The Knights Who Say “Haaaa”

If you ever want to feel a little silly, try a few Lion’s Breaths.
Inhale deeply through your nose.
Open your eyes as wide as you can.
Open your mouth as wide as you can.
Stick your tongue out as far as you possibly can and curl it down towards your chin.
Exhale through your open mouth, while you constrict the back of your throat as if you were fogging up glasses, and make a long “Haaaa” (as in hat) sound.

It looks silly. And when used in conjunction with up-stretched arms and hands like bear claws, it can look even sillier.

Little kids love it. When I teach it to kindergarteners, first or second graders, it is always followed by uncontrollable giggles that last for a few minutes. Third, fourth, fifth and sixth graders turn and “haaaa” in each others’ faces and laugh out loud.

I love to teach it. It sets a tone of fun and brings so much positive energy into the room. When combined with poses, it helps the kids to release any negativity they might be feeling. It allows them to be silly, to be kids, to just let go.

I’ve noticed that when I try to teach this to the seventh and eight graders, something entirely different happens. Most of the kids look at me like I’m a crazy person (don’t say it). They look around the room to see if anyone else is going to do it. They are cautious, and afraid to try it. They don’t want to look silly. One or two of them might follow me, but then the others laugh at them, and they feel embarrassed.

They are a little bit older and have lived a little bit longer. They’re on the verge of adulthood, in the biological sense. The silly is almost gone, and it has been replaced by a concern for how they look to other people. The little kid inside of them is slowly being covered up with layers of things that they have seen and heard and felt. A suit of grown-up armor is being been built up all around that child, and they dare not show anyone the chinks.

It is here on the edge of adulthood, that I try remove the armor, if only for a few breaths. I try to allow them to be silly, I encourage it and remind them how good silly feels.

“Hold on to it!” I want to scream to them. “Hold on to this little bit of silly! Your life is about to get all too serious. And all too soon, those sillies will be few and far between!”

So, I explain to them that it’s not about how we look in a pose, but rather how we feel in it. It is not about what anyone else thinks about us, and our choices, it is how we feel about our own selves, and the choices that we make. It’s not at all about how we look in these clothes of ours, this skin of ours. It is all about how we feel in this life of ours. If we worry about what other people think, we will miss out on all of the fun. And Lion’s Breath is fun!

Then we try again. And this time, almost everyone does it, and a few of them even laugh a little. And that makes me smile, for them, and for me. Because no one should ever let what others might think cause them to miss out on something that might truly make them happy.

I know I don’t want to miss out on it. Not ever. I always want to be that kid. The one who turns to her friend with bugged out eyes and stretched out tongue and roars like a lion. That kid who giggles uncontrollably for a full five minutes after. The kid who laughs out loud again later in the day when recalling the scene.

I think I’m still that kid. There are so many chinks in this armor. And I really don’t care what anyone else thinks. Haaaaa!

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