Modifications

Today I taught my first yoga class. Please don’t send the yoga police my way- if such enforcement exists- as I am not a registered teacher of yoga. But, as a long-time practitioner, I decided to offer a yoga rotation during our middle school “rotations” (once a week, students choose).

I can see that my teaching-learning-yoga connections are only going to grow as I experience the practice from the teacher side of the mat. After class we had a few minutes to talk. I asked the students how they felt about the class. Was it what they expected? Too easy? Too hard? Etc… One of the girls said that it was too easy for her. She does yoga and she is ready for more. She asked if it was ok if she did dolphin pose instead of down dog.

The beauty of yoga is that it is an individual practice. Modifications are built-in; it is differentiated learning at its finest because the learner self-monitors and takes cues from the work itself. No learner wants to be bored; teachers may fear that students will be lazy, but I believe that our nature is to strive for mastery and greater challenge. Yoga also recognizes that we are not the same each day. As I told my young students today, I notice that on days when my mind isn’t clear, when I am stressed or anxious, I often have a harder time balancing. The body reflects the mind and vice versa. Practicing balance in the body can help bring balance back to the mind. Should I be forced to balance as well today as I balanced yesterday? What if I feel that I need to do an easier pose today because I have other things happening- physically, mentally, emotionally- and I’m just not “there.” In yoga class there are no worries. No judgment. No competition. If I feel tired, I am allowed to curl up into child’s pose and take a break. I am not judged as disrespectful by the teacher if I am not doing exactly what the rest of the class is doing at exactly the same moment. Nor do I have to feel bored. Yoga always provides the next level. I could do yoga every day for the rest of my life and still be challenged.

I think there are implications here for teachers interested in tapping into the heart and soul of learning.

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