Thursday, October 8, 2009

Yoga and Meditation -- Part 1

It's been interesting teaching our "Integrating Yoga and Meditation" class with my husband, David,  these last three weeks.     We are both passionate about what we teach, we've both been thoroughly trained in teaching our particular method, and we know that the two subjects, as we've experienced them, should go well together.  

We come from two very different teaching traditions though, and putting the two together, given our different traditions, has been a bit of a challenge.

I teach Iyengar yoga as a very practical, physical method of improving one's health and well-being.   Most of the emphasis is on learning and practicing the poses, especially for beginners.   There is some awareness of the breath, and occasionally some philosophical concepts introduced as we are practicing the poses, but the initial "thrust" of the practice is of learning and practicing the physical poses as a way to learn to pay attention to the body -- to learn to concentrate, which in turn leads towards a meditative state of mind.

David teaches Vipassana (mindfulness) meditation.   As he teaches it (as I understand it -- and my understanding is limited!), there is more discussion on the different aspects of meditation, often in the form of dharma talks (lectures on a topic), as well as the actual meditation practice.   There's also been time set aside for students to share their experiences and to ask questions.

These different practices (Iyengar Yoga, Vipassana meditation) tend to draw different types of people.   There's some overlap, but not nearly as much as we thought there'd be.    People who have a  background in Vipassana or other formal meditation techniques may have less of an interest in the strongly physical aspects of Iyengar yoga.   People with a stronger background in a physically active yoga tradition may have less  interest in sitting still in meditation for long periods of time.   We have students from both practices -- and trying to find the common ground between the two has been challenging.   Neither of us has time to teach as fully as we'd like during each class (we'd need a 3 hour class for that!), but hopefully it's giving students a taste of how the two practices can be used together.  

Both are practices in mindfulness.   Both help to improve our health and mental well-being.   And both are great stress-reducers.   And David and I learn from this challenge of trying to satisfactorily incorporate the two methods into one class -- it'll take time to "iron out the wrinkles", but the challenge is a good one!

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