An assistant professor has taken a long journey to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and plans on addressing social issues through yoga.
Valin S. Jordan, Ed.D., has been an Assistant Professor at UL Lafayette for two years and decided to create a community-based organization called Yoga4SocialJustice in August 2018.
Her journey to UL Lafayette
Jordan, originally from Queens, New York, graduated with a bachelor’s in Psychology and a minor in Marketing.
During her senior year of college, her plans started to change.
Jordan decided to earn a teaching certification through an alternate pathway program called New York City Teaching Fellows. Through New York City Teaching Fellows she earned a master’s degree at the City University of New York – Hunter College while teaching third and fourth grade special education in East Harlem, New York.
“At the end of my third year teaching, I felt like I was missing something. I needed more,” Jordan said.
During her fourth year as a teacher, she began applying for doctoral programs and decided to attend The George Washington University. Jordan was also awarded a graduate research assistant position while studying in Washington, D.C.
After four years of working on her doctorate Jordan said,” I don’t know if I want to follow this academia route.”
After receiving her doctorate, she moved back to New York City.
There, she worked as school success manager for an academic program called Flocabulary. Jordan said Flocabulary is a Brooklyn-based program that combines literacy with hip-hop elements.
Although she valued her work at Flocabulary, she felt something was still calling her.
After 10 months at Flocabulary, she decided to take a brief hiatus to clarify her passion . That’s when she discovered the power of yoga in her life.
She described her six-week break as a time to plan what was next for her. Through yoga and self-inquiry, Jordan realized that her passion for research, teaching and studying could only be fulfilled through a pathway of academia and higher education.
She said she applied to become an assistant professor at many universities but decided to join the Ragin’ Cajun family in 2017. Jordan said that the rich history of Louisiana pulled her towards this university.
“Because my background is focused on how people come to understand their identity through race, class and gender, I felt that Louisiana has such wonderful and abundant stories related to identity development,” Jordan said.
Once Jordan became an assistant professor of Diversity Education at UL Lafayette, she continued to practice yoga and began connecting social justice education with yoga.
“I was on my mat practicing one day and thought: This yoga thing has such direct ties with social justice education,” Jordan said.
Jordan moved forward with full intentions of making social justice and yoga topics of similarity.
Jordan explained that a person’s mind-body connection during yoga must be open-minded and willing to bend the rules of their body.
She said the same mentality is needed in order for change to come about in American society.
“There’s this understanding that I have to be very clear with who I am, what I can commit to and contribute to society before I can expect any body else to change anything,” Jordan said.
She also said that when difficult topics are mentioned while people are practicing mind-body awareness, messages that can be conveyed more clearly.
“There is no set population that would benefit from her class. Everyone would benefit and should take the initiative to take this amazing class.”-April C. Jones, academic advisor
Her first Yoga4SocialJustice workshop was at Goodwolf Power Yogawhere she hosted a series of six sessions focused on different social justice topics like xenophobia and sexuality.
On campus, she has lead faculty and staff through a Courageous Conversation titled Centering the Margins, where she engaged attendees in chair yoga, meditation, self-inquiry, and social justice learning through notions of yoga.
Video of Dr. Valin S. Jordan for her six-part session with Goodwolf Power Yoga:
How it works
Jordan’s sessions are usually two hours and 15 minutes. The first hour, according to Jordan, is centered around the practice of yoga, the asanas or positions and breathing, what she called the “yoga flow.”
During the yoga flow, there is a selected theme used to lead attendees or “yogis” to start the process of making connections to social justice. For example, using the theme “disrupt to transform.” During the yoga flow, yogis are presented with ways to disrupt ideas they are holding onto that may be keeping them from transforming on their mats and in their daily lives.
Following the yoga flow, workshop attendees engage in a 75-minute workshop focused on a particular social justice similar to the overall theme.
“You have to be willing to disrupt your thought patterns process about situations in order to transform with new ideas in mind,” Jordan said.
During the workshop, yogis are engaged in guided visualization, self-inquiry, partner work, and direct teaching of the social justice topic of focus.
Each session ends with an eye-gazing activity. Individuals pair up and gaze into their partners’ eyes without speaking for 10 minutes. “It’s a really intense and powerful experience,” Jordan said.
She explained the activity becomes incredibly cathartic for participants because for many it’s the first time they are truly being seen and heard with just their eyes.
“The class is a great way to really push yourself in both the mind and body. I always walk away thinking about things in a different way or connecting with people and feeling a sense of community.”-Matthew Green, Ph.D.
Human connection and the acknowledgement of differences can only be accomplished in a brave space according to Jordan. She said her overall goal is to support people in engaging in difficult topics through self-inquiry in order to see real change in our society.