Did you know that six minutes of reading can reduce stress, improve concentration, relieve muscle tension, and slow down our heart rate? If you’re a yogi, reading sounds much like meditation.
Similar to meditation, reading elicits feelings such as joy and psychological states such as calmness and relaxation. In this article, we will learn about how meditation readings for yoga help students to meditate and get the full benefits of yoga.
- What is Meditation?
- Is It Necessary to Practice Meditation to Practice Yoga?
- How Does Reading Help in Meditation?
- Meditation Readings for Yoga
- Rabindranath Tagore, 1910
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1879
- Wild Geese by Mary Oliver
- Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye
- Awakening Loving Kindness by Pema Chödrön
- Quote from Danna Faulds
- Quote from Scott Stabile
- Living in the Moment of Love by Llewellen Vaughn Lee
- A Morning Offering by John O’Donohue
- Morning Ballet by Corinne Titus
- Meditations From the Mat by Rolf Gates
- The Guest House by Rumi
- Quote from Najwa Zebian
- Allow by Danna Faulds
- In Blackwater Woods by Mary Oliver
- A Blessing by James Wright
- She Let Go by Rev. Safire Rose
- You See I Want a Lot by Rainer Maria Rilke
- The Lake Isle of Innisfree by William Butler Yeats
- To Bless the Space Between Us
- Beating Hearts and Butterflies by Christine Evangelou
- It Takes Courage (Author Unknown)
- Meditations Book Two by Marcus Aurelius
- Mental Health by Yrsa Daley-Ward
What is Meditation?
Meditation is an integral part of yoga. It is the seventh limb of the 8 Limbs of Yoga found in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Dhyana, the Sanskrit term for meditation, focuses the mind on a particular object, action, or thought to achieve a calm and stable state of mind.
The origin of meditation is not clear. Some claim that it originated in China, while some in India. No one also knows who created or invented meditation. The oldest written text about meditation is found in India, around 1500 BCE, which came from Hindu traditions of Vendatism.
Images dating back to 5000 to 3500 BCE show the Hindu traditions of meditating in caves as a path to spiritual enlightenment. It is believed that Hatha Yoga stemmed from this, including the yoga asanas (postures) we practice yoga.
Is It Necessary to Practice Meditation to Practice Yoga?
Yoga was meant for religious and meditation use. The poses were used to prepare the body for Meditation. Today, most people think of asanas (postures) and pranayama (breathwork) when they think of yoga.
However, yoga is more than these body-centered practices. Yoga is an eight-limbed path, according to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. This path includes Yamas (social conduct), Niyamas (self-awareness, Asanas (physical postures), Pranayama (Breathing Exercises), Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (Meditation), and Samadhi (ultimate reality).
To get the full benefits of yoga, it is recommended to practice other limbs of yoga, including Dhyana or meditation.
How Does Reading Help in Meditation?
Reading is a hobby for many people, but it is more than just a pastime.
Reading is an effective brain exercise. The more you give your brain a good workout, the more it improves. It strengthens focus and concentration.
Focusing on the storyline and characters stimulates your brain and cognitive function. To meditate, you need to practice Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses from external sources) and Dharana (concentration on one specific object, thought, or action).
Reading is also a great way to increase relaxation and increase stress, making it an effective tool to help students relax in Savasana.
Meditation Readings for Yoga
Practicing meditation is not only suitable for enriching your spiritual life. Meditation reduces stress, controls anxiety, promotes emotional health, improves self-awareness, boosts your focus and mental capacity, and improves sleep.
It is a widespread and common practice that even non-yogis are aware of. However, it is a fact that many people who practice yoga today are practicing only the physical aspect of it. Therefore, not maximizing the benefits that yoga can provide will not give full results.
As a yoga teacher, I think it is my responsibility to teach all the Limbs of Yoga to my students and not just the Asanas and Pranayama. I believe our students need to meditate now more than ever because of the fast-paced lifestyle that most of us have. Meditation is a good way for us to slow down and stop functioning on autopilot.
