Tag Archives: integration

Yoga — a Life Practice

Yoga Became a Lasting Practice

Headstand Photo

Photo taken 1987.

He who practices the Headstand for three hours daily conquers time.” — Yoga

Upanishad (The Sivananda Yoga Center, 1983, P. 38)

This post reflects on one of my key learning experiences, learning Yoga, for further insights into my skills, knowledge, and values.


While growing up I spent a lot of time at the city library and at some point, perhaps about 1970, I discovered books about Yoga. I was intrigued by details of esoteric practices like the cleansing Kriyas and inspired to have the kind of power to influence my well being that was promised by the teachings I read. That year my parents gave me Yoga for Young People by Michaeline Kiss. I believe they hoped to support my interest while also steering me away from  more extreme practices. Kiss’ book provided a wonderful introduction to a regular yoga practice. I studied her book thoroughly and adopted her suggested seven-day exercise plan as a regular habit.

Explicit Skills and Knowledge

By following the instructions, photos, and drawings in a variety of books I learned to execute a range of yoga poses including the lotus, crane, cobra,  locust,  bow, dead man’s pose, shoulder stand, plough, and headstand. I had to be able to follow instructions, use my body and my concentration, and establish regular times and places for my practice. My practice of poses also enhanced my awareness of balancing and breathing.

With reference to the “Skill Areas Worksheet” I selected six areas, large motor skills, information literacy, sustainability knowledge and engagement, helping individuals, science, and social science, that were employed and enhanced by my Yoga exploration. I used large motor skills to execute poses and information literacy for finding multiple books, and developing my physical practice through interpreting text and images. The Sustainability knowledge and engagement and Helping individuals  categories relate to my focus on yoga as a lifelong care practice for optimal physical and mental well being. My Science and Social Science knowledge  were increased by increased knowledge of body mechanics and of some practices from a culture different than my native culture.

Outcomes of My Initial Practice

Developing my personal practice early in life gave me a sense of making Yoga my own, as a casual hobby, and as part of caring for myself. Over the years I purchased many books, took  classes and workshops, and learned additional poses as well as diverse ways of combining and executing poses. At one point, when I had only one young child, I taught a basic Yoga class that welcomed parents with babies.  In spite of a long standing interest and trust in Yoga as a path toward balance, I’ve never become “expert”  in a particular way. I don’t hold any certifications and the most extreme pose I confidently sport is the headstand. However, the valuable outcomes I attribute to my early learning experience with Yoga are many and diverse. A sense of empowerment to take charge of my physical and mental well-being by discovering methods of self-care led to:

  • attachment style parenting
  • adopting homeopathic remedies as a first line of defense
  • natural child birth
  • breastfeeding
  • learning clinical massage to help friends in pain
  • learning Reiki as a channel for healing and a life practice
  • embracing fresh natural foods

Many times my Yoga practice has lapsed. Often aches and pains brought me back because I knew from experience that with regular yoga practice I felt physically flexible and balanced. Now in my sixth decade, experiencing previously unimagined vulnerability to aches and pains, I’m more faithful to my practice than ever before and I’ve returned to Michaeline Kiss’ recommended daily routines, for the variety and balance they offer, augmenting them with additional poses as feels appropriate.

Deeper Examination

An “a-ha” for me that came through reading about yoga was a sense of empowerment to apply knowledge to my own life. While growing up, I read fiction books endlessly, and was sometimes  wistful about the gap between my virtual characters’ life situations and my own. In contrast, Yoga books invited and enabled me to make the poses and their potential benefits real through my own practice.

Learning basic poses was easy and enjoyable. I was naturally flexible and already had some basic gymnastics skills. More challenging, was maintaining a progressive practice. I established a regular practice, to a degree .. but I was not faithful nor inspired enough to develop to an advanced stage or learn deeply enough to become a qualified teacher. Because I have such an abiding and deep affection for Yoga, I believe that not developing expertise is evidence of not taking initiative and responsibility, not following through, with something that part of me embraced deeply. I see this as a form of sabotage. Part of me betrayed another part of me. I never examined this dichotomy before, but upon reflection, I believe that a number of habits, tendencies, preconceptions, prejudices, and distractions conflicted with my interest in yoga and I never consciously addressed the conflict.

My Yoga practice has influenced others more peripherally than intentionally. For example, my children grew up with my practice and although none of them practiced with me, they now each have their own practice. There may be no connection, but if so, it’s an interesting coincidence.

Future Connections – Inquiry!

