Doing Your Om-work

Elsummeronline06_3Looking at instruction through the yogic lens can put us in touch with why we teach.

Curling into cat pose, Deborah Summers noticed something in addition to her calm, regulated breathing and relaxed muscles. At least half of the people in her gentle yoga class were teachers.

On a broader scale, yoga is catching tread with more and more schools and educators. Summers, however, is more concerned with pedagogy than popularity, and she thinks the tenets of yoga practice make just as much sense applied in the classroom, as they do on a sticky mat.

Summers’ article, “Lessons from Yoga,” extracts core philosophies of yoga . . . setting intentions, personalizing practice, cultivating awareness . . . and reflects upon them as guideposts for instruction.

Summers found her center in relating yogic principles to the classroom. ASCD wants to know, Who’s your guru? Where do you find your source of enlightenment and reflection, as an educator?


  1. I am close to god when I am walking, singing, and dancing, particularly west african folk dance. I am closer when I am sitting still, in the silence of my patio, listening to the trees, and immersed in a good book. At this state, I have transcended the notion of reading. Some of my students have tried it and come back to me and told me they now know the difference between reading and immersion!!

  2. One of my influential yoga teachers said, “I am not here to teach you. I am hear to love you. The love will teach you”.
    I am able to be more reflective when I can drop into that loving place and ask myself whether I am truly supporting a particular student or pushing achieve a certain “result”. When my students feel loved they achieve miraculous things – sometimes these achievements are aligned to the curriculum. Sometimes what they achieve is much larger…

  3. Thank you for this article. In it I found a welcome corroboration of the discoveries I made for myself several years ago while leading an after-school yoga class at an alternative high school. Fairly new at being an English teacher, I looked everywhere for inspiration, but in no other place did I find as much of it as in my own classroom after 3:00 with the ten or so students who were taking my “Yoga and Health” class for make-up health credit). Not until I had modeled yoga poses, observed my students, then modified the poses to meet each student where he or she was did I truly understand the principles of differentiation. “Student-centered learning” was a prevalent buzzword; we new teachers were taught to steer away from too much teacher-centered, direct instruction. I did a lot of direct instruction in my yoga class, but it differed in substance and intention from the direct instruction we were trying to avoid. The students couldn’t engage without it. But they “did” while engaging with the direct instruction, which was the miracle of it. Simultaneously I modeled, I noted where the students were, the students “did,” I adjusted and adapted poses, and we all learned and benefited. The experience had a huge influence on my overall teaching practice.

  4. I find my source of inspiration as an educator when I am playing with my dog, watching young children learn new activities and repeat (and sometimes repeat alot) familiar activities and when I remember happy memories from my elementary days. I also find my source of inspiration from years spent in psycho-analysis, reflecting on a book or sermon with a friend, and talking about the state of the world with my husband. I realize that my inspiration comes through engagement with and observation of others. It’s about being involved in community.

  5. I fully agree that yoga causes us to be able to slow down our minds and focus on the most important things. Teachers are often so caught up in all of the preparations, materials, and plans, that we find it difficult to do what’s most important, to relate and make connections with the students.


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