Teaching yoga to kids is different than teaching adults. I rarely correct their poses, and there is often barking in downward dog and mooing in cow pose. I gently remind them more breathing, less talking, but they're kids.
I explore different methods, and invent some of my own. I have three goals in mind: To help kids learn peacefulness,to help them deal with their stress and anxiety, and to find beauty in these ancient poses. Three goals, all connected, all rolled up into one forty-five minute session.
I teach in the after school program at an elementary school. It's the time of day when kids are simultaneously wound up, and exhausted. We breathe. We do Sun Salutation together. We practice our poses, and we end in Savasana.
We begin in a circle as I tap the side of the Tibetan singing bowl. Each child takes a turn and shares something about what he is feeling. The first boy shares that he smells his neighbor's feet.
The second one says this: Do you know what I love best about yoga, Mrs. H? Symmetry. I love symmetry.
This is a boy after my own heart. I too, love symmetry. I too love balance and harmony and beauty.
I'm sure I didn't know or understand the word symmetry in third grade, but my student does.
I love when they ask if it's time for Savasana. Savasana means Corpse Pose in Sanskrit. I explain it is the only time in yoga when we don't move or speak. It serves them well, these children who have been on the go since seven in the morning. They are eager to lie on their backs, and let their body and mind unwind.
The music begins, their eye pillows placed just so, and we begin. Breathing...breathing...
I guide them through a meditation that takes them up into the sky on a white fluffy cloud. Floating, relaxing, breathing.
Sometimes there are tears.
Sometimes such deep relaxation brings things to the surface.
Several years ago it was a seven year old weeping silently. Her tears rolled off her cheeks and onto the mat. After class, I asked her why she was crying.
I don't know where we go when we die. My mom says we go to Heaven, but I think Heaven sounds scary.
I'm pretty sure I didn't have a good answer for her. I did my best, but Heaven always seemed like a scary place to me too. I hope years later, she's found some peace with it.
Yesterday, the little girl in the Hello Kitty shirt cried and sniffled quietly, the soft purple eye pillow catching most of her tears.
At the end of class I asked her what was wrong. It took several minutes for her to spill the story. It was about something that had happened during the day, and was just coming up again for her now, during Savasana.
A boy in my class teased me and everybody laughed and now everybody thinks I'm stupid.
After many more tears, and many more assurances that nobody thought she was stupid, she gathered up her things to leave. As I gathered up my things to leave, the door opened and she came back in.
Mrs. H, can I do Savasana again?
She lay back down on the mat, and placed the eye pillow over her eyes. I put the music on and let her climb back up on her cloud, breathing, and letting go.
She hadn't let go that first time, and she, in all her seven year old wisdom, knew she needed to.
At the end, she handed me the tear soaked eye pillow, gave me a hug, and bounded out of the room.
Symmetry, tears, and letting go.