In the movie “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” which is set in the 1970s, main character Ron Burgundy takes up the new fad of jogging. His friends think he is crazy. While younger viewers might find that reaction absurd, there really was a time when the sight of someone running past you would make you ask, “Where’s the fire?” Decades later, jogging is so widely accepted as exercise that if you asked people to name a common means of exercising, jogging would be one of the first to come to mind.
Similarly, meditation these days is more recognized and widely practiced. But it won’t truly become mainstream until more yoga studios and gyms include meditation instruction on their schedules. And there are numerous practical considerations for holding a regular meditation class in the same location where we exercise our bodies. Let’s consider a few.
Meditation these days is more recognized and widely practiced. But it won’t truly become mainstream until more yoga studios and gyms include meditation instruction on their schedules.
Just as science has confirmed the health benefits of jogging, recent research into meditation suggests its benefits may make it something of a fitness regimen for the brain. There are over 3,000 scientific studies suggesting that meditation is good for us—with too many benefits to list them all here. The following, however, would be more than enticing to any yoga student interested in health and longevity: increased vitality, lowered blood pressure, higher levels of the anti-aging enzyme telomerase, growth in the thickness of the pre-frontal cortex, increased immunity, lowered heart rate, stronger neural connections, better sleep, and greater relaxation and happiness. We can think of meditation as a way to “flex” the brain so that, like a muscle, it grows stronger with use.
Yoga studios and gyms are perfectly positioned as one-stop locations for the health conscious to care for the inside as easily as the outside. Meditation is for everyone—even the type-A gym junkie. And keeping everything in one location minimizes the driving, parking, and preparation.
Making meditation more accessible to everyone often means holding classes in a neutral location, without connection to particular beliefs. Many people are not comfortable entering a Zen center or ashram for meditation instruction.
Also, it is simply not true that meditation demands a perfectly quiet environment. Alan Watts, Western philosopher and author of The Way of Zen, wrote, “If you can’t meditate in a boiler room, you can’t meditate.” Of course, beginners might need a slightly more conducive environment, and a yoga studio or fitness center can be the perfect place for them to explore meditation within a class of other curious seekers.
All yoga classes can give clients an element of inner peace, but they may need additional stress relief at times. After all, stress can start to build again after class as soon as the phone starts ringing while one is trying to find the car keys in the bottom of the gym bag. Not to mention the to-do list, which only gets longer as the day progresses.
According to The American Institute of Stress, numerous emotional and physical ailments are linked to stress. Even the most fit and flexible among us may suffer from stress-related disorders such as anxiety, insomnia, fatigue, headaches, and skin conditions.
Meditation can be the ultimate stress reliever, available to us at any time of day, making it an essential life skill. As Steve Ross puts it, “The peace from daily meditation flows into the rest of your day and transforms your life.”
A guided meditation class can lead us gently into a peaceful, relaxed state—expanding our imagination, intuition, gratitude, and happiness, and bringing us back into balance. Once clients have begun to experience those effects, their lives become more relaxed. They will be calmer in situations that used to trigger stress, and they will return to class for more. Gyms and studios will likely find that adding a meditation class to their schedules creates a new success, and their participating clients will have gained a priceless stress-management toolkit.
The truth is that many people have only a vague idea of what constitutes meditation, believing the myth that it necessitates shutting down the mind or that it just means concentrating really hard on something. They may also see it as a religious practice, paying money to just take a nap, or just a boring waste of time. Many also simply believe they cannot do it.
It is the job of the health practitioner to educate the fitness-conscious public on the benefits of meditating. Part of the service they provide should be to help clients understand the latest research supporting the practice of meditation. Too many advertise a holistic wellness approach but without offering meditation classes.
Encouraging gyms or yoga studios to offer meditation classes as part of their healthy lifestyle options can be as easy as chatting with the owner about our interest in building our brains as well as our muscles. Maybe ask about a move-and-meditate class that begins with a shorter series of poses followed by a brief meditation. We want to create not just a leaner, healthier physique but a happier whole person, inside and out.
When approaching a studio, remind the owner that yoga goes hand in hand with meditation. The Vedic etymology of the word “yoga” is “to join” or “to unite,” and we believe that to be the union of mind, body, and spirit. Adding a meditation class would allow us to complete our yogic experience.
The bottom line is that it is difficult to encourage and facilitate peace around us and in the world unless we ourselves are peaceful. Maybe this is what Mahatma Gandhi meant when he said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Think of meditation as our contribution to world peace, helping to spread peace by making meditation truly mainstream. Ask the owners of gyms, fitness centers, and yoga studios to set the trend, helping us to transform not only our physical bodies, but perhaps the whole world—one peaceful meditation class at a time.