I am a teacher by nature. It is what I have been put here to do, it is my dharma, but I am not good in a structured classroom environment. I do my best when I can teach outside the box. I have taught fractions using pennies and egg cartons and I have taught multiplication tables with stacks of those same pennies.
Being a yoga teacher is not something I had ever considered doing. I am not sure if I will ever have a regular class, but I love yoga. I love the grander sense of yoga; the mind/body/spirit union.
I was introduced to yoga 20 years ago, but it was at a gym and was basically a stretch class with names for the stretches; it had nothing to do with yoga. Fast forward fifteen years and I took my first real yoga class. Five months later I went to my first yoga festival and my very first group class was with Aadil Palkhivala. It was a bit overwhelming, but in that class the light bulb really went on. I saw Yoga. My last class of that festival was back with Aadil, Yoga Nidra. Wow!
As my understanding and deeper practice of yoga grew I thought about teacher training, not necessarily to be a yoga teacher, but to really understand more deeply. I have been to several more festivals and workshops where Brad Waites has continued to share the Purna Yoga path. When the idea of him coming and presenting a teacher training in Purna Yoga was suggested, my answer was yes.
That teacher training showed me how to present yoga in its fullest and truest form without ever having to do a crazy posture. It gave me the tools to share the beauty and fullness of yoga to people who have never experienced it before.
I have taught a few times, but recently I was given an opportunity to teach in a setting that has made every moment of training worth it.
I was asked to teach a beginning yoga class to foster kids and mentors. I was told beforehand that it is assumed the kids are trauma affected and that it is best not to touch the kids. It was also suggested that we keep the lighting high as some kids are not comfortable in the dark. In the class I had 10 students. Two were staff members of the program, three were mentors and five were foster kids ages 9 to 17. None of the kids had ever done yoga and two of the mentors had, but they said the class they attended was too hard.
We had put out the mats ahead of time and let everyone pick their place. I started by telling them that we were going to do some easy stretches and nothing too crazy. I had them close their eyes and find their heart center. I had them imagine a warm light and asked to think of a positive thing to remember throughout the practice. We went through the Purna Yoga Opening Sequence and a modified Purna Yoga Morning Series; I did not have any yoga straps. As we moved through the practice I found myself using my outside the box teaching. You cannot ask a 10 year old to lift the POA (pit of the abdomen), but you can say "tighten your tummy." I am not sure I used a single “yoga” word the whole night, but the kids were getting it.
As we moved toward shavasana, I remembered the lighting. I asked the kids if they would mind if I turned down some lights. I shut off the big overhead lights and one of the kids said it was still too bright, they all agreed that we should shut off all but one light. I got them situated on their backs and had them go back to their heart center and think about their positive thought. I asked them to think about whether or not it was more true than when they started. Then I had them take two breaths and let go. I walked them through a progressive relaxation and then left them in silence for about two minutes. I did not want the littler ones to get restless.
There was a peace in that room that I did not expect. The calm and serenity that was coming from those kids was almost overwhelming.
When I brought them back out of shavasana and had them sitting I saw genuine smiles. It was one of the most gratifying experiences of my life.
We didn’t do a single sun salutation, we did not do any kind of flow for that matter, but we moved our bodies and opened our hearts. I hope to teach many more yoga classes, but if I never teach again that moment with those kids was worth everything I put into my training.