top of page

yoga teachers: are we teaching presence or inviting dissociation?

Updated: Apr 2

In my last post, we took a look at what we’re actually trying to accomplish when we sit down to meditate. TLDR (too long, didn’t read?): Complete embodiment is impossible. Dissociation is normal and healthy. And mindfulness meditation is a means to train ourselves to be more embodied and present, which can have some pretty cool repercussions. This post is a continuation of that conversation for yoga and meditation teachers, or other practitioners who want to invite mindfulness into their practices.

As practitioners, one of our main goals is to help our students/clients to be stronger, calmer, and more resilient. We incorporate meditative awareness, breathing, and other tools into the practice because we know that the physical experience of yoga (or whatever discipline we’re engaging in) is beneficial, but that the mental and emotional skills cultivated can be even more important.

While our intentions are good, there are a few common pitfalls that we fall into as practitioners. Some of our most common cues and instructions can inadvertently encourage disembodiment or dissociation rather than teaching present-moment awareness, mindfulness or embodiment. While disembodiment itself is not a bad thing– in fact, it’s an important adaptive skill– we should be discerning about what we’re teaching, and why.

down-regulation isn’t always best

One of the key things we can recognize as practitioners is that down-regulation– that is, soothing, calming, or settling the nervous system– may not always be the best choice. Activation isn’t a bad thing. For example, consider the importance of being angry in the face of injustice; the necessary urgency of a parent protecting a child; or the joyful excitement of laughing with friends.