There have been many times (many) when I was in a less than pleasant mood as I stepped onto my yoga mat. But every time I step off my mat (really, every single time) I feel better. I know this. I know it works. But sometimes I still don’t get on my mat.
I should do it more often. I really should.
Something shifts inside of me while I’m practicing. My mind clears, my burdens become lighter, my heart lifts. It’s physical activity, endorphins, anandamide. Some days it’s yogic bliss, some days it’s just a slight lifting of the spirit.
When I teach in yoga studios I can sometimes see the shifts in people. If I’m very lucky, they will tell me about them. But more often than not, I have no idea how students are feeling. I can only hope that the practice has been beneficial in some way.
But when I teach children it is different. They don’t have the level of self control that we (most of us) have. Their energy can be easily seen and heard and felt.
Yesterday I walked into a roomful of noisy, rowdy fifth graders. They were all wound up. Full of restless energy. Moving in all different directions. Completely disconnected.
The teacher was clearly frustrated and approaching the end of her rope. When she saw me walk in, she waved a hand towards me and told me to “Go on” (it sort of sounded like a dare) and she walked out of the room. She didn’t go too far, she stood right outside of the door with her head in her hands.
I began talking about the standardized state test that was coming up, and how yoga could help them with test taking. Some of them listened. Some did not. We worked on a couple of deep breathing exercises and a few seated stretches. A few more of them started paying attention, but others were still off in their own heads.
Then we stood up and began to do some Sun Breaths. I cued the movements and the breaths for them. I think we did about five, before everyone was participating. Then I told them that I knew they could do them without me, so I would stop cueing.
We began moving silently. And after two rounds, I felt something happen. It was as if all of the restless energy in the room had been sucked out. I looked up and saw 23 kids, moving in synch, silently, and I heard all of them inhaling and exhaling. It was pretty awesome. I told them to close their eyes, and keep flowing. Every single child in the room was moving, breathing, flowing, focusing, it was truly amazing.
Now this, right here, is what yoga is all about. The connection of breath and movement. The shared connection of our breath with the breath of those around us. The deeper connection we can all have to ourselves, and to each other.
Somewhere in the middle of these sun breaths, the teacher had come back into the room. She stood by her desk and looked at the kids. Then she took a deep breath in and joined us.
I asked the class how they felt when we were finished. They all described being calm and relaxed and happy. One boy said “I feel like I could just float away.”
When the class was over and we said our Namastes, the teacher followed me to the door.
“That was amazing” she said.
“Did you feel it?” I asked her “The shift?”
“I did,” she said “and we should really do this more often.”
We should. We really should.
How to do Sun Breaths
Stand up straight and tall like a mountain. Arms at your side, feet close together.
Inhale, sweep your arms out to the side and reach up over head. Look up.
Exhale as you fold at your waist, dive over into a forward fold, hands toward the floor.
Inhale, as you rise halfway up, bring your hands to your knees flatten your back.
Exhale as you fold back down, reaching towards the floor.
Inhale as you sweep your arms out to the sides and up over your head, and slowly rise up to stand. Look up.
Exhale as you look forward, bring your hands together in a prayer down through your center to your heart.
Take a deep breath in and out. Think about how you feel.