However, sitting still to focus on one thing can be difficult for most of us. In my class, I have had a student who can’t even keep his eyes closed for two minutes. One way I find to be effective in keeping the students motivated and focused is doing meditation readings. The following points are ways you can incorporate meditation readings in yoga:
- At the start of the class: when students are still setting an intention.
- During the Asanas practice: motivational quotes or passages help during asana practice, especially when students are working on their peak pose.
- During meditation itself: allows students to keep their focus and concentration.
- During Savasana: to help them let go and relax.
Now that you know how reading helps students to meditate, here are some poems, quotes, and passages that you can read to your students in your class. You can read these poems yourself, or you can also ask your students to read them for the whole class.
Rabindranath Tagore, 1910
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.
When to read: at the start of the class, when setting an intention
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1879
The tide rises, the tide falls,
The twilight darkens, the curlew calls;
Along the sea-sands damp and brown
The traveller hastens toward the town,
And the tide rises, the tide falls.
When to read: when or after practicing Pranayama
Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Strive to be happy.
When to read: before starting the class or during Savasana
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
When to read: any part of the practice, but most especially when getting into poses that are more difficult and advanced
Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
When to read: at the start of the class and when students are transitioning to more difficult poses
Awakening Loving Kindness by Pema Chödrön
Loving kindness towards ourselves doesn’t mean getting rid of anything. It means we can still be crazy after all these years. We can still be angry after all these years. We can still be timid or jealous or full of feelings of unworthiness
When to read: during meditation, especially when practicing Loving Kindness Meditation
Quote from Danna Faulds
Just for now, without asking how, let yourself sink into stillness. Just for now, lay down the weight you so patiently bear upon your shoulders. Feel the earth receive you, and the infinite expanse of the sky grow even wider as your awareness reaches up to meet it. Just for now, allow a wave of breath to enliven your experience. Breathe out whatever blocks you from the truth. Just for now, be boundless, free, with awakened energy tingling in your hands and feet. Drink in the possibility of being who and what you really are – so fully alive that the world looks different, newly born and vibrant, just for now.
When to read: during meditation or Savasana
Quote from Scott Stabile
Just show up, as you are. You don’t have to look or feel great. You don’t have to be prepared for each challenge or know all the hows of every situation. You don’t have to be fearless, or have all the answers, or be 100% ready. Nobody is any of these things. Nobody ever was. It’s not about being perfect at all. You just have to show up, as you are, despite all the objections and insecurities of your mind, despite each and every fear that threatens to hold you back, despite the limitations and criticisms other will place on you. The hell with it all. This is your life, your journey, your adventure, and all it’s asking of you is to show for it, as you are. That’s enough. That’s more than enough. That’s everything.
When to read: At the start of the class, or during grounding and centering
Living in the Moment of Love by Llewellen Vaughn Lee
The moment is now. The present moment is not just a progression of past moments, but is alive in its own way, complete and perfect. And it is this new moment that demands our attention. Only in the moment can we be fully awake and respond to the real needs of ourselves and others. Only in the present moment can we be fully attentive.
When to read: at the start of the class, or during grounding and centering
A Morning Offering by John O’Donohue
All that is eternal in me
Welcomes the wonder of this day.
May my mind come alive today
To the invisible geography
That invites me to new frontiers,
To break the dead shell of yesterdays,
To risk being disturbed and changed.
May I have the courage today
To live the life that I would love,
To postpone my dream no longer
But do at last what I came here for
And waste my heart on fear no more.
May I live this day
Compassionate of heart,
Clear in work,
Gracious in awareness,
Courageous in thought,
Generous in love.
When to read: at the start of the class
Morning Ballet by Corinne Titus
The sunlight pas de chat’s through my window on soft,
grey, clawed kitten paws to knead my eyelids.
I have always been a fitful sleeper.
Joints mumble their complaints to the morning,
their occasional curse word the loud pops
that disturb my mother. She thinks I will fall to pieces.
