Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Module 4 and Module 5

Module 4:
We concluded our energetic view and mechanical review of asanas over the last week. While in Module 2 we combined asanas on their anatomical elements, in module 4 we wanted to focus on the energetics of pose classifications such as forward bends, back bends, twists, balances (including arm) and inversions. We also viewed things from classifications such as seated, standing, prone, and supine, and noted the overlaps and differences in viewing poses as anatomical, directional/energetic, and by stance.

Our last week of asana review classes covered twists in seated and standing form and discussed the importance of spinal extension from both anatomical and energetic perspectives.

 After completing the Asana review sections individually, we were ready to review our overall categories and talk about the art of sequencing.

 Many traditions and schools have very strict rules regarding the sequencing. To begin we talked about sequencing from a variety of perspectives and examined where they contradicted each other.

Because we are reviewing yoga from a comparatist viewpoint, we examined the inherent contradictions in prescriptive sequencing. Absolutes like NEVER do this or ALWAYS do this are often teacher-centered and fail to account for what you are actually seeing in the moment. We evaluated the pros and cons of the following circumstances based on class level, student learning style, and type of yoga:

  • Repetition versus new sequences/poses
  • internal/external rotation
  • written "set list" (Apollonian) or on the fly-in the moment (Dionyssian)
  • challenging, complex earlier or later
  • balances earlier or later
  • duration of holds
  • level of detail in instruction
  • # of mods per pose
  • # of poses on one side
  • when to make changes in stance, mat orientation, etc
  • emphasis on transitions, poses, both?

We examined the recent sequencing mandates regarding internal and external rotation of the thighs, based in certain anatomical concerns that may or may be present in an individual student and the degree to which a given pose may cause instability or injury, and the ensuing and inherent contradictions in Ashtanga, Iyengar, and other lineages with this "external before internal" prescription.

Ultimately we concluded that blindly following any dogma (such as "never start with internal rotation", which is immediately undermined by beginning in tadasana or doing a Surya Namskara B) is less effective from a student-centered teaching perspective than developing an informed line of reasoning, circumstance by circumstance.

We discussed the energetic pacing of a class as being like telling a story. If we think of poses as words, it accounts for individual variation of form, as well as significance of word order. Ultimately, we want the student to leave with a particular feeling, thought, or perspective as well as a physical benefit.

However, it can be challenging to teach drop-in classes from a student centered perspective due to the vast amount of variability. We discussed how to use themes and webs to better address this problem and began the 'anxiogenic' process of learning to web thematically.

Module 5:
Following the challenges of Modern Postural Yoga sequencing, we discussed why we might want to approach sequencing, yoga teaching methods, and classroom management in the way we did.

We began with a contemplative savasana, partly informed by the emotional tensions created by the propr day's exercises. After this we discussed the roles of structure and creativity, and how the US education system has addressed these two poles historically. We considered ways in which we as learners have each been positively and negatively impacted within not only educational, but also social institutions, and what kind of samskaras we may have been taking into our practice as a result of these experiences.

We then went on to address the question of "What is Teaching?" We briefly went over modern educational theory from World War I to present, including characterizing theories and present-day impacts of Behaviorist, Humanist, Cognitivist, Constructionist, and Social Learning theories. Then we moved on to "What is Learning?" We introduced the ideas of Bloom's Domains, and discussed how only one of the three domains is generally addressed in Bloom's Taxonomy. We discussed SOLO (Structure of Observed Learning Outcome) in relation to Bloom and the stages of the learning process, particularly in light of Vygotsky's ZPD/scaffolding. We critically examined how the roles of the environment, socialization, and movement are rarely addressed in educational settings, and compared the theories of Reggio Emilia schools and Emergent Curriculum to present day education. We discussed the learning processes outlined compared to Kolb's Experiential Learning Model (ELM) and the importance of reflection and repetition. We moved on to Howard Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intellogences, including its shortcomings and present-day criticisms from cognitive and neuro- sciences. Lastly we discussed all of these theories together, and examined what we could take of value from each.

 Before moving on to the brain itself we had a reflective savasana-style meditation on the poem, The Hundred Languages. Following this we learned about the latest trends in neuroscience as they relate to yoga and learning, including UC Irvine's recent work with memory, James Zull's work in correlating the biology of the brain with Kolb's ELM, and played with the as yet unnamed Brain Cell (seen here with friends...) and our squishy brain model. We discussed the significance of repetition, opportunities for abstract hypothesis and testing, and the importance of environment and emotional state in the brain-body connection, even before conscious thought and mind come into play.

We returned to the prior day's webs and discussed the significance of webbing and non-linear thought in modern culture and neuroscience. We looked as examples of brain mapping and topology, mind mapping, ECE webbing, and other representational forms that utilize non-linear methods to creatively stimulate associations and connections we might otherwise overlook. We also discussed the value of this technique in creating both a big picture structure that can allow a teacher to scaffold and build upon prior knowledge, while still having options and directions for less skilled students or unexpected change of plans.

Lastly we reviewed the Kosha model and discussed how we might use that as a framework for teaching poses, and related our prior learning on brain-mind-body issues to learning styles, themes, and the many, many layers of teaching yoga.

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