I spent the bulk of the past five days in a worried funk. Pretty much all I could think about was yoga with kids. Although I only wrote about experiences with the younger preschool and kindergarten classes in my last post, the next day brought two new classes. One filled with middle schoolers. Let me first say the high school class that followed it was simply lovely. I had three polite and eager young ladies who were attentive and respectful. It was a huge and welcome breath of fresh air.
The middle school class, on the other hand, proved to be just as challenging as my classes with the younger kids. It consisted of a large group of girls who all knew each other, and a trio of boys who didn’t know the girls, but knew one another. The girls gathered in a crowded group in the back of the classroom, while the boys queued up in front of me. The giggling intermixed with bold commentary began from the group in the back of the room as soon as I introduced the “Cat & Cow” warm up poses. “Downward Dog” proved to be even worse.
“I’m not doing that.” “I don’t want anyone to see my butt.”
The wall-to-wall mirror behind me became an unavoidable source of distraction, and our hour together felt much longer than it should have.
Seasoned yoga teachers will know that teaching yoga to kids is nothing like teaching yoga to adults. It’s an entirely different game. Actually it’s a series of entirely different games. Each age group has its separate rules and obstacles.
I’m still learning the games.
By the end of the week I was more than doubtful that I would grow to love teaching yoga to kids, and whether I would discover a magical formula to do so well.
The next class I had ahead of me was another preschool class. A fresh opportunity with ten new and eager faces who had never met me.
I just needed to convince myself that I could have a different experience than I had with my first two classes.
I did some more research and started to listen to that inner voice that rarely leads us astray.
I asked for help, and got some really good advice. Especially the tip about using sitting circles or mats, which serve as a magical anchor to keep restless bodies in place.
I ordered the mats knowing they would not arrive in time. I worried, but I need not have. The inner voice spoke louder, offering me alternatives my logical brain refused to find.
One day, I went to the library and found myself drawn to books about frogs and toads, even though I was there to find any and all books on yoga with kids they had available. I took both sets of books home.
Another evening, I found myself walking the dogs at dusk, so enthralled by the chorus of frogs at our favorite pond, I impulsively took my phone out to record nature’s symphony.
A theme was developing for me.
Another day, still in my fog of stress, I went to the dollar store and mulled over the arrays of cheap toys. I thought maybe I should get some stickers, so I bought a sheet of colored stars and a blow-up globe.
After I took my purchases home, I began obsessing about how I would use them. I thought about giving stars for good behavior, but it didn’t feel yoga-ish. The globe, well, I thought maybe I could use it in some sort-of game, but visions of kids throwing the nearly weightless ball at each other caused me to leave it on the kitchen counter as I readied my bag.
Instead, I begin to realize I have all I might need. I have my frog, well actually toad, book in verse, and I’ve found that the first page has a wonderful poem about them singing in spring. I’ve got my live recording of an amphibian chorus from the pond ready to go on my phone. Instead of obsessing about my lack of sitting circles, I realize I can might be able to make lily pads to go along with my theme. In fact, I know I have at least a few pieces of study green paper. Ten minutes later, I have ten lily pads bearing the names of my new students. I also have ten new stickers. Not the stars, but frogs, which I’ve made myself thanks to Pixabay and a stack of printable labels in the same drawer that held the green paper. Frogs on lily pads. Perfect.
I pack all of these up, along with my chime, portable speaker, water, roster, animal yoga pose cards, and my pink rose quartz frog that sits near the water fountain in my home yoga studio.
Still, I think I may need more props. I don’t want to be under-prepared. I eye the bin of Beanie Babies. Nope. Not going there again. Instead, I open it and pull out one dog to use as a mascot, just in case. I eye the globe one more time and put my magic chakra ball in the bag instead. It slings easily on my shoulder. Light and manageable.
I arrive early. There’s amble time to set up. I’m greeted by the director, a friend of mine, who shows me around and allows me to select a space that feels right. I tell her about the sitting circles I’ve ordered but have not arrived, and she shows me a stack of quilted mats. Perfect.
I select five and arrange them around the square rug. The lily pads are placed atop, alternating as best as I can guess, boy, then girl, around the rug. Next, I take the yoga pose cards out I’ve prearranged, and set them in back of the sit mats. Finally, I sit at the front of the rug with my phone, roster, quartz frog and homemade stickers set beside me.
Small voices begin to mingle from the front of the room, and I know my students have returned from their outdoor recess. I am lucky today the rain has held off and these young bodies have had a chance to run outside and play.
“Can you find your name on the mats?” I ask them as they line up before me. They are all so darn cute, but I know better than to let down my guard. Instead, I smile and welcome them with the warmth of a teacher. Hey, I think, maybe, just maybe I can do this.
And, I do. Ten little bottoms find their lily pads and look at me with anticipation. No one gets up until I ask them to, and barely a voice talks out of turn. We have fun together. We learn and we play. When one child unexpectedly cries during our game of musical mats, she finds her way to my side, nestles in for a hug, and clutches the magical pink frog I place into her hands until all is well. Soon she is smiling again. We all are.
Even though it’s not a perfect class, to me it’s a near-glorious half-hour, which is over too soon. Stickers are left for the end ,and find their way on faces, lily pads, and clothes. Tiny frogs thank me as they dance out the door. I can hardly wait for the week to pass.