This summer I did something I have wanted to do for a long time. I took a six-week job working in a program that provides extra academic support for high school students who are interested in going to college and would be the first person in their families to do so. Working with first-generation college students (or at least those that have the potential and interest to be one) is important to me. I’m a first-generation college student, and I know that navigating the college landscape from start to finish is not easy when you’re the first one to do it. I’m the English teacher. I teach two sections each morning Monday-Thursday.
And I have just one question for you all: How long do you think it took before we started doing yoga postures in my class?
Answer: We started on the third day.
My first class isn’t doing any yoga, but would you believe that the opportunity to talk about yoga naturally came up in my second class? Ok…to be fair…the students weren’t actually talking about yoga. I just saw a natural opening for it to fit in. 🙂
On the third day, my students arrived with five minutes to spare before class officially started. I suggested we get going and then we would be done five minutes early. They liked that idea a lot. Actually, one of them said, “Oh my God. We can actually do that?” Of course.
So they ended up with some time to hang out before they went to lunch, and they decided to use this time to see who could touch their toes. Most of them cannot. So naturally this led to me asking if they would like to learn a yoga posture. Every single one of them said yes. They were incredibly excited.
Now, I’m no yoga teacher so I picked something I thought we could do without any risk of injury. For this first day, we learned standing bow. Most of them can’t do anything besides grab their ankle. They have a tough time balancing on one leg. And of course, because they are teenagers, they were saying things like, “Oh my God! This is so hard! I can’t do this!” and laughing their butts off.
The next day they all showed up early again. I told them that yes, if they got started right away we could again end class early and do another yoga posture. They wanted to know which one, but I refused to tell them. I said they needed to work and show me they wanted to learn it. They got down to business, and we had a great class.
On the second day we learned Eagle. By the end of the second day they were proclaiming how much they needed yoga in their lives because they couldn’t do it! You know how some people (adults) say they can’t go to yoga because they are not flexible and cannot do the postures? My students naturally say the opposite. They see anything they cannot do as a reason to do it more. They are incredible. They will inspire you.
But you know what we really need? We really need to practice silence and stillness. That’s going to be the next thing I have them do. Because even though silence and stillness are not “postures” they are critical to a yoga practice. And I think now that they have done some postures I might be able to convince them to work on silence and stillness a bit.
I have been working with them on the concept of mindfulness. The first three weeks of the program is focused on writing, and I keep talking about writing mindfully. For example, I tell them to get all their ideas out on paper but then in their editing process to be very mindful about organization, word choice, etc….They are starting to get the swing of it, and they are responding well to it.