Kids are thankful for peace, stillness, and chocolate cream pie!
I sat alone in the yoga room as 2:45 came and went. I wasn't too surprised. Sometimes my young yogis forget that we have yoga class on Friday if we don't meet every Friday and we hadn't met in 3 weeks. 5 and even 10 minutes later my yoga students finally bounced into the room; chatty and full of energy. As we "settled" into group, several girls were talking out, others were eagerly raising their hands, rolling around on their mats, even rolling up their mats. I was trying to figure out what was going on. Did they miss yoga and were just excited to be back? Was it the holiday crazies? Is it because when they entered the room the lights were on and two teachers were conferring? "Those annoying fluorescent lights," I thought to myself, not wanting to turn out the lights until the teachers chatting upfront finished their school business.
My yoga students clearly were not centered as I opened class on this odd December afternoon. "What does being thankful mean? Since we have just had Thanksgiving and Christmas is coming soon, let's talk about what we are thankful for. Let's go around the room and each tell just one thing." At the same time I advised myself, "Slowly breathe in....breathe out," feeling the surge of energy flooding the room, crashing against the walls, nearly knocking me over.
Not a millisecond after we opened, Karen and Page asked to run out of the room to get a dictionary. Libby wanted to tell the group about the 18 things she was thankful for and ran to pull a turkey drawing out of her backpack. On each of the 18 feathers she had written something she was thankful for and was literally bursting at the seams to share each and every word on those 18 turkey plumes. Lucy got up and walked across the room to get her snack, and Mackenzie asked to go to the bathroom. "Girls," I heard myself say, "you are so wound up today."
Clarissa, one of my brightest and most cerebral students was sitting directly in front of me, staring right into me, not a few feet away. Her hand was flapping back and forth with great speed, waving at me for attention. I nodded in recognition of her frantic hand, "Clarissa, what are you thankful for?" I was expecting some deep and thoughtful comment from this talented and extremely capable young girl, "Chocolate cream pie and," after a beat, "lemon meringue pie!" she beamed. "And why is that?" I ask in my patient yoga-teacher voice. "Because it tastes so good!"
Chocolate cream pie? How about the air you breathe? The fact that you are alive? Aren't you thankful for the wonderful parents you are so lucky to have? How about that amazing brain of yours? Nope, chocolate cream pie. Clarissa was thankful for creamy, cool, chocolate cream pie. Sometimes I am just too intense for my own good I think to myself. Sometimes I find it hard to take the time to enjoy the little things. "Yes, chocolate cream pie is a good thing to be thankful for," I smiled to myself and to Clarissa.
As our discussion came to a close we moved into our yoga asanas (yoga poses) and then breath work. Conductor breath was probably not the best choice as my yoginis seemed to become even more excitable with each swing of their arms; out with your arms, up with your arms, down we go bending forward, letting out all the air in our lungs. Sun salutations seemed to provide some focus as did the warrior series, but the energy was still consuming the room, bouncing off the walls, flooding the space. So I shortened our physical practice and moved us into a guided relaxation. Here is where the girls really began to calm down.
With the lights finally low and the room quiet, we all laid flat on our mats. In my best calming voice, I guided us all to relax our toes, relax our lower legs, relax our upper legs, relax our tummies, relax our backs, relax our shoulders (and my shoulders softened), relax our arms, relax our hands, relax our necks, and finally, finally, relax our heads. And then in the quiet and dark of our yoga room, there was neither a peep, nor a squeak, nor any rustling around as we all meditated in peace for 5 wonderful minutes.
As meditation ended I spoke, "OK girls, when you are ready, you can roll on your side and sit up." Two minutes passed and not one girl sat up. Thinking that maybe I hadn't spoken loud enough, I said again, "OK girls, when you are ready, you can come to seated pose." Another few minutes passed by and it dawned on me.......these girls need this time. They need this stillness and quiet in their minds and bodies like a flower needs water and sunlight. They didn't want to sit up. In our world full of noisy TVs, computers, iPads, iTouches, iPhones, hours of after-school activities, and the crazy holiday season, my little yoga students were seeking the peace and stillness that only meditation and relaxation with slow, deep breathing can offer. So I let them lie still for a few more moments before coaxing them to open their eyes and sit upright.
"What am I thankful for?" I wondered as we all sat, our little yoga community (or sangha), quietly together. I am thankful for, and very grateful for the chance to teach yoga and meditation to kids. What a gift to them and what a gift to me. And yes, I agree with my little yoga student, I am also thankful for chocolate cream pie.