"A dear friend invited me recently to share what I’d say if I could go back and give some advice to my 14-year-old self. I thought about it for a while, then realized that the advice I would offer my 14-year-old back then is the same advice I offer myself now, fifty years later …
I know you don’t fit easily into this world. The truth, my love, is that most of us don’t fit. But most of us surrender to the world and turn ourselves into people who do fit. And then we no longer fit into ourselves. And as we grow older this makes us miserable – even insane.
Therefore don’t change a thing. Don’t try to fit. For a while this will be a lonely journey, so stay close to that handful of odd, precious people who know and love you and who appreciate what it costs on the inside for you to stay true to yourself.
Believe me, your faithfulness will blossom into the most rich and satisfying life. And one day a strong, beautiful, one-of-a-kind you will emerge. On that day you’ll realize that you were never going to fit easily into this world, just as you’ll realize that fitting in was never the point."
- Michael Done
The joy I find in teaching yoga with the kids is being witness to their pure inhibition. They cut loose into a pose with wild abandon. They giggle and smile at each other. They fidget and sometimes poke the person next to them. The pose brings up a story that they share out loud. It becomes both challenging and joyous to be in their presence - gently holding the space in relative calm and guiding them gently through a flow of postures to give them a sense of what yoga is.
Whether they grasp the whole concept is irrelevant. They are being exposed to an ancient practice that brings them a little bit closer to their unique, inner selves. They learn that their body moves differently than the person next to him or her. That no two bodies move the same. They learn to breathe through the challenging bits and exhale with a smile on the bits that feel good. They learn about being quiet for a time, eyes closed, muscles relaxed (I occasionally catch them peeking, and we smile together).
In yoga we are all doing the same poses, and yet all our poses are unique, and that is completely accepted. There is no competition, and I remind the kids of that right at the beginning. Over a few classes, they begin to trust their bodies more, and I can see their personal evolution. It warms my heart. I can also see when they are just having a rough day, and there is always the option to come out of the pose and rest, which some do... and not many. Their strong determination amazes me every time.
What do I learn? Patience, for sure. Letting go of any expectation. Holding the space with compassion. Creativity and allowing the class to be fun - allowing myself to have fun! These kids have taught me to be much more joyful and spontaneous during our time together. I am grateful for their youthful wisdom!
I've become a strong supporter of yoga being available regularly for kids and teens. We live in a distracted, sedentary world. It is tempting to just hang out at home on the computer. Yoga provides a space in time where mindfulness and conscious movement with the breath can happen. These kids get an opportunity to discover their inner strength and uniqueness while they're on their mat... and then bring that gift out with them into the world. ॐ