I thought I would be writing another post about my recent travels to Italy, but instead my mind is filled with yoga. In particular, yoga with kids. Two Februarys ago, I felt a calling to move from my long comfortable role as a yoga student, to that of a teacher. Although I could sometimes see myself standing in front of a classroom of students teaching yoga, I had never really given teaching serious thought. That is until the relentless inner voice called without ceasing…
And so here I am, more than two years later. A certified yoga teacher, who, as of last week, has taught (or has attempted to teach) yoga to students from the ages of 3 to 80+. Just when teaching yoga was beginning to feel as comforting and familiar as preparing and drinking a warm cup of tea each morning, I have now leapt, once again, off the cliff of The Fool into the rocky terrain of the unfamiliar.
And, it’s okay. It’s what I signed up for. But, oh how much I have to learn as I stumble my way along. My week of full immersion into the spectrum of younger ages has left me feeling tired, hoarse, and a bit bewildered. What do I do know? I keep asking myself.
Let me see if I can attempt to explain why.
I’ll begin with my first non-adult class of the week.
It’s Thursday. Another rainy day in a long string of rainy days. The school day is just finishing at the Montessori nearby where I live, and I am lugging my bucket filled with Beanie Babies, animal yoga cards, a Bluetooth speaker, roster sheets and a chime that would prove to be woefully useless. Eleven preschoolers await me.
They’re adorable, as all children are at that age. Almost irresistibly cute. A near equal mix of boys and girls with glowing faces perched atop restless bodies. Wholly mine for 30 minutes. Thirty minutes that I have tasked myself to teach them yoga, in some form. My mind swirls with ideas. Over the past few months I have watched videos and read books. I have dug out my notes from teacher training and know games and props are essentials for this age group. What I can’t recall learning, as I spin through the whirlwind thirty minutes, is that a loud, assertive voice is also important, or that the power to choose should not be an option…Or maybe I just forgot, because it’s not in my nature to place restrictions and to shout.
Nor is it in my nature to sing in tune, which is also a great gift to have for kids’ yoga, but I thought playing the voice of the lovely Kira Willey would be an adequate compensation.
I soon discover no one really cares about the music coming from my speaker. They care more about the props I have brought.
I’m pretty sure I read to only bring one…
We begin in a circle that defies all definition of a circle, but it’s good enough. All eyes are turned to me as I introduce myself, then roll my magical color ball to the child next to me and ask him his name and if he’d like to tell me one thing that makes him happy. We move smoothly along, at first, passing the ball down the line until our circle is 2/3 complete. A girl with vast blue eyes stares at me and tells me her name and then goes silent. She cannot come up with something that makes her happy, even though I can tell by her outer appearance that she is likely well-loved and cared for. Instead, she appears to be caught off-guard and stumped. Rendered mute in a way that makes us both feel uncomfortable and searching for reprieve.
I give her space to think. Distracting chatter begins to erupt within the circle, and the blue eyes continue to stare back at me. “Would you like to think about it some more? It’s okay if you don’t want to answer.”
I can tell she is torn. That she wants to find an answer for me, but somehow she can’t retrieve it. Perhaps it’s contagious, because the next child is also unable to come up with one thing that makes her happy.
And so I begin to question my choice of a mindfulness introduction. I thought perhaps some children would struggle a bit, but with gentle suggestions and listening to the words of their peers, they might easily slip into that space of joy.
And, I realize how desperately, perhaps, that I want to bring them all to that state of joy. To make them realize how fun yoga can be in its myriad forms. That it can be both individual and shared. But not something that takes striving and competition…
So we begin to play our games. Soon tiny bodies are hoping about and vying for my attention in their efforts to show me how much yoga they already know. When the illustrated pose cards come out, there is a scramble to have just the right one.
There is even some arguing.
“I don’t want this one.”
“That’s not how you do flower. That’s butterfly.”
Oh my, I have much to learn.
Follow the leader with the chime goes smoothly until someone decides to skip the line.
Then the chime is rendered useless. The noise of voices too high. My own is already growing hoarse and unheard, and I am at least grateful I have brought along my water. I have another class waiting for me after. And, it’s 45 minutes long…
When I open the tub filled with stuffed animals, five million hands reach inside. Suddenly I’m feeling the weight of my 45 years of life and I count the minutes left.
Do not leave room for choice. Of any kind. I file the lesson inside my tired brain.
I think perhaps I should have brought along a gong. You know, one of those enormous ones that you can’t hold and need a mallet to bang?
And a miracle.
I’m not Kira Willey. Not even close. Nor am I the beloved and talented Jamie of Cosmic Kids who knows how to keep the overstimulated minds of young kids engaged while practicing yoga through her wonderful videos.
I am also not a drill sergeant. Nor do I want to be.
I’m simply Alethea, searching for her own magic cards to bring to the circle of young eager faces.
And I think, perhaps, I need to stop looking in the bags of others, and dig inside my own…