Also, sit up.

We’re still sticking with tadasana, only now we’re applying it to a seated position.

A boy seated at a desk, his feet on the floor, his spine straight, his hand in the air. If you take a look at it, a student sitting in classic “I’m Paying Attention” mode (shown above) shares a lot of physical characteristics with a yogi in seated meditation.  Additionally, both people have some deliberate brain activity going on.

Now, I don’t want to say that a muscularly engaged sitting position automatically equals a student who is paying attention and thinking. We’ve all met that student who works very hard to make it seem like ze’s paying attention but who is completely disengaged from the learning at hand. (Okay, okay. I have been that student a time or twelve.) Yoga doesn’t work classroom miracles, much as I wish it did.

That said, yoga can help create the conditions that make learning more likely. If students’ bodies are physically engaged while sitting at their desks, then it’s more likely that their brains will be engaged as well.

How To: Tadasana in a Chair

  1. Place your feet on the ground about hip distance apart. Align your knees so they’re directly over your ankles.
  2. There should also be a straight line from your knees back to your hips. If your legs are shorter, this may mean scooting forward in your chair a little and/or placing blocks or books under your feet to raise the level of the floor (though I don’t know how practical the latter option is in every classroom).
  3. Adjust your pelvis and bum so that you’re sitting on your sitting bones (the 2 bony knobs on the bottom of your pelvis) rather than back on your tailbone. If you’re explaining to kids, it may help to have them imagine they are cats or dogs: even when they sit, those animals never sit on their tails.
  4. When you’re sitting on your sit bones, your pelvis is in its neutral position. This will allow the low back to be relaxed and the vertebrae of the spine to stack on top of one another. The result is sitting up straight without having to work so very hard to sit up straight. That said, do engage your abdominal muscles just a little to support and protect your spine.
  5. Work on lengthening down through your feet and sit bones and up through your spine. Allow your neck and shoulders to be relaxed.

See it in action, from Expert Village via YouTube:

I don’t overtly use this pose with my students every day, particularly since I often have them moving and working in groups. I generally use it in one of three situations:

  1. For afternoon class periods, where I’m more likely to have students who are disengaged but squirmy (as opposed to in the morning when they’re more likely to be sleepy). In a situation like this, I want a “teacher tool” that’s engaging but also calming, so I’m more likely to choose this over a standing posture.
  2. When students are evaluating peer presentations or when there’s a guest speaker in the class — basically, when their Big Important Job for the day is to listen and pay attention.
  3. As a way to empower my students with more self-control. I teach them all this posture early in the year and tell them, ‘Any time you feel like your mind is wandering or you’re not paying attention, you can use this whenever you want to help your self focus again.”