On sabbatical, teachers are paid to break away from routine, to travel to faraway lands in the name of learning, or settle into the solace of their studies to pamper and flex their creative muscles. Nice work if you can get it. Eunice Levy, a CPA and accounting instructor at Kalamazoo Valley Community College (KVCC) in Michigan, did.
Levy spent two and a half months in early 1999 teacher training in Santa Monica, California, on a fully backed sabbatical from her position at KVCC. For two years, Levy had been casually teaching yoga back in Kalamazoo, offering informal "yoga demos" in the college's holistic health classes, in faculty meetings, and student seminars. In 1997, as part of a mind-body study group Levy and other KVCC faculty had formed to explore mind-body modalities, Levy got a grant to go to Feathered Pipe Ranch in Helena, Montana, where the idea for a yoga sabbatical was born.
"I felt that studying to be a teacher of yoga would also make me a better teacher of accounting," says Levy, who wanted "to devote [herself] to yoga full time" and study with some well-respected teachers "on their own turf." Levy's college had already shown support for the pursuits of the mind-body study group by offering release time from teaching, donating resources, and administering funding from the Fetzer Institute (one of the sponsors of Bill Moyers's PBS mind-body series). When Levy made her sabbatical proposal, she focused not only on her own desire for enrichment but also on potential links between yoga and the business community.
She returned from her sabbatical with a teaching credential from Erich Schiffmann and plans to develop a course for KVCC based on the new book Life is a Stretch (Llewellyn Publications, 1999) by Elise Miller—the Palo Alto, California, yoga teacher that Levy credits with encouraging her sabbatical idea.
"I see a lot of possibilities for the future," Levy beams, demonstrating without a doubt the creative energies that a retreat can encourage to bloom. And maybe the fact that a Midwestern community college saw fit to support an accounting teacher in her attempts to account for well-being demonstrates the ground is ripe for growing.