Yoga and poetry set to merge for an English class spring semester

September 30, 2014 | Events, Features, UToday, — Languages, Literature and Social Sciences
By Lindsay Mahaney

The relationship between poetic rhythm and the rhythm of the body; the relationship between meter and heartbeat; the relationship between breathing and the idea of learning to breathe language; these are just some of the parallels that UT Associate Professor of English Melissa Gregory finds between yoga and poetry.

For the second time, Gregory will teach a unique version of Reading Poetry (ENGL 2730) that combines the two topics this spring.

Students who took Melissa Gregory’s special section of Reading Poetry last spring smiled for the camera during a class.

Students who took Melissa Gregory’s special section of Reading Poetry last spring smiled for the camera during a class.

“For me, the main connection between the yoga part and the poetry part are that they both teach you to be more introspective,” she said. “They help you to look inside yourself and think about what’s happening there. They help to cultivate an internal self that is something I think in our current culture is in jeopardy.”

Gregory, who is also a yoga instructor, started the class in spring 2013. She came up with the idea in part because of all the literature that focuses on the human body. Many of the poems studied in class focus on the connection between mind and body, which fits the theme of the course, she said.

The second reason she decided to create the class was because of her own experiences discovering the importance of forging a healthy relationship between her body and mind, which is something she said she didn’t realize was important until she was older.

Students are constantly busy making it difficult for them to settle in and concentrate, Gregory said; that’s why she finds the workout at the beginning of class helpful to de-stress and let them focus on poetry.

“Because the yoga part is truly collaborative and we’re all doing this physical activity and it’s noncompetitive, everybody is just kind of experimenting with what they can do, it fosters a kind of intimacy that I think doesn’t occur in a more conventional classroom,” she said.

Gregory said she finds this integrated style of teaching so helpful that she now applies it to her other classes as well.

“Sometimes I make my 4000-level Victorian Lit class get up and stretch,” she said then smiled.

The class will meet from 9 to 11:30 a.m. on Fridays in the Student Recreation Center Aerobics Room next spring. Each session will begin with a 50-minute workout and will transition into the study of poetry.

This three-credit-hour course fulfills the UT humanities requirement or the language, literature and social sciences English literature requirement.

For more information, contact Gregory at or visit

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