On Tuesday afternoons, I teach yoga to 5-8 year old kids. Most of the kids are 5 and 6, and they knock the stuffing out of me every week. They have huge personalities, unlimited energy, freely expressed emotions, and opinions and ideas about EVERYTHING (also freely expressed).
They also knock my socks off every week. They are kind and hopeful and creative and HILARIOUS. They are strong and brave and honest and open.
Practicing yoga with kids this age is mostly about letting them figure out where their bodies are in space and how to be “in charge” of their own movements. Practicing mindfulness with them is about helping them learn tools for adjusting their energy level, understanding their inner landscape, and connecting productively with other people.
I always go into class with a plan, but one reason I keep my classes small is that I love to incorporate the kids’ ideas and leave plenty of time to run with whatever emerges from their interests and fascinations.
This particular group has been full of kids who are SO creative, SO confident, SO expressive, SO energetic that sometimes I feel dizzy trying to keep up with them. There have been moments when nine kids are literally talking to me at the same time, moments when several kids are crying as we try to work out turn-taking, moments when I’ve been interrupted so many times that I utterly lose track of what game we’re playing. Kids have gone on strike (turning their back and saying, “I hate yoga, anyway!”), and there have been moments that are so loud, you might think we were doing primal scream therapy, not yoga. One hypochondriacal day, every yoga pose we attempted led to an “injury,” and I spent the day doling out band aids and wet paper towels (9 ice packs would have been too expensive) as kids moaned on their mats.
But you have to let kids unfurl so they can figure out how to reel themselves in. You have to let communication get messy and loud so that it can get more accurate and skillful. You have to let people be themselves with 100% acceptance so they can love the people around them with 100% acceptance.
Today was our last class of the school year, and I was moved to tears several times. During class, the kids were able to be super, super silly, and then turn on a dime and calm themselves into a serene almost-silence. Friends listened to friends with kindness and humor. There was patient turn-taking.
And the kids put on a yoga play for their parents that they invented. They came up with most of the ideas and negotiated with me and each other as the story was created. They led and they followed. They thoughtfully incorporated a new kid into the play at the last minute. They exhibited confidence and self-control and friendship that made my heart burst. I can’t wait for these kids to take over the world.
Not doing much kid-teaching over the summer will give me a chance to recharge and develop some new curriculum, but as I hugged kids goodbye this afternoon, I meant it when I said that I have the best job in the world, and that I can’t wait to see them in September.