Yoga as Science

Last week we had Lucia's seventh grade school conference. Lucia is getting an A in every class, including science.  But when I ask Lucia what she's studying or how it's going in science, she tells me that the classroom is totally out of control, that she's not learning anything and she can't describe what aspect of physical science her class is working on. I asked how in the world she's getting an A and she said that she retakes every test and redoes every homework. She does this during her lunch period when she should be farting around with her friends and getting a break.

When I expressed concern to her science teacher in an email, the teacher replied, "It's tough. I have 34 students and I do a lot of classroom management. Lucia is actually one of the really good students."

"But she's not interested in science." I wrote back. "She can't tell me what she's studying in science. and the only reason she's one of the 'good' students is because she spends all of her spare time redoing the works and she still isn't getting it."

The conversation hit a stand still and I'm still trying to figure out what I want to do next.

I'm proud of Lucia for getting straight As. But I could give a rat's ass that she's getting straight As if she's not learning anything. For girls, 7th grade is the time when they are most likely to abandon math and science, to proclaim that they aren't good at it, to eliminate it from their list of future career options. We have a book about women in science, women who changed the world with their discoveries----Marie Curie, Barbara McClintock, Shirley Ann Jackson, Rachel Carson. I'm bummed about Lucia's experience with science this year. Instead of being part of an environment where she is becoming curious, asking questions, uncovering mysteries, she is doing grunt memorization and busy work and dealing with a handful of kids who mess around during science instead of lunch.

We live in a culture that looks at the end product. What are your grades? What does your body look like at the end of your diet or exercise regime? What kind of house did your big job allow you to buy? Because yoga has become so commonplace and many people put it in the category of "working out," there's a risk that we can get caught up in this idea of achieving a final result with our yoga practice.

Yoga is a lifetime process. It is about finding ourselves through exploration. We do this through postures, through breath, through chanting and meditation. Some of us do all of this, others only pieces. It doesn't matter what you choose to be part of your practice. It matters that you practice. You do what works for you. It's easy to get caught up in the end product--- what your triangle posture looks like or how long you can balance in standing bow pose. But that's not the point. The point is to investigate and be curious about the process of your practice. Just like science. What happens if you don't practice in your favorite spot this morning? What would if feel like to take a totally different class than you usually take tomorrow? Would the world collapse if you gave that teacher you didn't like another try? Yoga is like a science project. Stepping onto your mat is stepping into the unknown. It's a time to abandon assumptions and expectations, to become curious about potential discoveries, to uncover information that could change your world.

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