The next day I realised that as crazy as it all was, they had liked it, so I must have done something right. And that something was to have given them freedom to explore, to laugh, and be creative with my requests (I later learned requests are to be offered as suggestions in a kids yoga class). The after school care contacted me to do more classes for them, and I accepted, confident in the fact that I would be learning from the experience. And I did, but not what I thought I would.
First off, kids are amazing. They are playful and fearless!! Why are adults so afraid to try handstands without the wall, or to try it at all?? We adults are blocked by our beliefs, fear of falling, and the list goes on; so we prefer not trying new things, conforming to the image of the “adult” society has crafted for us and we remain in our comfort zone, secretly wishing we’d have the guts to at least try. We don’t realise we are narrowing our landscapes and possibilities to keep learning and expanding. When I tried acro yoga, my father told me that it wasn’t for my age and I was going to hurt myself, a belief deeply ingrained in our society. Adults are supposed to be serious and not have fun, at least not this way. On the other end of the spectrum, children are not worried about falling or trying something new. The concept of comfort zone doesn’t exist yet for a lot of them. Falling results in laughter and more trials, working together to explore new avenues, and encouraging each other to try again, in as many ways as their wild imagination can possibly create. It is such an eye opening experience to witness this. I began to wonder when we lose this playfulness and thirst to explore.
Second, they live right here, right now. So it doesn’t make much sense to teach them about mindfulness because that’s what they do, that’s what they are. Reminding them to be present is reminding the sun to shine. If they are interested in what they are doing, they are 150% focused. As a result I began to understand yoga philosophy better: our inner child and mindfulness are always present and it is our natural state. It becomes clouded by thoughts and worries and to-do lists, but it is there, just like the sun shines behind the clouds. As a result, kids classes will be noisy, and that means they are expressing themselves and having fun with this new tool of yoga they have just been offered.
Third, their ego doesn’t rule them (yet). We, adults, get so caught up by what others are thinking of us; we’re so worried of looking ridiculous; worried we’re not good enough; worried we can’t do it, etc… In yoga classes we can’t help but compare ourselves to others in the class, and watch with envy those we think as more “advanced”, and get frustrated or beat ourselves up if we think we don’t fit the perfect Instagram shot of the pose (a whole other topic…). Kids are inhabited by the “I can do this” attitude, and even if they fall over and don’t achieve the pose they were shown they believe they can do it. They perceive everything as “easy” even when it’s not, and stopping because they haven’t reached the “pose” doesn’t even cross their mind. To them the pose is not the goal. The fun you have playing with it is. They are so right.
Fourth, they are unbelievably creative. I absolutely love it when I ask them to do a pose or a short sequence, and they come up with a version different from the one I suggested, a version that hadn’t even crossed my mind. And unless I stop them, their ideas erupt like lava from a volcano and they keep trying, imagining, building, and laughing it all along the way.
Last, they don’t hang on to emotions. A friend of mine told me a few months back, that she thought children don’t understand sadness; they only feel it for a few minutes and then move on to something else, which struck her as immature, childish, and limited. Nothing could be further from the truth. Unlike adults, children let their emotions go by, they feel them and let them pass through, then move on; they let it happen naturally and don’t hang on to sadness (or any other emotion). It was scientifically proven that an emotion only lasts ninety seconds; anything longer than that is our mind making up stories based on that emotion (Source: “The molecules of emotions”, Candace Pert). Something to keep in mind next time we feel anger or sadness: how much are we adding to the emotion by reliving the event over and over again?
I have learnt so much with children. I have realised how many layers of unnecessary and even harmful beliefs we have about ourselves, how we should be/act/look like, etc… The older we get the more layers we add.
Teaching Kids has taught me so much. Reflecting on the past two years of teaching kids yoga I realised our teachers are not always the ones we think! And as for the grown ups… be inspired, find joy in just being here, play more, especially on your yoga mat!!