I’ve been volunteering in this Teen Center in a neighboring city for three months now, teaching a yoga class for teenage girls once a week. Coincidentally, it is the day when some of them have had a 2 hour P.E. class that same morning. As a result, some of them come already very tired to the yoga class and really just want to rest and relax. I wish it was that easy: to let them lie on their mats for a whole hour and tiredness or stress would simply float out of their bodies, but it’s not. And so I encourage them to get moving with yoga poses in a flow (vinyasa), with the promise that energy will bubble up eventually in the middle of their practices or at least by the end of it. Of course, they have the option of sitting down through poses, as no one is forced to do anything.
It is interesting to note these teenagers are not there because their parents want them to; it is a different deal. They come to that Teen Center after school and there happens to be a yoga class, which is included in the fee they already pay just to spend the afternoon there. So, it is up to them if they want to continue hanging out with friends, doing homework, playing on the computer or other games available, or come do yoga.
On the last class before winter break, one of the girls asked me to take a picture of her and her friend performing Tree pose together. She said she wanted to show her mom that she has been doing yoga there. Then, another one told me she and her best friend, who also takes class, did two poses when their families got together at her house, and showed their parents, who were very entertained by it. That was the sign I had been waiting for to see if yoga was touching their lives also when off the mat.
At the end of class, I asked them to write how yoga had brought something new to their lives. Among other responses, I saw this nice drawing, a very creative one, and I smiled. You can see from the picture she wrote the word stress inside a balloon, which she releases after taking a yoga class. What a beautiful idea!
I feel happy to make this available to them. How amazing that this one girl, who has recognized that those yoga poses we do, even on those days when we just feel like taking a nap, allow us to shift our perspectives in life, relieving us from the pressure of the daily routine. This seed will be forever planted in their hearts, constituting one more tool they can use in the present and in their future, when life gets overwhelming, besides the fact that just by knowing there is relief for stress is already reassuring.
Obviously, the journey on our mats does not stop there, and, pretty soon, there will be more balloons in the drawing, containing fear, low self-esteem, sadness, anger, etc. It does not mean we are not supposed to feel those, because they are also feelings. It just means that by being aware of them as they creep up on us, we are able to choose to keep holding onto the string of that balloon or choose to let go of it. It is our choice.