Contributed by Molly Jones, English Through Yoga Teacher, ILSC-San Francisco
In my English through Yoga class I don’t assign homework. I don’t require a number of pages read per day, or even that they write me a polished essay of sorts. What I do require, is an open mind and the courage to stand in front of your peers and walk them through the process of a challenging Asana, or series of poses. They develop the skills to listen, to internalize what they are taught, and then to reconstruct it in a form that is uniquely their own. By taking a presentation-heavy approach, I am encouraging my students to use the years and months of hard earned English skills in a distinctive format: Public Speaking. One of my students, Aim, was so excited by the idea, that even as I was explaining the project, she got up out of her seat, looked at me and started demonstrating some simple poses! This is the way I want my classes to go.
All of my students have their own reasons for attending an language school like ILSC, and it is essential that our course offerings reflect those motivations. For many, working with other people from overseas is a big draw; for others, being able to attend (and understand) lectures at an English speaking university is critical. The fundamentals of grammar, and other more traditional classroom activities are essential to learning the basics of reading and writing, but does that truly encompass what it means to communicate in English? For many, the answer is definitely Yes! For others, a different approach is necessary. As with many things, there is always more than one correct way to accomplish a task. For me, English Through Yoga is a viable and flourishing path to take.
When I first started working with ILSC in San Francisco, there was one class that I wanted to teach: English Through Yoga. I imagined the poses we would achieve, the no-handed headstands, and the bound side crows; what I didn’t imagine was the frivolity and freedom that a class full of beginner Yogis and Yoginis offered to my English students. In Yoga, there is no right way, or even a best way. There is only the way that fits your body best. This approach to loving yourself, regardless of the human-pretzel next to you, not only inspires others to work harder at achieving a difficult pose, but it also inspires my students to approach their classwork with a new vigor.
Yoga is also a complete body workout, and as a result, the course teaches students how to speak about their body in a way that is much more meaningful and complete than singing Heads Shoulders Knees and Toes. Students have to learn about specific body parts, and learn how to communicate about common feelings: soreness, tightness, flexibility, strength. Yoga is a communal practice – students who learn enough Yoga to go to community classes will be putting themselves in learning situations outside of class; and isn’t that what we, as teachers, are ultimately trying to achieve?