Saturday, September 10, 2011

The 10 Steps to Wisdom

On Thursday I introduced the yamas & niyamas to my students as "The Ten Steps on the Path to Wisdom." Not only did they love trying to pronounce the Sanskrit, but they also totally bought into following these steps to wisdom.  
After discussing ishvari-pranidhana, one scholar asked: "What if you're trying to be respectful to an adult, but they're not respecting you back?" I opened his question to the class and {just as I hoped} a young lady answered "you should use restraint and acceptance/contentment!"
To leave off, here's an excerpt from a student essay - a young lady who clearly has a deep practice of svadyaya...

Satya - Truthfulness 
          I will use "satya" because I have a habit of not telling the truth. However each lie led to another one. Truthfulness to me is a big thing but I'm afraid of admitting my wrongful actions. This will help me in life because I want to be someone who is trusted. 

Here's hoping that all of my little scholars {and me, too!} will find their footsteps on the path to wisdom...
om gam ganapataye namaha!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Om Namah Shivaya...

Shiva Nataraja, lord of the cosmic dance; through the flames of destruction come new beginnings.

Today I was a student in the yoga classroom and it wasn't necessarily a lesson I enjoyed.

I thought I'd understood the symbolism of Shiva Nataraja. Sure, I'd spent a few months unable to walk and gained some personal insights, but my legs were not destroyed - just on hiatus. I'd made it through a huge obstacle, but little did I know - I was far from dancing in the flames.

This morning I shuttled a shopping cart loaded with four years worth of lesson plans, book baskets, portfolios and other various school supplies back and forth from the school that had always been my home to the rival school just a few blocks down the road.

To say that I felt emotional at leaving my family behind was an understatement, but for the most part I was giddy about what lay ahead. Until, that is, I ran into a close friend and mentor who couldn't even bear to look at me. Suddenly, I wasn't dancing in those flames, which I had taken such great pains to light in the first place - I was burning up and grasping at the ashes.

Like a sacred security blanket, the mantra popped into my head... om namah shivaya... and I remembered how Shiva smiles as he dances in the flames of destruction, making way for a new beginning.

I might not be smiling about it just yet, but I'm also not going to keep questioning whether this move was a practice in satya (living my truth) or selfishness... Lesson well-learned: I lit this fire and now by god, right or wrong, I'm going to dance in it.

I think that 90's alternative song said it best: every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end...

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Yoga Classroom Rules

When Patanjali prescribed his 8-limbs of yoga, what were the rules he gave us for existing in the great, big yoga classroom of life? The yamas & niyamas. But is there a place for them in my 6th and 7th grade English classes? I'll let you know, but that's how my wish for a yoga classroom was born...

This morning as I forced myself through yet another chaturanga and wondered whether I was practicing tapas (discipline) or pushing too hard when I was just plain tapped out (a blog post for another day, perhaps?), my mind started to wander: tapas... now that would be a good one for my students... keep writing until the timer goes off, remember your tapas! As I pushed back, downnnward facing dog, I went through each of Patanjali's inner and outer observances and by the time I was inhaling - arms to the sky, I had forgotten about my tired body, chucked mindfulness out the window and was giddy over how well these "yoga rules" would fit into a junior high school classroom.

Before I share my take on the yamas & niyams, the red flags -

try as I might to justify it to myself, there is just no room for ishvaripranidhana in a NYC public school. Imagine the backlash from parents when they sign a student contract including a rule that sounds something like "devotion and surrender to god". While it might be an interesting twist from the tiring retort of "because I'm the teacher and I said so" (Now ____. god wants you to write this essay so just do it and offer the fruits up to your higher power), I'm not willing to try this one out just yet. Wonder if this could become "Ms. F is always right"? That's not my ego talking or anything...

brahmacharya - I can't lie; I whole-heartedly wish that all of my students would practice a little more sexual restraint, but it's not exactly something I want to post up on the wall for administrators to take notes on during observations. There is room, though, for restraint in the classroom - restraint from calling out, restraint from angry outbursts, etc and then when things get a little too spicy between students I can always slyly remind of them of brahmacharya *wink wink* and hope they catch my drift.

Yoga Classroom Rules - An Addendum

*Ahimsa: Non-Violence/Kindness
*Satya: Truthfulness
*Asteya: Non-Stealing (this counts for plagiarism, too!)
*Brahmacharya: Restraint (raise your hand; think before acting!)
*Aparigraha: Non-Greediness (sharing is caring!)
*Saucha: Cleanliness (yourself & your work area, please!)
*Santosha: Contentment/Acceptance (be ready for anything and then smile about it!)
*Tapas: Discipline (follow the rules, be prepared, be on time, take responsibility!)
*Svadhyaya: Self-Study (goal-setting, reflection/meta-cognition)
*Ishvaripranidhana: Respect for school authority figures (we have your best interest in mind, promise!)

What I'm struggling with is whether I should keep or ditch the Sanskrit. I do think it adds a quirky yogic-ness to what are otherwise some pretty basic, boring rules, but I don't know if it crosses the line into "Ms. F is just too weird" territory. Thoughts?