Monday, January 25, 2016

Teaching and learning about life

While cleaning up my desktop, I found this entry that I wrote just before Christmas.  Fighting off a cold at the start of break followed by celebration after celebration, caused me to overlook this piece of writing.  As we are getting back into the swing of things in January, I thought this was a good time to share my reflection on teaching elementary and teaching yoga.  Enjoy!

I don’t often write about my experiences in the elementary school classroom for several reasons.  One of the reasons is that is not the focus of this blog. Another reason is preserving my students anonymity. However I can’t resist sharing the lessons of this afternoon with you.  No names will be used to protect the identity of the innocents! 

As a conclusion to our study of Ancient India, I felt the need to share some yogic principles with my class (as a yoga teacher how could I teach about India for 6 weeks and not include a single mention of yoga, believe it or not it really doesn’t come up in the textbook.)  We learned a Sanskrit chant for peace, practiced several asanas (poses), and discussed some of the philosophical aspects. Finally I had students cradle their heads in their arms and rest on their desk as I led them through a 3 minute guided meditation.  As they emerged from their meditation, stretching their arms and yawning, one student claimed she had nearly fallen asleep.  Another demanded that I make an app of my voice because she thought others would want to experience my calming words.  One boy actually returned after dismissal time to thank me for the meditation lesson and to say that he really enjoyed it. 

What did this experience teach me?  While the kids had fun with the asana practice and moving through the poses and they enjoyed learning the Sanskrit and chanting, their biggest response was to the meditation. Many of them dove right in, closing their eyes, welcoming the rest.  A few fidgeted, needing permission to surrender their pencils and books, needing assistance to clear their space and make a comfortable spot to rest.  One or two eyes fluttered nervously not knowing if a classroom was a place where eyes could be closed and one’s guard could be let down.  Eventually they all got there.  Audible breaths, still bodies, and while I’ll never know what was going on in their little heads… Did they see the peaceful hillside with the tree I described?  Were they counting their inhales and exhales as I instructed?  Many probably were and a few may have followed their own imaginations.  Some might have been thinking to themselves, this is pretty cool, I feel so calm. While others might have thought, what one earth is she talking about, this lady is crazy! 

Similarly when I lead a yoga class through savasana at the yoga studio, I hope my words inspire and guide them to a place of calm.  Some students are on their backs ready for deep meditation before you finish saying the word savasana. While others shift and rearrange, trying to get comfortable and still.  I imagine some are hanging on my every word and are completely into the experience and others may be thinking, "What is this lunatic going on about!"  The point is, we never know what is truly going on inside the mind of another human.  Our endeavor to try to understand someone else’s experience is one of the challenges and privileges of a life well lived.  Opening our hearts and minds to attempt to understand a journey other than our own, that is what yoga teaches.  That and so much more.  

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