For the last couple months I have been teaching a weekly, 30-minute meditation at greenmonkey yoga, where I spend a couple hours per week teaching power yoga and also teach workshops and help facilitate the 200 hour teacher training.
Every month, I choose a new type of meditation to teach, and this month I broke from my usual traditional types of meditation and did something that has taken a deep hold on society the last year or so: coloring book meditation.
This meditation is nearly over, next week is the last class which will also mean we go back to traditional pranayama and chanting-based meditations. I haven’t written about any of the other meditations because this one truly surprised me. I definitely took a risk teaching this one: I could have been admonished for having students pay to just color (not that I work for the kind of company that admonishes it’s employees, which I definitely do not, but if bad feedback had come through from a student I could have heard something about what a terrible choice it could have been!) or people could have just not shown up, which, in the fitness world, is really the worst-case scenario.
To my pleasant surprise, this class did VERY well. I had quite a few people show up to take this class, and what really solidified this meditation choice as a great choice is something that occurred for one of my regular yoga students this week.
It was my student’s first time taking one of my meditation classes, and he was expecting pranayama, or breathing exercises, to make up the bulk of the class. He wasn’t far off from expecting that, because nearly every single one of my classes before this month have incorporated pranayama. In the yoga community here in Miami I have learned I have become the go-to yoga teacher from pranayama work, just because I emphasize it so much in my yoga classes and, since last year, I teach so many meditations, as well as teaching meditation and pranayama workshops and seminars for both greenmonkey yoga and Red Cheetah Yoga.
So when my regular yoga student asked about breathing exercises, I told him, “Not this month. This month we are coloring! We begin breathing again in April.” I saw his face fall when he realized his expectations were not going to be met, but I took it as the greatest of compliments when he reached for a coloring book to tear out a piece of paper.
The group on Tuesday was approximately 8 students. I had 2 full packs of 24 colored pencils, including the coveted metallic pencils. I had purchased 7 different coloring books so that all tastes and styles could be covered: flowers, mandalas, mendhi designs, animals, fairies, mermaids, and a gold foil book that had paisley, flowers, and inspirational quotes. Apparently I went a little crazy with the variety of books I chose…there were so many great options to choose from!
The 30 minutes flew by fast in class on Tuesday. Before I knew it I was calling out the halfway time, and I had more than halfway to go on the gold foil floral page I had chosen for myself. Everyone was so intently coloring that the only sound besides the Dustin O’Halloran radio station on Pandora the scratching of pencils on paper and the light tinkling sound of students searching for the perfect color among the pencils strewn across the floor. Everyone was focused and having a great time, sitting in relative silence and allowing our inner five-year-olds to have a field day with colors and pictures.
By the time I called the end of class, it was a struggle to get all the students off the floor to stand up for a photo to commemorate the class. Many of us stayed after and continued to color until we were complete, or as complete as we could be without staying on the studio’s floor until well into the night.
When I finally completed my piece, a couple students were still left, including my one student who had inquired about pranayama at the beginning of class.
He came up to me at the end and said, “At first I thought this was going to be stupid because you weren’t doing the breathing. But I really got into it! It gave me the focus I needed to get some other things done.”
Coming from one of my most regular students, this really elated me, and was an even better example of the benefits of this type of meditation than even I could have invented with my own imagination. Seeing his definite change from the beginning of the class, when he was so hesitant to explore the coloring books for his own meditation, to not wanting to put the paper down and seeing his eyes shine with appreciation and understanding, it was a fulfilling moment for me as both yoga teacher and meditation teacher.
Hearing that coloring in a coloring book has the power to help people regain their focus to complete projects and thus prioritize better, get more focused, and therefore live a more fulfilled life was something I, of course, knew was a possibility arising from any kind of meditation, but it was a relief to know that this was truly beneficial to my students lives when it comes to those parameters. I literally chose this meditation as an experiment, and, in keeping with my intent of making meditation approachable, achievable, and something that people will WANT to do, this definitely fits right in to all three of those values. And I am definitely relieved I hadn’t received any negative feedback about the content of the class itself!
Feeling very complete with this meditation experiment, I am so excited to teach the last class of this type, and then move on to the next type of meditation in April, which will definitely involve a return of pranayama.