Friday, January 29, 2016

Yoga for Teachers and School Professionals – Rationale and Methods

school professionals
By Kathryn Boland

Do you teach teachers or other school professionals? If you haven’t, have you considered marketing yourself to such students? I have various private yoga students, from all different backgrounds and professions. In particular, however, I seem to work with several teachers and other school professionals – not in any branding/self-marketing attempt of my own, but just somehow by the luck of the cards. I have noticed several commonalities (as well as differences) in these students – such as in why they come to yoga, what they gain from it, and ways in which I can adjust my guidance in yoga practice to best serve them. 

One of these students, for instance, is a middle-school science teacher.  She came to yoga as a method of healthy physical exercise, but which is much more than just that – a form that also benefits our cognitive, emotional, social, and spiritual selves. On the other hand, she is a scientist, and therefore reluctant to commit herself to things that lack support from rigorous, empirical research. Yoga not only has a history of thousands of years of development and refinement, but a growing body of 20th and 21rst century research that bears out its healing and empowering benefits. 

School professionals range from scientists like her, to literature and language specialists, to historians, to mathematicians. Whichever discipline such professionals have extensively dedicated themselves to learning about (as is necessary to teach others), yoga has something for them to latch unto. For instance, literature/language professionals can find a relating point in texts such as the Yoga Sutras and The Bhaghavad Gita. Historians can delve into yoga’s very interesting, deep, and yet-unfolding history. The body bends and shapes into geometric shapes and angles through yoga practice, something to help mathematicians gain interest in and learn about the practice. All of that goes to show how we might be able to market yoga practice to school professionals, as well offer verbal instruction and other class offerings  – such as in analogies, images, and selected readings – that they can relate to. 

Benefits For School Professionals

What can school professionals gain from yoga practice? All of the advantages that anyone can, but a few offerings in particular that can incredibly beneficial. Schools can be very chaotic environments, with many young ones’ emotions and behaviors stuffed into often all-too-small buildings. Teachers must balance helping children to meet their socio-emotional needs with teaching them to ever-increasing educational standards (“teaching to the test”). Administrators must balance meeting students’ and faculty/staff needs with ever-tightening budgets. Violence and turmoil can reign, particular in low-income and inner-city environments. 

I remember how that same science teacher, in a recent session, felt very grateful that I started our lesson with a long, restful Child’s Pose; she told me that “there was a fight at school today, and the cops came – so I’m a little shook-up.”Yoga practice can offer a calm space after those types of days in educators’ lives. It can offer consistency and balance, when their workdays might feel so apart from those things. Physically speaking, teachers go from standing for long periods lecturing to sitting for long periods (with such tasks as correcting papers and designing lessons plans). In that same sense of balance, yoga can offer their bodies a more integrated equilibrium of rest and work. It can also train them in elements such as healthy alignment, weight-bearing (carrying heavy books, anyone?), posture, and use of their breath/voice. 

We as yoga teachers can offer practices that particularly target these factors in teaching educators through offering a blend of yin and yang energies in our sequencing and pacing (unless students strongly desire otherwise, or if medical reasons lead one to prevail over the other). We can help students to feel elements such as how they hold their weight while standing through keying into alignment in Warrior Postures, Mountain Posture, and countless others. Even seated postures such as Dandasana (Staff Posture) and Virasana (Hero’s Posture) can cue educators into the nature of their postures, and learn what adjustments might be beneficial for them. 

Concerning the throat and voice, Simhasana (Lion Posture) can be a great stretch for throat and neck muscles that are strained from hours of lecturing. With weight-bearing, cues such as spreading the hands wide and placing weight throughout them when they bear weight, as well as finding micro-bends in the knees in certain postures to avoid straining ligaments, can help teachers understand how to be gentle on their bodies through the demands of their active work days. In my view, helping to guide this class of professionals to their greatest possible well-being is important because they have in their hands a precious resource – the next generations of humankind. 

Those whom they teach and guide will shape the world of the future – one that will be  peaceful or fraught with turmoil, where we will nurture the environment or degrade it, and so on and so forth. In a related point, exposing teachers and other school professionals to yoga also offers a gateway to exposing schoolchildren to the practice. More and more research is showing that the practice can be incredibly advantageous for youth, in many ways - even in helping to raise test scores! 

For instance, another student of mine who is a school psychologist referred me to the physical education department at her school. In fact, considering marketing to school professionals, we can connect with such school departments as well as teachers’ unions. In any case, there will always be youth and those who guide and teach them for a living. We yoga instructors can offer our expertise in order to help them do their jobs with more skill and grace, and to help them live fuller lives. For sure, we can offer something great by teaching the teachers! 

© Copyright 2016 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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