always do so immediately.
2. SOUNDS & SENSATIONS:
Intently focusing on sounds or sensations reduces activity in the brain’s default mode network, the collection of associated regions of the brain we use for both constructive & dysphoric imagination. By directly focusing on the sensation of sitting on the chair, the rising and falling of your breath, the sounds of birds or any other specific focal point, you will, in effect, bring your mind to “the present moment” and experience the many stress & anxiety-reducing benefits that follow.
If at any point you find that your mind has wandered to completely unproductive or useless topics, you can always bring yourself back to focusing on the sensation of the breath.
3. EXPLORATION & CONTEMPLATION:
While focusing on the breath & present moment is a necessary part of meditation, I only focus on those two things during meditation to help me get into a meditative state. My goal during meditation is always to explore my thoughts & feelings or to engage in deep contemplation.
Unfortunately, many believe meditation is about clearing the mind and avoiding our thoughts, when in fact, meditation is the best tool we have to improve our deep thinking & creative problem-solving ability.
Sometimes, I like to go into a meditation with a specific question in mind and capitalize on the flow state neurochemistry produced during meditation to help me find answers.
It’s important to realize that your thoughts create your reality, and meditation offers us a way to objectively assess our patterns, and choose the thoughts & habits we want to repeat.
While practices like mindfulness meditation certainly reduce stress & anxiety in the present moment, we need to do more than avoid our thoughts during meditation to develop tools to deal with difficult feelings & emotions in the future.
It’s also important to note that while these three categories of what to focus on when meditating are not a strict process. You should always feel free to shift your focus, move your body or contemplate new topics at any time during your meditation.
I have found that people often put so much pressure on themselves during meditation by measuring themselves against some monk-like notion of what meditation “should” be like. This pressure often discourages people from developing a regular practice and takes all the wonder out of the experience.
So, if you are teaching meditation to others or beginning your own practice, remove all pressure and expectations from the process wherever possible.
Your meditation practice is one of the most personal activities you have. There is no right or wrong way to practice, there is only your way.
If you’d like to help people discover more about themselves & connect to their own inner wisdom, I suggest you check out our post on how to lead a guided meditation.