Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Radiant Child

Recently I completed a program in which I learned to teach yoga to children. The focus was on an age group a little younger than I intend to work with, but it was informative and helpful anyway. The class was full of women, all of which were mothers except myself and one other. I could see how the techniques would help them with their own children, but I felt pretty silly with a lot of the training.

The facilitator taught us as if we were the children in the age group she targeted. For example, Friday night we were in pre-school, Saturday we were 4-8, and Sunday we were pre-teens. It was in a word, weird. Sure I laughed my head off and it was probably worth it for that alone, but I couldn't help feeling strange. It's weird to be thrown a ball and asked what your name is and what your favorite animal is. Or, to make elephant noises and walk around with your arms in the shape of the trunk.

One thing that always makes me feel like a total moron is singing. I generally do not sing out loud unless I have had alcohol or I am feeling silly. I don't even sing in the shower. Little did I know there was a ton of singing throughout the training, and we even had to lead the class of adults in songs like: Fly Like A Butterfly, Happy Happy Gio, and Yogini Went To Sea. Most of these songs have been re-playing in my head every single day since the course. An example of what this looks like to the intended audience is here:

I have to admit that I felt insane at various intervals, especially since pretending to be a child makes you want to randomly yell out things like, "Potty!" I even had to fight the urge to run around making airplane noises.

Besides my awful singing, there was also the element of talking in the goo goo ga ga voice, which I am not at all a fan of. I found this children's yoga video and seriously worried that this is why people think practicing yoga is nuts:

I understand that the type of yoga generally taught to children is Kundalini Yoga, which is different than the yoga I practice. I also know that as an instructor I do not have to do anything that I am uncomfortable with. The songs are cute and the movements work really well with kids to get them to shake it out and stretch and focus, and even to breathe. Just creating more awareness for a child, such as when to take a deep breathe and when to relax is valuable for their entire life. Clearly I do not want to chant words that kids wouldn't understand. Even if you explained that SAT NAM means: truth is my identity, does it really fit in?

I love yoga and I know that there is something for everyone in it, but sometimes people need to expand their horizons before they will even give it a chance. Does that mean we need to chant and say things that we think are nonsense and irrelevant? Maybe it does once in a while. It couldn't hurt, even if it is pretty silly. I still have a hard time with a lot of that stuff and don't intend to work that way with kids, but you never know. Whatever works, works.

At my cousin's funeral the priest had the attendees chant the Hail Mary over and over and over, which at the time I completely didn't understand. I thought I was in some sort of bizarre cult-ish ritual. Since I am not Catholic like that side of the family, I didn't even know the words and just sat there wondering when this torture was going to end. Now I get that by saying a phrase over and over you connect with your breath and alter your state of mind to concentration. By focusing on the current sound only you alleviate whatever tension or anxiety you're coming in with.

I had a yoga instructor that had us singing some sort of devotion to Patanjali in class, which made me feel like a total moron. Sometimes she would do it when we were stuck in an extremely difficult position and I would end up laughing. It was a trick; I was laughing or other people were singing, and that quadricep trying to scream at you wasn't as loud anymore.

So if we can get children to learn various ways of calming themselves, or tricking them into exercise, what difference does it make how ridiculous the words or the songs are? I seem to remember a truly awful song from my childhood that must have some redeeming quality, if at least only in humor:

Great green globs of greasy grimy gopher meat
Mutilated monkey meet
Dehydrated birdie feet
French fried eyeballs swimming in a bowl of pus
And me without my spoon, so they gave me
Horse meat, sugar on top
Elephant's vomit, milk and snot
Camel's eyeballs mixed with glue
All chopped up, just for you

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