In college, my Introduction to Education professor droned on and on about famous court cases related to education. At one point he tested us on what we memorized. I remember not caring–the privileged, entitled not caring of a college student too distracted by life’s changes to pay attention to the outside world.
Although I don’t have fond memories of his course, my Intro to Ed class definitely taught me that schools are affected by the courts–which is why I paid attention to Sedlock v. Baird, the yoga trial.
I’m not going to pretend that the yoga trial was nearly as influential as the first cases we memorized: Brown v. Board of Education (racial integration in schools) and PARC vs. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (free public education). It’s not. Having yoga in schools isn’t as important as having free public education available to all, equally.
So it’s not going to go down in the books as an important case in education. That’s okay.
The case was, however, important to me. I think yoga in schools is important, and I’m glad it’s going to stay.
During my first semester of middle school, I experienced insomnia. I was constantly worried about school: how kids treated me, if I could get my homework done, how to juggle multiple classes with different teachers, etc. I came home from school, and sat down and did my homework for hours. I was a sixth grade perfectionist. My mom says that one day I came home and said, “You know what? I think I can go outside and play for an hour and then do my homework.” It was an epiphany.
Eventually the insomnia subsided, but the anxiety about getting homework done never did.
It’s not that my school was overly pressuring or didn’t care about the whole person–I was in a fantastic Christian school system that cared about its students. In middle school and high school I regularly saw the guidance counselor. My parents were involved in my education. But the school didn’t connect the head to the body.
We had P.E. class. That’s where I learned how to play soccer and flag football and run an eight minute mile. We learned about hygiene and sex in health class. We learned about keeping the body pure as a temple of the Holy Spirit.
But we didn’t learn to have a relationship with our own bodies and didn’t learn about breathing and the incredibleness of the body and psychology. That’s what’s coming out of yoga research now. That’s how yoga is transforming my life.
I found yoga as a psychological tool when I was 25, when I thought I had failed God. At that point, yoga became a tool to help me manage and overcome depression. Now it’s a tool for self-care and spiritual discipline.
I wish I had yoga at age 11. If I had had an instructor teach me how to practice a calming breath, would that change how I approached my homework? I think so. I think it would have been awesome. Even more awesome would have been my Christian school teachers connecting it to the Breath of God–how the breath of God flows into me and out of me in every moment, giving me life and strength and calm. That God did not require perfectionism (that’s why God sent Jesus–see God’s covenant with Abraham, Genesis 15).
That’s what these instructors are doing: they’re teaching students life skills for mood management and physical and emotional self-care. I love it.
In sum–I’m thankful for this court case and the doors it keeps open for yoga in schools.