Dear Manduka,

I just received my new Prolite mats! With them, I’m looking forward to enjoying the moments that challenge my students, teach them to explore their edges, and help them understand their center both on and off the mat.

In my most taxing moments, I look inward to understand more about myself. This inspires me to stay calm and focused, while I search for solutions and opportunities.

–Jason Battung

As evidenced by his college experience, playing Ivy League football at the University of Pennsylvania, athletics and academics have always been a part of the equation for Jason. So after graduation, he needed a way to continue challenging himself both physically and mentally. He found his solution in yoga, and over the course of the past 15 years, Jason’s yoga practice has allowed him to deepen his knowledge while also moving and understanding the limits of his body in new ways. Sharing his knowledge with others was just a natural part of the journey. “At first,” Jason reflects, “I wanted to teach yoga for high school athletes to help them maximize their physical potential, understand their mental patterns, and minimize frequency of injury.” Yet as his own practice and interests evolved, he began to see his role in a new light.

Realizing yoga could support healthy physical, mental, and emotional development of all students, not just athletes, Jason identified “naturally occurring cross curricular connections and social-emotional lessons” that yoga can offer to teenagers. “This is at the heart of what I do, and something I believe is the future of high school physical education,” says Jason.

Through his classes, students gain concrete skills to support academic success, healthy relationships, stress management, and resilience in and out of school. And beyond the benefits the students receive, whether they’re in need of a break from incessant competition and comparison, or need some practice in mindfulness or self-regulation, Jason’s class also provides teens with an escape, a unique environment in school community. “PE classes aren’t tracked, so I have students from all walks of life in my class – from kids who take AP classes to students with severe special needs, and everything in between.” According to Jason, “this dynamic gives them the opportunity to connect in ways not possible in other academic disciplines, which I believe increase possibility for empathy and kindness.”

As for Jason, approaching each day in his classroom with curiosity and an open mind has allowed him to keep on learning from his students. “I hope to flip the student-teacher dynamic and dissolve the concept of ‘expert’ in my classroom,” he says. “Every student, every period, everyday, every year is unique.” With a beginner’s mind, Jason has started to shed his own assumptions and preconceived notions, and is working on staying present to his students each and every moment.

“Through patience, trial and error, feedback, and compassion – I’ve come to understand the importance of making space for endless possibilities,” he notes. “Exhausting, yes… but also well worth it.”

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