by Debby Neely, sixth grade
When I came to Moses Brown School twenty-eight years ago, I brought my interest in yoga with me. I was introduced to yoga in the early 1970’s and immediately noticed how breathing could change my response to things. Calming my own breathing, and focusing on that, brought me to a sense of my own control over a situation. The ancient yogis said that breathing is a thousand times more important than movement. It’s no wonder to me that breathing is now used as a method to quell post-traumatic stress in soldiers. Middle school students may find it daunting to own their responses and responsibilities, but their mindful awareness of breath can be a friend in times of stress.
The movement of yoga has been meaningful to me, too. I have peppered my room with pictures of yoga poses: impossible contortions, or daring to dream that we can push ourselves and make the impossible accessible? I’ve always hoped the children would imagine the latter. As we move and practice, gently, our spines elongate and flex, the muscles slowly move and we can extend, relax and have mastery over ourselves in ways we thought impossible.
It is always a shock to the children that in the midst of creating active verbs or composing metaphor, I would say, “Now let’s do some yoga.” We create with our bodies, too. Our brains and our bodies are inextricably linked. We breathe, we move, we stretch and our minds relax. Sometimes that’s enough to jog the creative process. Recently I’ve been pondering a new concept: that yoga is “undoing,” undoing the stress and striving, the competitive edge and forcing ahead of daily life.
We can lie down and breathe and be. Even in English class.