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From the Spring 2018 Edition of Discovery

Yoga and Geology

Paying Attention to Nature

Geologist Kelly Bradbury, research assistant professor in the USU Department of Geology

Geologist Kelly Bradbury, research assistant professor in the USU Department of Geology, relaxes in the newly dedicated Centennial Rock Garden gracing the century-old Geology Building on the Quad.

Photo courtesy Mary-Ann Muffoletto

My passions are geology and yoga and, after studying and teaching both for the last 20 years, I have realized they share many complementary themes. Both disciplines have the ability to foster the development of patience and humility due to a greater sense of awareness of one’s internal and surrounding environment and the rates and scales at which transformations may occur, as well as helping us to better understand ourselves and ultimately, other beings.

In geology, we use rocks as a tool for pattern recognition for understanding the external, natural world. In yoga, we use practice as a tool to listen to the sound of the breath and learn to follow it through the body during movement, observing patterns that reconnect us to our own natural intelligence. Endless analogies exist between geology and yoga. For example, we can think of ourselves as a mountain, absorbing all that comes its way, at times shedding itself continuously in cyclic increments, slow and steady. At other times, it may undergo major out-of-cycle transformations that are rapid and fierce. In a sustained yoga practice, one may experience slow, steady change and at other times, a rapid shift. Or we can consider how variable conditions cause some rocks to cool and crystallize slowly deep within the earth, whereas others cool quickly as they are ejected onto the surface of the earth. Each process results in a different composition and/or texture that may or may not be readily visible in the rock. As geologists, we are trained to observe the effects of such dynamic processes and to observe from a variety of perspectives, considering a variety of data. With this approach, we are constantly humbled by the vastness of the earth. We understand and appreciate that it takes a very long time to unravel the past in an effort to understand the present. But through a consistent and dedicated approach, we just might have a breakthrough. Yoga is essentially the same, teaching us to look again, and again, and again!

Because of my experience (and love) for each discipline and their potentially complementary combination for all students, I am hoping to develop an experiential yoga and geology class. Our assignments would include getting students outside to explore geologic features within a landscape and to utilize an approach that is influenced by the basic principles of yoga. This vision is now in the proposal stage for a future offering at Utah State.

Two of my most influential yoga teachers, Richard Freeman and Mary Taylor, inspired this idea, as it articulately expresses how yoga helps to inform my scientific research and vice versa by stating:

“…everything relates to everything else and consequently, is in constant flux.That is the nature of reality, of who we are and why we’re here.

Understanding this, we see that many important questions are ultimately unanswerable. That doesn’t mean they are not worth asking; in fact, quite the opposite. A steady and stable practice shows us how vital it is to maintain a sense of inquisitiveness so that we remain inspired by posing and re-posing questions to which we think we already know the answers…”


Spring 2018 Guest Columnist

Kelly Keighley Bradbury, P.G.

Dr. Bradbury currently serves in the USU Department of Geology as a Research Assistant Professor. She earned her MS in Geology in 1999 at USU and later received her PhD in Geology at USU in 2012.

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