Examining this experience reinforces my awareness that determined, creative research can uncover valuable information. I see my relationship with “information” as both a strength and a weakness. On the one hand, I’m always aware that tremendous amounts of information await discovery. On the other hand I’m sometimes afraid of being inadequate to the task of digesting, evaluating, and interpreting a necessary amount to become truly “responsibly knowledgeable” in a particular area.  With  more conscious awareness of this barrier I will research more issues I care about.

Note: This post is one of three developed as part of my personal example of exploring key learning experiences for deeper self-awareness. The steps for the project will be described in detail on a page of this site.


Kiss, M. (1971). Yoga For Young People. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc.

The Sivananda Yoga Center. (1983). The Sivananda Companion to Yoga. New York: Simon and Schuster


 Why Learning Portfolios?

“If you do not integrate your life’s experiences into a coherent whole — a comprehensive understanding of your struggles, failures, successes — then you will have difficulty understanding yourself. You will not achieve wisdom. You will experience despair.”  Carl Alasko, Therapist and Columnist  (Alasko, 2010)Learning Portfolio Cycle

The process of developing Learning Portfolios helps learners develop deeper connections through a cycle of reflecting on their learning, connecting their reflections to evidence, and receiving and responding to feedback.

Alasko’s quote, relating a lack of integration with despair, comes from a column that includes discussion about the need to integrate one’s life experiences into a “coherent whole.” Alasko referenced Erik Erikson’s work on life stages, ego identity, and the value of reaching one’s later years with a sense that one’s life path has been meaningful.

A few months after reading Alasko’s column, I heard Melissa Peet, (now Director of Integrative Learning and Knowledge Management at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business), share examples of using a portfolio process to help individuals come to a more conscious awareness of and a deeper sense of integration with the core skills and knowledge they’ve gathered from key learning experiences in their lives, both formal and informal (ePortfolio California,2011; Peet, 2010).  Because I’m deeply interested in practices that help people move toward integration and meaning, Peet’s talk inspired me to learn more about portfolio development processes as a self-discovery vehicle. Her work with the Integrated Knowledge Portfolio Process (IKPP) ™, lead me to a broader study of best practices developing around Learning Portfolio use and the discovery that Learning Portfolios are in wide use in many contexts (Cambridge, Cambridge, & Yancey, 2009; Lynch & Shaw, 2005; San Francisco State University,2013; University of Michigan, 2009; Virginia Tech & University of Georgia, 2013; Wright, 2001; Zubizarreta, 2009).

A common thread driving the growing use of Learning Portfolios is a goal of deepening students’ integrated learning – helping them better integrate their learning into a “big picture” framework that extends outside a particular course into other aspects of their lives. Personal Portfolios traditionally represent a showcase of a one’s work. Learning Portfolios also include examples of one’s work, but with the important addition of reflective thought related to that work, ideally developed with feedback from mentors and/or peers. Significant evidence shows that, reflective thinking and writing about one’s learning, in connection with specific examples of the fruits of that learning, help deepen and broaden learning of particular concepts and learning about one’s self.

This site will explore some key elements of Learning Portfolio practices, look at some ways they are being used, and provide some guidelines, recommendations, and examples  to help you get started, whether you want to help your students by integrating a Learning Portfolio into a class you teach, or further your own journey of self-discovery by completing a personal Learning Portfolio exploring some key learning experiences selected from any stage and setting in your life.


Alasko, C. (2010, October 17). Balance Curbs Selfishness. The Monterey County Herald. Retrieved from http://www.montereyherald.com/carlalasko/ci_16362155

Cambridge D., Cambridge B., & Yancey K.B., (Eds.). (2009). Electronic Portfolios 2.0: Emergent Research on Implementation and Impact.  Sterling, VA: Stylus.

ePortfolio California. (2011). AAC&U ePortfolio Forum Sessions. Retrieved from http://eportfolioca.org/training-a-support/aacau-eportfolio-forum-sessions

Lynch, B. & Shaw, P. (2005). Portfolios, Power and Ethics. TESOL Quarterly. 39(2) 263-297.

San Francisco State University. (2013). ePortfolio. Retrieved from http://eportfolio.sfsu.edu/

Peet, M. (2010) The integrative knowledge portfolio process: A Guide for Educating Reflective Practitioners and Lifelong Learners. MedEdPORTAL, June.

University of Michigan. (2009). MPortfolio. Retrieved from http://mportfolio.umich.edu/

Virginia Tech & University of Georgia. (2013). International Journal of ePortfolio. Retrieved from http://www.theijep.com/

Wright, W.A. (2001). The Dalhousie Career Portfolio Programme: A Multi-faceted Approach to Transition to Work. Quality in Higher Education. 7(2) 149-159.

Zubizarreta, J. (2009). The Learning Portfolio: Reflective Practice for Improving Student Learning (2nd Ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.