Experiential Learning in Yoga

I had a job interview last week, in which one of the questions was about experiential learning. My answer was incomplete, as job interview answers always are (seriously, I need Hermione’s Time Turner. Please?), but it go me thinking about Yoga.

I’ve been doing Yoga with some regularity for about seven years, and every once in a while, I realize how far I’ve come in terms of strength, awareness of my body and balance. But I digress.

My favourite yoga teacher at my favourite yoga studio is Emily. I’m on to her approach now: in an 80 minute class, the first two-thirds are poses that are accessible to intermediate students. Some refinement is needed, but these are poses I know. Poses that I practice, refine and improve. It’s familiar learning. And then sometimes at the end, she’ll point out that all that was in prep for a pose that is advanced; a surprise culmination of what we’ve been working doing.

What she’s done is broken down a complex and intimidating pose (a performative task) into smaller, achievable goals that we’ve¬†already demonstrated¬†mastery over. She takes all these successes and together they form a stretch goal (pun entirely intended). And sometimes I fail at the stretch goal, but I see how it fits together and how my building blocks are improving and how they fit into the developement of a more advanced knowledge and mastery.

So in conclusion to my interviewers; experiential learning is partly about breaking down a task in to smaller components, and then having the learner demonstrate mastery of those steps though repetition and refinement, until they can culminate in the practice of the summative evaluation.