In the past year I’ve discovered that there are many teachers who are stressed about a variety of things. For many it involves high stakes testing and tying their evaluations to the results of those tests. For others its a combination of raising a family, higher fuel prices, uncertain futures, children in college and more. I’ve been taking yoga classes locally and one at Bikram Yoga in Tempe, Arizona when I was on vacation this past February. I’ve found in all of this a relaxation and stress relief that not only works but also invites others to respond the same way. There are some in our society who classify Yoga as a religion and some go so far as to insinuate sinister forces in operation at its core. Those assertions are not grounded in reality but they do keep some from seriously investigating this practice and applying it to their own lives.
My approach to this discourse has been Franciscan. I have let my activity, actions, reactions and other people’s reactions to me be the testimony of my practice. I’ve found other Franciscans who practice Yoga too. Of much greater importance is a natural method to deal with stress and improvement of one’s life and the lives we touch each day. Who among us doesn’t witness the reactions of our pupils to these incessant high stakes tests. Add to that the normal stresses of growth and maturation and you have a climate that invites bullying and other negative behavior.
This year I used some simple practices like mindful breathing to reverse these conditions with students. Each class period we began with six deep breaths. This mindful moment focused the children and calmed them too. It provided a natural break between the excitement of passing from class to class to the learning environment and it brought more oxygen into their blood which helped them to be more alert and focused too.
Each day prior to class I spent a few minutes in downward facing dog and forward bends along with mindful breathing to help me relax and prepare for my time with the students. I know that this was reflected in my teaching and my other interactions with them each day. Recent interactions with some of my peers invited me to consider how I could share my experience with other teachers and encourage them to consider yoga for themselves and their students too.