Have you ever been to a yoga class? It is one of my favorite treats, though one I seldom get to indulge in. When I can't get to a yoga class, I prefer using my yoga apps over just making up poses as I go along. Two of my favorites are listed here, and click the image to be brought to more info. But a good yoga instructor can not be beat. As educators there is much that we can learn from yoga instructors to apply to the classroom.
- Breathe. Breathing is important, period, but when participating in yoga you can hurt yourself if you are not breathing properly. You can become dehydrated or lose your balance. When you get frustrated during a pose, what does the instructor tell you? To breathe. How valuable is that advice to our students? How often do we see them get frustrated when working on math problems, decoding words, or trying to understand what they've read? Imagine if we said to them, "Breathe. It will help you work through it, relax you, and keep your mind open to the possibilities." There are a variety of breathes in yoga, and each could have a specific purpose in the classroom.
- Do whatever you can today. The reminder of what we can do today does not dictate our success or failure as a yoga participant. What we can do today we may not have been able to do yesterday and may not be able to do tomorrow. Our minds and bodies bring different challenges each day, and that is okay. This is something that I love about yoga! Isn't the same true for our students? They could have had a bad night (or morning), gotten into a disagreement with a friend, or things have just been going wrong for them since they woke up. Their frame of mind impacts what they are capable of doing in the classroom. What they may have been able to do yesterday may be clouded by what happened just a couple of hours ago, making it difficult for them to concentrate.
- Listen to your body. Is it a good stretch or is it a strain? If it's a good stretch then stick with it and benefit from it. If it's a strain then realign your pose so it is a stretch. Huh. Is that math problem a good stretch for that kiddo or is it taxing for them? If it is just a stretch; they're capable of succeeding at it, but need to persevere, then let's encourage them to do that. If it's a strain; they are about to cry because they are so frustrating, how can they realign their practice, what tools could they use to help them be successful? It is important for our kiddos to know themselves as learners, identify what's going on with themselves as learners, and how to help themselves be successful.
- Give immediate feedback. The best yoga instructors watch as their class participates. They use a few words to realign a keep pose to keep their participants safe. They demonstrate what a pose should look like. They provide you with a peer model. The walk over and help you adjust into the pose. They tell you when your pose looks good, or what you are doing well in your pose. Your session is much better for it. And your body is thankful for it. We know how effective feedback is. We need to use it often when working with kiddos so that they can be successful.
- Smile. Laugh. Some of the best yoga instructors I have had infuse humor into the class. It is the best when they recognize a pose as particularly challenging. Yes, these instructors remind us to breathe, but they also make jokes or tell you to smile. Enjoy it. Get the benefits from the pose. Hmmm...imagine teaching our students that when something is challenging it is not to be feared or frustrating. It is to be viewed as beneficial and enjoyable. If your outside is showing that it is happy and having a good time, then your mind will see it as such. Having a hard time understanding that poem and you're ready to give up on it? Smile and keep reading.