Three groups of students: 18, 16 and 20.
Grades 4, 5 and 6.
We filed into a gymnasium – floors were not swept and without windows.
Everything was different.
We were meeting on a different day of the week in a new location and two days after the clocks got changed, shorting them of an hour of precious sleep.
This is how yoga began today at North School.
The new relationship with making unfamiliar movements and exercises familiar took a hard jolt.
Anyone in the vicinity of the gymnasium had to doubt anything resembling yoga was going on.
Talking over each other.
Bodies bouncing off and on their mats.
And yet, as I left the school, with a hoarse voice and tired body, I reflected that a LOT of yoga happened because a lot of life happened. And life is chaotic at times. Thus, we had the yoga of chaos.
And that’s the point.
At least that’s how I teach yoga. I teach in small exercises for short attention spans. I prefer smaller groups of children, but we work with what we get and meet them where they are.
Today, the yoga of chaos was alive and well. There was a lot of talking and very little listening. There was a lot of correcting and policing of each other – an indication some had taken ownership of their yoga experience and wanted to protect it.
There was goofing and showboating.
When tasked to work in teams, some didn’t want their partner – they wanted their best friend. There was one-upsmanship – if someone said a goofy word – Twinkie – to characterize how they were feeling today, someone had to come up with Cheeto.
When new exercises or yoga games were introduced, some wanted to do the ones we learned last week and not this week.
And the sock sliding on the gym floor.
And the spilling of water from their water bottles. And… and… and.
Was this yoga? Was it a GOOD yoga class?
I say yes.
Yoga means to create a connection – to bring together. With young beings they are often connecting with parts of their bodies and feelings for the first time. We don’t spend a lot of time as a culture talking about how something makes our feet feel, or what different paces of slow feel like, much less what paces of slow or fast help us focus and listen or cooperate.
Much like anything for children, practicing and trying it over and over without judgment helps embed the seeds. One or two sessions of a few different body shapes does not a quiet human make. Nor do we get calm abiding nature from a frenzy. It takes time and sometimes the time is not when we want it to be. It has to run its course. And that requires acceptance.
This is a good opportunity to talk about objectives.
Yoga for children or yoga in schools is not, I repeat, NOT a behavior modification or emotional control system. Yoga is not “supposed to”… make you quiet, make you calm, make you … fill in the blank.
It’s a way to relate to sensation and emotion and desire and aversion through movement, breath and observation, noticing. Noticing.
If any child is surprised at a sensation they never noticed before, I’m thrilled. If any child suddenly wants to be quiet while they move from a one-legged pose to another, I’m often stunned. And if just one child says, I’d rather not today, without needing to explain or justify, and they choose to join in a different exercise another day, I lift up my hands in celebration.
Today was a day full of excitable energy. While some students did focus, it was a collective lost cause.
The odds were against us – new environment, new day of the week, daylight savings time. Change upon change upon change.
AND today was an excellent day of yoga.
They showed up.
I showed up.
We didn’t give up on each other and we accepted it.
It’s actually a great spot, a placeholder in the timeline of practice. Practice and progress are not linear. We are making a practice of just practicing, not achieving, not improving, not accomplishing or winning. Just practicing. Feeling. Accepting. Noticing.
Yes, respect and kindness are parts of the lessons.
For all of us – students and adults.
I hope the teachers don’t see today as a “bad” day of yoga.
And our next class will be a new day. Oops – after some more change!
Next week is spring break. So I’ll see them in two weeks.
This is going to be fun!