Yoga in the Classroom: New Approach to Mindfulness

jodie

Professor Mandel

By Tatiana Solomon

Communication Professor Jodie Mandel brought traditional yoga to College of Southern Nevada in hopes of decreasing anxiety in her students taking speech classes.

“I hope to share the gift of yoga by bringing faculty and students together to practice it on campus and helping them understand that yoga is so much more than putting your body in weird shapes,” Mandel said. “That is such a tiny part of what yoga is. It is an entire philosophical, ethical, and practical system for living and acting in the world.”

Yoga is an ancient art based on a harmonizing system of development for the body, mind and spirit. Practicing it can lead to a sense of peace and well-being.

Mandel, professor at CSN for the past 12 years, said that incorporating yoga theory into the curriculum of her public-speaking courses can help students feel more at ease when taking these classes, which typically have high fear factor.

Last year Mandel embarked on a sabbatical to discover yoga more in-depth in hopes of integrating her lessons into her teaching. She traveled to Blue Spirit, a yoga retreat center located in the heart of Nosara, Costa Rica, which is known to be one of the foremost yoga and meditation retreat centers in the world. It provides a tranquil setting to those dedicated to spiritual transformation and personal growth.

“I took a semester to study ancient yoga philosophy and figured out how to make connections between yoga theory and communication theory,” Mandel said. “I looked specifically at the ethics of yoga as a way to teach the ethics of communication. I have been highlighting the connections between the two areas and sparking interest in the yogic lifestyle.”

jodie 2Mandel uses “The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali,” an ancient book with aphorisms that teach philosophical, moral and literary lessons, as part of her lessons in her class.

“I have been incorporating the ideas from the text to teach students about mindfulness, self-awareness, ethics and other topics that can aid them in learning how to become more competent communicators,” Mandel said. “I found many connections between ancient yoga theory and contemporary theories in communication. I am teaching students about the eight-limbed path of yoga as a way to achieve better relationships with others and within themselves. Yoga is a tool that can be used to make all areas of your life more peaceful, happy and productive.”

A few students that took Mandel’s course said that yoga made a huge difference in the way they handled public speaking.

jodie 4“A relaxed mind works better than an anxious one and that is the first thing that I always think of when giving my speeches,” said Augusto Despujos, one of Mandel’s students. “Meditation is something very powerful to practice and through this course I got the chance to diminish my nerves by relaxing my mind.”

“Yoga allowed me to realize what my body is going through in this stressful situation and redirect that fear into something productive so that I can give my speech successfully,” said Adrian Arellano, another student of Mandel’s. “I now employ some of the breathing and stretching routines that I learned in the course, helping me to enjoy the rest of the day in a more relaxed manner.”

In addition to the calmness surrounding the yoga theory introduced by Mandel, her students also felt that her enthusiasm and positive energy helped them open their minds to the possibility of growth with yoga.

“Jodie was wanting and willing to educate students who were eager to learn a universal practice to stay calm and controlled during the stress of a notorious fear,” said Nick McKinnon, Mandel’s student. “Jodie’s style made me feel like I can be myself and not be afraid to ask questions, take chances and get involved.”

“Jodie leads with her heart,” stated Lester Tanaka, a dean at CSN. “Her enthusiasm, energy and out-of-the box ideas have been a source of inspiration for those she’s worked with and projects she’s taken on.”

Tanaka was very encouraging of Mandel’s proposal to bring yoga to her teachings. “The School of Arts and Letters is promoting innovative ideas and approaches to better connecting to our students and each other. Yoga is the perfect way to explore dimensions of ourselves that often lay hidden in our psyche.”

Mandel is currently expanding her knowledge with an extensive yoga teacher training program at Sin City Yoga located in Downtown Las Vegas. Once 200 hours are completed, she will be certified with Yoga Alliance as a registered yoga teacher.

This upcoming fall Mandel will continue teaching yoga in her communication courses and she will also offer two yoga classes at the Sports Center on North Las Vegas campus. She will teach vinyasa flow and yin. She is confident that these will help students better manage their anxiety levels.

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