The dance is yoga, but the foundation holds.
My arms content themselves to find fifth position
over my head, then dive towards the floor, a downward dog.
The balls of feet rise in an eleve, the shoulders strain, the body slants,
my hamstrings scream at me. Pressure pools
in my wrists and ankles, smaller versions of past breaks.
When to read: at the start of the class
Meditations From the Mat by Rolf Gates
Only when we act without judgment can we truly flourish in our lives. Yoga means becoming one. As long as we stand apart in judgment, we sabotage the opportunity for connection and integration that is yoga. So I encourage you: get into that canoe and ride with the river. Commit and don’t look back. Before our bodies can open, they must first let go; the clenched and guarded muscles must relax. But the mind must let go first.
When to read: during meditation
The Guest House by Rumi
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
When to read: at the start of the class or during Savasana
Quote from Najwa Zebian
They say that at some point you just learn to let go, I must disagree. If it just takes one moment to let go, then you never really held on tightly enough. To a dream. To a goal. To a place. To a person. To anything. I believe you let go little by little. You let go a little, then hold back on, but with a little less force until you fully release yourself. And the tighter you hold on, the more force you let go with. The deeper you dive, the higher you’ll fly. The closer you get, the further you’ll pull away. The weaker you feel, the stronger you’ll become. So, do not be ashamed of your weaknesses. We all have them. You must learn to be kind to yourself. You must believe in yourself. You must learn to understand yourself. Never think that you are a bad person. Differentiate between your self-worth and your actions. To say that you are bad is different than saying that you made a mistake. You can’t fix yourself, but you can fix a mistake. And remember, not one person on this earth is perfect. We all make mistakes. We all fall. We all have flaws. We just need to look within ourselves and treat ourselves as humans who are worthy of respect and hope. Do not give up on yourself. Get back up. Be brave. Be happy.
When to read: during Savasana
Allow by Danna Faulds
There is no controlling life.
Try corralling a lightning bolt,
containing a tornado. Dam a
stream, and it will create a new
channel. Resist, and the tide
will sweep you off your feet.
Allow, and grace will carry
you to higher ground. The only
safety lies in letting it all in—
the wild with the weak; fear,
fantasies, failures and success.
When loss rips off the doors of
the heart, or sadness veils your
vision with despair, practice
becomes simply bearing the truth.
In the choice to let go of your
known way of being, the whole
world is revealed to your new eyes.
When to read: during Savanasa
In Blackwater Woods by Mary Oliver
To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and where the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.
When to read: during Savasana
A Blessing by James Wright
Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more,
They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl’s wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
When to read: at the start of the class
She Let Go by Rev. Safire Rose
Without a thought or a word, she let go.
She let go of fear.
She let go of judgments.
She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head. She let go of the committee of indecision within her.
She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons. Wholly and completely, without hesitation or worry, she just let go.
She didn’t ask anyone for advice.
She didn’t read a book on how to let go. She just let go. She let go of all the memories that held her back.
She let go of all of the anxiety that kept her from moving forward.
She let go of the planning and all of the calculations about how to do it just right.
She didn’t promise to let go.
She didn’t journal about it. She didn’t write the projected date in her Day-Timer.
She made no public announcement.
She didn’t check the weather report or read her daily horoscope. She just let go.
She didn’t analyze whether she should let go.
She didn’t call her friends to discuss the matter.
She didn’t utter one word. She just let go.
No one was around when it happened. There was no applause or congratulations. No one thanked her or praised her. No one noticed a thing. Like a leaf falling from a tree, she just let go.
There was no effort. There was no struggle.
It wasn’t good. It wasn’t bad. It was what it was, and it is just that. In the space of letting go, she let it all be.
A small smile came over her face. A light breeze blew through her.
And the sun and the moon shone forevermore.
When to read: at the start of the class or during Savasana
You See I Want a Lot by Rainer Maria Rilke
You see, I want a lot.
