My yoga practice is erratic because my work takes me on the road to many locations. So when I make the most of the classes that I can attend. Yoga is sacred time for me. It’s time for myself to let go of all concerns, needs, and demands for one hour. It’s not too much to ask of myself to be present in Yoga for an hour, that leaves me dripping in sweat from a rigorous workout. Yet, I always feel rejuvenated. Teaching workshops and coaching on good instructional and leadership practices gives me the same exhilaration. Given the responses to the posts–Education is like Yoga–I’m committed to continuing this as an ongoing series, at least once a month, sometimes more.

Join me through this blog on Opening Paths, especially the resources and follow me on Twitter @JMcCarthyEdS for open dialog about what our students need, and what we as professional learners can do so that ALL students succeed. Contact me for dialog, coaching, and to inspire your staff along their pathways to helping all students learn and achieve.

Education is like Yoga III: Starting School Right by John McCarthy

“Yoga is a journey that goes through yourself to find yourself.” –Yoga Instructor


Today’s practice was tough. But every session is tough, according to my yoga instructor. It’s the only way that we progress into our new selves. Knowing what we can currently do, and then pushing past those limits, while always remembering to breathe, is exhilarating–just like the epiphanies that students have when understanding clicks.

With schools starting all over the country, it’s a time of self-renewal to our practice. Educators work with a fresh group of students, building a community and culture that supports academic growth and learners’ confidence in themselves. The school year is a journey for teachers and administrators to grow their practice beyond the boundaries of school years’ past. Just as with yoga, I did a balancing pose that was not available to me before. Yet today, I silenced the voice of caution, weighted down from the past, and rose from a half-moon to a tree pose.


The key to a successful school year is beginning with the reason we become educators: Do what’s best for all students so that they can succeed. Silence the voice that raises obstacles such as state and federal mandates, large class sizes, limited instructional or planning time, a constricting curriculum, or other issues that you may have no control over. Do what  you can. Work within your sphere of influence, and do what’s best for your students’ learning. When the yoga instructor runs the class through a flow of poses, I do what I can, and stretch for what’s just beyond my reach. I can raise my legs high. But getting them over my body so that my feet are above my head? Hmm, no. I just do what I can today, and maybe in a few classes I’ll get my legs even higher. I can also increase my practice by attending more classes or using videos as a guide. That could train my mind and body “quicker” to do more; just as in education, I can build my professional network through getting involved with respected organizations such as ASCD and Learning Forward, professional learning networks (PLN) such as #SATChat, #PBLChat and #SBLChat, readings from Edutopia, Ed Leadership, and JSD, attend conferences and take courses. The result is that the more in touch and involved I am in what makes education successful for students with like-minded professionals, the greater my impact becomes in my classrooms, my schools, and my districts.

cartoon risk taking

Such a journey of personal growth and widening influence is how educators find themselves to be stronger and different from their past selves. To adapt the words of a wise yoga instructor, begin with the lens of what’s best for all students, and then Education, likeYoga, becomes a journey that goes through oneself to find oneself.

Start the school year with a renewed commitment to find your new and more empowered self so that students benefit is powerful. What will be your commitment to students first (#students1st)?