Be The Yoga You Teach: Equity and Justice in Trauma Informed Practices

This morning, I saw this tweet by Paul Gorski challenging us to think about how an equity and justice based approach to trauma-informed practices in schools might look different from common approaches not grounded in equity understanding.

Since becoming a Staff Development Teacher seven years ago, I have learned so much about race, equity, and social justice.  I’m still learning. And confronting.  I work to confront my own biases on a daily basis.  This, I believe, is the first step in our work on equity and justice practices within schools.

“Be the yoga you teach”

This afternoon, I viewed the next module in my online course, “Trauma Informed Yoga for Youth” and learned about their philosophy.  The internal practice of yoga is based on one principle: “be the yoga you teach.”  According to Yoga Ed, “practicing the yoga tools and life skills we wish to nurture in our students allows our work to emerge from an authentic place. The internal practice allows us to utilize yoga tools to empower our teaching.”  In order to “be the yoga we teach” the focus is on building the five pillars of our internal practice: self-awareness, authenticity, curiosity, self-compassion, and empathy.  

I immediately connected with the idea of embedding an equity and justice approach into two of the five pillars of internal practice: self-awareness and authenticity.

Self-awareness is the state of consciously being aware of thoughts and feelings.  When we work with children, we may encounter specific words or actions that cause us to react strongly. These triggers are often connected to our own unresolved emotional experiences from childhood. 

Being self-aware is where we begin the work on our implicit biases.  In this Teaching Channel blog post, guest blogger and author of Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain, Zaretta Hammond explained that, “one of the nation’s leading implicit bias scholars, Patricia Devine of the University of Wisconsin, compares implicit bias to habits that, with intention and practice, can be broken.”  She goes on to explain three conditions needed to successfully “de-bias.” 

  • Intention – the acknowledgement that we harbor unconscious biases and the motivation to change
  • Attention – pay attention to personal triggers and know when stereotypical responses or assumptions are activated
  • Time – make time to practice new strategies designed to “break” your automatic associations that link a negative judgment to behavior that is culturally different (my emphasis) from yours

Cultivating self-awareness in our teaching allows us to recognize our own past experiences and reactions as they are triggered. This awareness empowers us to shift from a place of reactivity to a place of clarity, where we move through our own past to recognize the present experiences of the children in front of us.

According to Yoga Ed, “authenticity fuels self-awareness. To live authentically means to be truthful and open to what is happening in the present moment. By practicing authenticity with ourselves, we honor our thoughts and emotions internally so we are able to monitor and express them effectively. By practicing authenticity in the classroom, we cultivate a safe environment for our students to explore what it means and how it feels to be authentic.”  To me, the pillar of authenticity aligns with Glenn Singleton’s “Speak your truth” agreement from Courageous Conversations About Race

I like when two pieces of my learning life come together into an “aha” moment.  Building my understanding around equity and justice within trauma informed practices is just another piece in my learning puzzle.  I’m going to continue to ask questions and confront issues of equity and justice, especially as my school begins to incorporate trauma informed practices such as yoga, mindfulness, and restorative justice.

©2019 by Dawn Little for My Learning Life. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

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