Perhaps I want everything:
the darkness that comes with every infinite fall
and the shivering blaze of every step up.
So many live on and want nothing,
and are raised to the rank of prince
by the slippery ease of their light judgments.
But what you see are faces
that do work and feel thirst.
You love most of all those who need you
as they need a crowbar or a hoe.
You have not grown old, and it is not too late
to dive into your increasing depths
where life calmly gives out its own secret.
When to read: during Savasana
The Lake Isle of Innisfree by William Butler Yeats
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.
When to read: during Savasana
To Bless the Space Between Us
In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.
For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.
It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.
Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.
Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.
Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.
When to read: at the start of the yoga class, especially when there are more beginners
Beating Hearts and Butterflies by Christine Evangelou
I hope that the darkest nights of your soul
Give way to the glorious days of your spirit
I hope that through the shadows
Of those heart eclipses born of solitary evenings
A new life is born, and a change is set forth
I hope that you grant yourself the celestial passport
Your spirit has been yearning for
As you sweep into the deepest valleys of your soul
So you can gather the strength to soar to the highest mountain peaks
Breathing in the angelic essence of you
Fully, unashamedly, and unconditionally
I hope that you find the beat of your heart
In every flower, every meadow, every delight that your eyes can truly see
For it is within that beauty that your spirit lives
A conscious connection, a godly reflection
Of all natural, ethereal, fountains and springs
I hope that you can see beyond the clouds
To the sunlight that is waiting to peek its way through
Remember, the blanket of sky that keeps you warm at night
Is one of a silver, shimmering starry view
It is where you are held, always loved and at peace
A lustrous artwork of angels to whisper their magic as your heart speaks.
When to read: at the start of the yoga class
It Takes Courage (Author Unknown)
It takes strength to be firm,
It takes courage to be gentle.
It takes strength to conquer,
It takes courage to surrender.
It takes strength to be certain,
It takes courage to have doubt.
It takes strength to fit in,
It takes courage to stand out.
It takes strength to feel a friend’s pain,
It takes courage to feel your own pain.
It takes strength to endure abuse,
It takes courage to stop it.
It takes strength to stand alone,
It takes courage to lean on another.
It takes strength to love,
It takes courage to be loved.
It takes strength to survive,
It takes courage to live.
When to read: at any part of the class
Meditations Book Two by Marcus Aurelius
Begin the morning by saying to thyself, I shall meet with the busy-body, the ungrateful, arrogant, deceitful, envious, unsocial. All these things happen to them by reason of their ignorance of what is good and evil. But I who have seen the nature of the good that it is beautiful, and of the bad that it is ugly, and the nature of him who does wrong, that it is akin to me, not only of the same blood or seed, but that it participates in the same intelligence and the same portion of the divinity, I can neither be injured by any of them, for no one can fix on me what is ugly, nor can I be angry with my kinsman, nor hate him, For we are made for co-operation, like feet, like hands, like eyelids, like the rows of the upper and lower teeth. To act against one another then is contrary to nature; and it is acting against one another to be vexed and to turn away. Whatever this is that I am, it is a little flesh and breath, and the ruling part. Throw away thy books; no longer distract thyself: it is not allowed; but as if thou wast now dying, despise the flesh; it is blood and bones and a network, a contexture of nerves, veins, and arteries. See the breath also, what kind of a thing it is, air, and not always the same, but every moment sent out and again sucked in.
When to read: at the start of the class, or during Pranayama
Mental Health by Yrsa Daley-Ward
If you have made it past thirty
and if you haven’t yet,
rejoice. Know that there is a time
coming in your life when dirt settles
and the patterns form a picture.
If you dream of the city but you live
in the country
milk the damn cows.
Sell the damn sheep.
When to read: at any part of the class, particularly when students are going through rough time in their lives
Meditation readings for yoga enhance your yogic journey by withdrawing your senses from things that are out of your control. When you begin to withdraw your senses from external factors, only then can meditation start.