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JANUARY 9, 2013 9:39AM

Symmetry and Tears

Rate: 36 Flag

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.

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.

Yesterday's class. 

Symmetry, tears, and letting go.

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Well, it's been a while...
I can tell that you're a remarkable teacher.

Joan, that sounds like the best thing in the world for a kid. Thanks for what you do, from my inner kid.
May I do Savasana again, too? May I be in your class? Can it be that I am reading a post by you on OS and rating and commenting and maybe it will happen again?

Here's to symmetry in all things, Joanie.
Always in motion is the future.
~ Yoda

Kids need more Yoda.
Thanks for those very generous words, Jonathan.

Amy, pull up a mat!

librarienne, my inner kid needs it too...

Wishing beauty, harmony and balance to us both, Annie. xo

Amy, kids DO need more Yoda. :)
I love this Joan! You are a teacher of some of the most important things in the world, one being peace, another harmony with self. In the end it can be applied in so many other ways.
I wish there were more teachers like you . . . I am certain that, had I been in your class in third grade, I would still be remembering you, and the class, fondly. Probably would have had a crush on you, too . . .
If this comment actually posts in less than two seconds, I will truly believe OS is back. In addition to being a fabulous writer, you are a great interpreter and observer of children, Joanie.

Lezlie such luck. It took minutes rather than seconds. took minutes rather than seconds. Keep trying, OS.
this is why children need teachers and programs that address them as complex human beings. those kids are incredibly lucky to have you, joan, and the yoga program. excellent writing, very concise, lovely sharp character descriptions. the story brought tears to my eyes.
Mrs H , Candy took my comment. Your inner child taps into their inner adult, the essence of excellent teaching. You are truly their spirit guide.. mine too. xoxo
give and take
a flow
asana ... standup
heaven in our hearts
It is so very, very good that there is a "you" there to guide them to relaxation and a lessening of stress.

It is so very, very bad that young children - or adults - should live in a society that makes relief of stress necessary.

I applaud you for doing this but I'm so sorry that we've built a society that makes it necessary that you do so.

I feel a little silly about how good it feels to be here again.
Oh, so beautiful, Joanie H! I love your 3 goals.
So many times we find great truths in the insights of small children that are lost on us grownups. I loved this.
You are indeed a remarkable teacher... I thought of you the other day when I was reading about a school that had started a yoga class, a parent had complained about ( I think) saluting the sun where you look skyward and thought it took away from Christianity. It made me sad to think they may take this away from children because of an ignorant fearful parent.
Yes this one really got to me when you published it before recently. Rated certainly. And look, you're back on the cover! Love ya Joan H.
I let go, fell of the cloud, and into the lake....I CAN'T SWIM! I CAN'T SWIM!!!


We all feel a little more centered reading this - thank you! R
What about the kid with the smelly feet?
Sheila, I'm sad when people think yoga is anything but a path to peace. (It's more, of course, but for kids, this is where it needs to start.) If we ever needed to teach peace, it's now.

Owl!!!!! I am so happy to see you! Thank you so much, and teacher crushes are the biggest compliment.

Lezlie, your comments made me laugh out loud. And thank you for such high praise. Really.

sophieh, I'm so glad to see you. It seems like it's been a very long time. Thanks so much for reading.

femme, your words make me want to carry on. Kids *are* so complex, and as a former child myself, I wish more grown-ups had understood that.
nike, you must be a big fan of Joan H. She LOVES Beats by Dr. Dre!!!! Can they be free though? I mean, cheap is good but free is better!! Hello?
Coming back to comments, but have to say, Nike 001, you have understood me like no other...
It looks like Nike ran away...
Nike was killed by SpamCop Mish. Nike will be missed, not a lot, but his family wept for a moment!!!

~moment of silence~


~wanders off~
Nike 01, leaving in the night is so low...

Sally, thank you so much~

Chuck, your comments always make me smile.

sky, I couldn't agree more. *stressed out 7 year olds* doesn't even make sense.

Mime, it feels like a small hole in time and space... :)

Clay Ball, thank you!

David, of course it is so cliche, but they really do teach me more than I teach them some days...

