Musings on Education & Yoga: Notes from bell hooks

This week, I’m reading the progressive English professor bell hooks’ Teaching to Transgress. She’s a wonderful writer and educator–clear, sensitive, articulate about learning. She uses her own grade school experience during desegregation to describe how students become disengaged from their education for various reasons. I was particularly moved by her description of the ideal learning environment, with teachers who practice what she calls “Engaged Pedagogy.”

“To educate as the practice of freedom is a way of teaching that anyone can learn. That learning process comes easiest to those of us who teach who also believe that there is an aspect of our vocation that is sacred; who believe that our work is not merely to share information but to share the intellectual and spiritual growth of our students. To teach in a manner that respects and cares for the souls of our students is essential if we are to provide the necessary conditions where learning can most deeply and intimately begin.”

Now doesn’t that sound like teaching yoga? But why not literature, chemistry, or philosophy?

Of course, not all yoga teachers are perfect. However, you are much more likely to hear this kind of fluid, thoughtful language in a yoga school. I’ve been  reading Christina Sell’s blog as she has explored  these issues in beginning her own yoga school. Why can yoga be so different from traditional education? Is it that we choose yoga, so we are ultimately engaged in this practice for our own enrichment? Does that make it easier for yoga teachers to embed their teaching in a system of values and student engagement? I don’t have answers, but I sense this is an issue that will continue to emerge in our classrooms and yoga studios.

Meditating on the souls of students,

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