Yoga as a Learning Tool

Yoga as a Learning Tool

Think back to your days in school. How were you told to study for an exam? Did your teacher drill the information you needed to remember? How were you expected to get through the year? How were you taught to learn?

Many of us live in a demanding society. We grow up believing we need to be the best. The best ballet dancer, the most gorgeous at school, the most popular in class, obtain at least 1 degree and preferably get a job with a title. 

We grow up in similar school systems, with similar rules, similar techniques, which apparently is ‘the way’ to learn.

We grow up thinking we need to work off our ass to be successful. But while we do, why do we feel like we fail time after time and see all the others blossom as if it were nothing?

‘’Why do some things seem so easy to others yet so difficult to us?’’

That same school system taught us in the same way, we more or less have the same understanding of the basic principles of life, but when I ask you your preferred way to learn, would you be able to tell me? Do you do what you want in life? Or do you feel stuck in society’s expectations of ‘who you should be’ and ‘the way it should be’

Let’s spill the beans…

There isn’t just one magical secret or superpower. 

But, you are not those others, you don’t learn the same way, and you probably don’t even want to follow their path. To become who you want to be and do what you want to do, you’ll need to reprogram the mind, find the things you find truly interesting and fascinating. 

How my failures lead me to yoga.

I was an eager student, a perfectionist, an extremely hard worker, and like many among us, driven to achieve. I couldn’t stand failure, I didn’t allow myself to make mistakes, and was easily defeated when I didn’t pass a test. 

My personal expectations were high, my tolerance low, and it took its toll.

I was good at languages, but terrible at maths, science, and biology. The interest wasn’t there, I hated it, and not because of the teachers, but because I was part of that system. The system that taught us to write summaries, drill new terms, and forced us to pass exams. 

Though however hard I tried, the material didn’t stick with me and I got stuck in negative self-talk, damaged self-esteem and a pessimistic belief system. I kept comparing myself to others and didn’t appreciate what I did have going for me; still wanting to be better, greater, more. 

Not until I started practising yoga, did I slowly get out of my comfort zone. Even though in the beginning I tried showing off, my teacher’s words soothed my competitiveness and perfectionism, and I suddenly saw that it is ok not to be good at everything. It’s okay to fail and rest.

‘’Gradually, I changed my perspective and started to focus on only the things I was truly interested in; language and yoga.’’

I discovered a new world packed with science and biology. I suddenly liked anatomy, historic texts, and philosophy. I discovered that focusing on the things that excite and intrigued me sped up my learning process. I was attentive to each detail and the best part was, I could actually use it in my life. 

As an English teacher, I stepped away from teaching the system and instead focussed on finding out about the student’s interest. I help them find their core values, passions and goals in life. And surprisingly enough, when we dig deep, grammar, spelling, and sentence structure isn’t always their priority. What they do want, is to be able to communicate, make themselves understood, recognize themselves, and find a personal comparison in their learning process/material. 

Because in the end, when learning anything, we want to be able to use it at work, when speaking to our friends and use it in our day-to-day life, right? 

What we need is to step away from the way you were taught to learn, forget what we know, create curiosity for new learning techniques, let go of fear, and do the things we want to do with confidence, as if we already know what we’re doing.

Reprogramme Your Mind For Effective Learning

Imagine yourself sitting at your desk, reading multiple texts, writing notes or essays, watching instructional videos, listening to your teachers for hours and hours. At the end of the day, how much of that information do you really remember? Let’s say 10, maybe 20%? 

After a day like that: we’re saturated, the mind is overloaded, and we feel overwhelmed. And still, we ask ourselves why it’s so hard to remember new information and apply it to our lives.

Let’s look at some examples.

This is my number one focus technique, and the greatest lesson from meditation and yoga. 

It’s a tool. A tool to process, reflect, digest, and memorize. If you’re not used to moving your body between tasks, it might sound strange, or even uncomfortable. You’re in the flow, want to get things done, but ask yourself, after those hours, how productive have you actually been? 

Mind stimulation requires you to focus, it requires your attention and concentration. But as studies show, (nowadays) after only 25 minutes, the mind gets tired and literally stops saving new information. Instead of keeping your eyes on the screen, give your mind a break and let the body benefit from movement. Now, I like to practice yoga, but really this can be anything. Get up and go for a walk, do a little stretching, stand up and shake it out, anything that works for you. And, it doesn’t require a lot of time, even a 5 minute ‘move your butt’ break can do wonders. 

After moving the body, your mind is charged to be stimulated again. 

Now, it’s easy to fall into that same trap; we’re programmed, we have our habits, and unlearning something is way more complicated than learning something new. 

Learning something new, however, stimulates the mind in a more effective way. Provoking yourself to try new things, finding new ways of registering information, being playful and easy on yourself causes new activity in the brain. When the brain acknowledges this new activity it’s as if it wakes up. Waking up the brain helps you to create healthy challenges, be playful, and focus better. 

Your turn!

Say that you’re learning Camel Pose. I personally didn’t like camel pose, until I started analyzing. 

A camel is an animal known for its humps. What colours do they have? What do you think they smell like, their hair feels like, they sound like? Where do they live? What do they provide life with? Have you ever seen one? In what way is a camel relevant or even relatable to you? 

When you get into camel pose, what body parts do you use? In what way are they connected? Do you know any poses that are similar? Can you do camel pose seated, standing or lying down? What happens in the body when you do so? Are they still called the same name?

Maybe you know a song about camels, maybe you’ve seen one in a film? Explore the word, explore the pose, explore its definition and what relevance it has to you. 

This way, next time you get into camel pose, you’ll remember and probably have more fun doing so.

Variable repetition 

I get bored easily, and once something goes well, I tend to move onto the next. However in yoga, and when learning new things repetition is a must. We need to repeat the matter to memorise and understand it fully.

So what about finding those repetitions in the things you don’t like or are bored of. Let’s go back to the camel pose. You’ve now practiced it for a while. Maybe you can even get your hands to your heels, but still feel uncomfortable dropping your head back. 

It’s easy to get stuck when repeating, as the mind gets used to doing something one way. The mind is programmed to set us up for automation. But let yoga be your tool to reprogramme the mind.

  • Try new asanas before and after camel pose.
  • Try a class with other teachers, listen to their vocabulary, instructions and ways of explanation. 
  • Try new techniques, find a book, browse the internet, or ask your yogi friends.
  • Stay curious, and look for something new, practise for yourself and instead of placing the palms down, bring your fingertips up; find what way works for you!

In the end, I believe that you can learn anything. Whether it be a pose, a language or some mathematical structures, as long as you can find personal relevances and experiences, it’s easier to remember than if they’re just facts.

Now here's where your transformation starts.

  1. Click here to receive the worksheet with journal prompts for self-exploration and transformation.
  2. Carve out some time this week you can sit down, think, reflect, and really take the time to get to your most honest answers.
  3. Let us know your new insights, goals, and who you hold yourself accountable to from now on, OR find an accountability partner in our FB community!

No comment yet, add your voice below!


Add a Comment