This month in the student blogs I wrote about my current exposure to yoga Philosophy, as I have been in Dharamsala in the Himalayas of India, staying in Bhagsu, a little village just a stone’s throw from the Dalai Lama’s temple. I have just qualified as a yoga teacher and part of Patanjali’s yoga principals seemed very relevant to devising work in theatre. One of the eight essential elements of yoga practice are the YAMAS. These are the first limb of Patanjali’s eight limbed yoga system, and focus on how treat others and the world around you. The five aspects of YAMAS follow:

AHIMSA or non-violence. This does not only mean not doing harm to others in thought and in deed, but also to practice acts of kindness to oneself and others.

SATYA or truthfulness. This is about being truthful to yourself and others, thinking before you speak, and considering the consequences of your actions.

ASTEYA or non-stealing. This is not only about stealing material possessions, but also others ideas and other materials (academic honesty!!!). It is also about keeping secrets that you have been entrusted with.

BRAMACHARYA or discipline. This is about self-control and moving towards truth. It is about not giving into your ego or taking anything to excess.

APARIGRAHA or non-possessiveness. This is about living a life without greed, so you do not take advantage of anyone or any situation. It is about using our powers correctly and not exploiting others.

(‘The Eight Limbs of Yoga’ from Patanjai’s system, adapted from the Mahi Yoga School Handbook, p13)

When you start collaborative and devising work with your students you may not want to refer to these YAMAS by name, but they are all work thinking about in relation to the IB Learner Profile:

CARING – We show empathy, compassion and respect ⇒ AHIMSA

BALANCED – We understand the importance of balancing different aspects of our lives – intellectual, physical and emotional – to achieve well-being for ourselves and others ⇒ BRAMACHARYA

PRINCIPLED – We take responsibility for our actions and their consequences ⇒ SATYA & APARIGRAHA

THINKERS – We exercise initiative in making reasoned, ethical decision ⇒ ASTEYA

(Taken from ‘The IB Learner Profile’, International Baccalaureate Organisation 2013)

When creating the ensemble and starting to devise collaboratively it is also important for the students to realise that they can all make a small difference, and everyone of them is important. At some point you may want to share this Starfish story:

‘The Starfish Story: one step towards changing the world.’

Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions.

Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching.  As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea.  The boy came closer still and the man called out, “Good morning!  May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”

The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”

The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!”