Learning Through Yoga

Yves Manou, Paris

Learning English out of the corner of the eye and ear through the simple practices of yoga is the experiment that Miss Micheline Flak has conducted for several years through four grades at Condorcet College, a renowned secondary school in Paris.

'Children today are continuously subjected to external dissipations', says Miss Flak. 'They are buffeted by the media and the various desires which are aroused in them. It is incredible how much their imaginative faculties are destroyed by the pictures of violence and all the advertising which they constantly swallow. The integration of yoga into the school discipline aims at bringing the child back, so he can tap his own potential energy source and thus increase his self-development. It also aims at training him not to succumb to the pressures of modern life which eat him up, but to control these pressures and learn to live with them.'

In the English class, a balance of energies is restored by a precise dosage of relaxation and awareness. Miss Flak herself uses yogic practices to relax in between the classes from the unavoidable tensions of the profession.

Students in the first and second grades, from eleven to twelve years of age, enter at once into this yogic game work. For one whole hour, through alternate exercises of relaxation and concentration, songs and skits, a number of English words are being assimilated. But the third graders are more reticent. 'Can we learn by such methods?' they ask. A few years in the teaching system have quickly impressed upon them the notion that work and boredom do inevitably go hand in hand. They can hardly believe that one can absorb English vocabulary through enjoying it.

Miss Flak has tested yoga at school, on the spot, with her intuition as a guide, and the strong conviction that only good could result from it. She has been encouraged from the start by Madame Buisine, the Headmistress of the college, who has led a campaign to explain yoga to the parents, as many feared it was a way of indoctrinating their children.

Today similar experiments are going on in Paris, as well as in the provinces and abroad. An association called R.Y.E. (Research on Yoga in Education) has been founded for the purpose of gathering and extending these experiments. Seminars are organised for all those who are in the teaching profession.

Swami Satyananda Saraswati, one of the main leaders of contemporary yoga, gave a lecture at Condorcet College on his recent visit to Paris. He congratulated the teachers for having adopted the age old yoga techniques for the children of the west.

(Courtesy Le Monde, Paris, 29.9.79)