Ll2, I read the article about the parent fearing that yoga was teaching the kids to be Hindus. I think that is not only ignorant, but preposterous. How can I convert a child to something I am not? And furthermore, it is insulting to Hindus. Ignorance irritates me. :)

Tr ig, yes, but this time I'm not asking if you know any Republicans...
Love ya back.

Tink, you remind me of the kid who wanted to" float over pies."

Marilyn, what a lovely thing to say. Thank you.

Larry, the kid is still there.
What a wondrous gift you are giving these small people, and I use that phrase very intentionally. They are small but they are people and they feel things deeply and have sh*tty days that need healing same as the rest of us. Well done and well said, Mrs. H.
That's beautiful. You give your students a gift of peace and awareness, and receive a gift of enjoying what they observe. I'm glad you're back on OS.
What a gift to offer this time for releasing stress and contemplating stillness. This may be one of their most profound memories from their early years. Beautiful post, Joan. R
This was so calming to read. I'm so glad these kids have you in their lives.
This is lovely. It's a quiet piece, but so full of heart. I wish I could take your class...
This is lovely. I made my way back over to OS after Lucy posted the link to her facebook page. I'm so glad I did! I wish there were more yoga programs for kids. It sounds like a wonderful thing you're doing.
Jett, thank you so much. They definitely are people with the whole range of feelings... :)

bike, they are so interesting and I learn so much.

Rita, thank you. I hope it will be something they carry with them.
(I wish I'd learned it when I was little.)

Alysa, it was a really amazing thing to observe. And helps me remember to let go...

Kristina, I'm so glad to see you! thank you for reading.

Lisa, I'm so glad you came by. I know some people don't agree with teaching yoga in the schools, but I can't think of a better place...
I know a six year old girl who would so benefit from this, but she lives in NYC. Sounds like a wonderful, rewarding thing to be doing, Joan.
Wow. You're a great yoga teacher. This reminds me to go to class more often. There's a class here I like that you can just drop in on. Great teacher too. It must be really rewarding teaching kids. I think I'm going to start barking in downward dog.

Speaking of downward dog, I returned to yoga classes after a couple of decades hiatus, and had never heard of downward dog before, or warrior pose. Every teacher I knew of did surya namaskar - the sun salutation, but nobody seems to do it now. I suspect this is because of the preeminence of Iyengar and similar schools/methods, but don't know. I'm old enough to remember "Lilias, Yoga & You" on public TV in the 70s. She didn't do downward dog either.
Another day, another chance to greet the sun and read Joan H. Namaste, Joan :-)
I really believe you are changing lives here in the best way, offering a refuge & the tools for dealing with the tough times of life. I help out in my grandson's kindergarten class, & oh Lord, a patient & loving yoga teacher would be a pure miracle here. We have a boy who sits at his desk screaming, a girl who makes up stories -- pretending her parents aren't really dead. A child who gazes past the page towards something nobody else sees. A Doritos addict! A 5-year-old control freak! Children already on their first set of gold teeth! I read this & am moved by the way these children open up to you & feel freed by the poses, the movement, the finally letting go, knowing they're in a safe place with a teacher who cares. (P.S. -- Poignant & beautifully written!)
I think I remember this post? I wonder if you have ever taught yoga to old people? I tried a little of it and they were receptive. Most cannot get down on the floor so it would have to be a Yoga for chair sitters. I know it would help them. I think you need to do a video, Joan. The kids could plug you in at home.
I wish I had had you as a teacher--any kind--when I was 7....
Yes!!! Symmetry!

I was torn for a while about a specific instructor, because even though I loved his class, he would occasionally direct us in a way that made me feel unbalanced. He'd skip a pose on one side, for instance, or end on the side we began.

But I'm one of those people who needs to scratch my right arm if I scratch my left arm. Symmetry :)
So beautiful Joan.
Inside and out kind of beauty.
Be well.
Joan, why did I cry when I read this?
Jaime, because you understand children's hearts. xox
How'd I miss this? Well, am here now, and always nice to read your gentle take on things. I wish someone had taught me yoga when I was ten!
Thanks for reading, Greenie. And me too!
I love this story! Your students are lucky to have you to help them find balance in this crazy world