Course Improvement Grant spotlight:“The Physics of Yoga: Connecting Body to Mind”
Savanna Starko, senior lecturer in physics & astronomy, recently told us about her Course Improvement Grant on connecting mind to body through examining physics in yoga.
Can you tell us about your project and what inspired you to do it?
I’m working with Lauren Colliau, a graduate student getting a master’s degree in education, on this project. We are both certified yoga teachers who are interested in the mind-body connection, and we’ve designed a five-session workshop focusing on the physics of yoga.During these five different sessions, students are going to explore meditation, yoga and a little bit of self-inquiry. Specifically we’re structuring it so that through the movement parts of each session, students become really acutely aware of the physics that’s taking place in order to create the various poses. One thing that maybe you can think of in relation to yoga and physics is the role of forces. When you exert a force on one part of your body, for instance, you can have effects produced on other parts of your body. So we’re going to have a theme for each session based on a physics-centric topic.Then in the final session, we’re going to do one big collective yoga practice with all of the poses they’ve learned.We were inspired to do this in order to promote mindfulness, because I have, in my short time of doing my job, discovered that the students aren’t as effective in the classroom, nor am I, if some emphasis isn’t placed on overall wellbeing.So we’re looking to cultivate some community in that way and promote connection.
What impact do you anticipate this project will have on students who are in it and perhaps on the Vanderbilt community in general?
The anticipated impact in general, I think relates back to patterns that I’ve started to see over the course of the last year and a half. Because while I’ve only been doing this[teaching physics]a year and a half, my what a doozy it’s been!So some major themes that I’ve been able to discern over the course of the last year and a half are that people right now seem to be experiencing a holding pattern.Everything feels like watch and wait, if you will, because the world that we live in is still so terribly uncertain.So activities that promote mindfulness, centeredness, groundedness, are things that we need to combat the world’s chaos. And mental health and wellbeing are super important to me. Personally, I struggled through undergrad and grad school, so I hope to make some sort of difference, no matter the size, in how the students are experiencing undergraduate life here. Lauren and I have decided that the deliverable for the project is going to be a mindfulness guide. So everybody who participates in the series will contribute one page to a mindfulness guide, maybe describing their own roadmap for self-care if they only have 30 minutes in a day, thinking about how they would structure that 30 minutes so that it’s super meaningful with the things that they learn over the course of the workshop. And I hope that that guide is useful to people beyond those who get to participate in the workshop.
Do you have any thoughts to share with others who would like to apply for one of these internal teaching grants?
In one or two sentences, tell us how you would capture your teaching philosophy.