While it is fresh in my mind and heart, here is what I taught today in the local middle school program called Wings to Empowerment for 12-13 year old girls described “at risk” and who had “challenging home lives”.
I walked into the wrestling room, kind of a big gym-type area with flourescent lights, lots of equipment. The fifteen girls were fooling around with many colorful balls in the room. The atmosphere was slightly chaotic, mostly enthusiastic. When they saw me return from last school year, those who had taken the once-a-month yoga class with me, shouted out a happy hello and began to settle in. The others followed suit. Without any prompting on my part, they spaced themselves out on the wrestling mat-covered floor by spreading their legs and arms to make sure they didn’t touch anyone else. Pleasantly surprised at their technique, I made a mental note to use it in the future.
About a third of the girls had done a few classes of yoga with me last school year. When I asked what they remembered, one came up with the 5-5-5 breath* (and had practiced it during the summer), so as part of the flow, we tuned in using that breathing technique.
Here’s the way the class flowed, in case you want to try it. And when I say “flowed”, that is exactly what I mean. Nothing was pre-planned. I made it up as I went, taking my cues from their words, ideas, and interest.
Spine flex and waist rolls for lower spine: “Your spine is like an electrical cord. You know how you need electricity to make your devices work? Well, in your body, that’s your spine, so lets keep it flexible.”
Washing machine, shoulder rolls, neck rolls: “How many pounds of weight do you carry in your backpack each day? This is the remedy for that.” Then later on….”Who remembers the three exercises that are the remedy for heavy backpacks?”
Leg stretches with deep breathing: “Draw in new life energy on the inhale, and let go of all the old stale stuff on the exhale….like any negativity you’ve been carrying….let it go…”
Standing up, we did the routine for the song Peace Like a River**: squats, arm swings, balancing on the toes, and yoga jacks!
Sitting on heels we did the Kneeling Sun Salutation** with the song “You can make the Sunshine.” Planting seeds into the Positive Mind!
Ready for deep relaxation after all the down dog/plank combos we did in the Kneeling Sun. They asked for the spaghetti test*, which is an excellent way for children to sensitize themselves to how their bodies are feeling and consciously relax themselves.
They were ripe for some quiet time, so I introduced the idea of intuition. I was delighted that the girls were quite unselfconscious during the entire class, so they had a lot to say about what was intuition…”a feeling inside”….”you just know”….”a mother’s intuition”…were some of the responses.
I guided them into an intuition meditation, asking them to feel their head-thoughts like sand in water, swirling, then sinking down, down. They were instructed to let the thoughts sink down into their bodies. To breathe in and out as though they are breathing from their bellies and their heart. Then we tested out our intuition by playing the Detective Game***. It was a huge hit. Everyone wanted a turn. The program director and I met eyes, and I knew she was planning to bring the game out again in their next meeting.
The girls were so present and willing to go with me wherever I was taking them. It freed me up to be spontaneous. We were already sitting in a circle, so we extended our feet out to the center to create one big sunflower**. We closed up with exhaling, we opened to the sun with inhaling, then closed up again for the night with one final exhale. Ended with the Long Time Sunshine song:
May the Long-Time Sun Shine Upon You, All Love Surround You, and the Pure Light Within You, Guide Your Way On….
And with that, I could see that these girls were as empowered as I’ve ever seen anyone, and I could feel that they were not going to forget it.
* 5.5.5 Breath: Inhale for a count of 5, hold the breath for 5, exhale for 5 (for relaxation and sleep)
** From Fly Like a Butterfly: Yoga for Children, By Shakta Khalsa
*** From Yoga in Motion, By Shakta Khalsa
**** Detective Game and Intuition Games: From Radiant Child Yoga Teacher Training Manual, levels 1-2