For me, on September 28–the first day of my fall writing class–worlds will collide. Well, meet anyway. I’ll have 20 brand new university freshmen staring at me, ready to learn. They’ll be freaked out, stressed, full of uncertainty. They need help with their writing, and they’ll be looking at me to give it to them.
This term, my answer will be The Bhagavad Gita and portions of other texts (The Yoga Sutras, The Little Prince, Thoreau). I’m not saying I have an agenda, but I seem to have an agenda. They’ll be writing about yoga.
What’s funny about this is, of course, this is a writing classroom. It’s the negative image of the shala and my Ashtanga teaching: No asana involved.
It is true that I’ve tossed in a few postures during the course of the quarter before. Around midterms, students actually start complaining to me of physical pain, mostly in the back, shoulders and neck from sitting at a computer too long. We’ll do some standing shoulder openers and seated twists. If the class seems sleepy or lethargic, I may have them do switchychangyasana, and make them all move to a different desk—it gives them a new point of view.
But this doesn’t really count as teaching yoga. I’ve been re-reading The Gita, and the Yoga Sutras are fresh in my mind from my summer training. I’m faced with the fact that I’m going to have to help my students understand what the word “yoga” means in a very complicated way.
“Yoga is skill in actions,” Krishna says in The Gita, “ “Yogas citta vritti nirodahah,” writes Patanjali. This word goes untranslated into English. We think we know what it means. Or maybe it’s untranslateable. I’m thinking it may take me all term to work that out with my students.
I am, myself, more inclined to the yoga of study, to reading and quiet thinking. Learning to integrate my brain with my body has been my chief challenge in Ashtanga over the years, and it’s caused me to revise all that I thought I knew about who I am. I hope that through their writing, my students also learn a new way of thinking about themselves.
Posted by Bobbie