Some yoga classes deliver lessons to us; within it, some people get it, some people have no clue what the instructor is talking about. Not a problem; they are just not ready for that yet. Sometimes a lesson develops during a yoga class; and that’s what I want to write about on this post.
First of all, as a teacher, you rarely know who is going to show up for class. So, coming to class thinking, “Today I will teach Johnny how to finally sit down peacefully” may not be a good idea. Notice words already indicating judgment within this sentence… What has happened to me is that if I showed up to teach with that mentality, Johnny would not even come to class on that day. “Well”, I could think to myself, “I will just focus on the same idea even though Johnny is not here, and teach the kids, who did come to class, about sitting down in quietude. Ha! That’s when the universe emphasizes its humor and resolves to bring kids who already know how to sit quietly for a while (don’t underestimate them; many already know it; they are just not given the chance to.)! Would you stick to the same plan? I would not. Since they already know it, so many other things could be taught. So many different seeds to plant, so little time! The trick is staying flexible, and completely in the moment. Being present with them will let you get a feeling of which idea would work better for them on that particular day. In other words, presence will enable you to find out what could serve your students better.
During one of my regular classes this past week, one for ages 7-11, I came with a theme and even a story book (with more pictures than words) to serve as some guidance for the poses, a few props and no particular lesson in mind. As class flowed, I noticed something quite common: They were trying to be perfect in performing poses and answering questions I asked to encourage comprehension of the story. I noticed many things also during class, such as them being quiet (as in not restless at all), already feeling good, and with compassion towards each other. So, I decided to focus on the idea of being okay with imperfections. Towards the end of class, after the final relaxation, we all came to the tops of our yoga mats in easy-seat (legs crossed) position. Next, I did a “drawing with breath” exercise, when they had their eyes covered while drawing on a paper, then would trade their paper among each other every couple of breaths. This way they would not attach to the results so much. When we finished, I told them to uncover their eyes and try to make sense out of their drawings. Maybe they could instantly identify something. Maybe they just needed to add a couple more lines and curves to the drawing to be able to see something. I had warned them the final product might not look perfect, and that would be completely fine – you should have seen the surprised look on their faces!
Next, we each shared our own drawing and then tried to see what others saw in their drawings. And that in itself is another lesson about perfection: If someone sees a completely different thing than you when looking at a picture, it does not mean one of you is wrong; it means there is no perfect or exact way of seeing it. I compare this to planting a seed. Now it is a fact that, at least once in their lives, they were allowed to not be perfect. By the way, in some cases, this pressure to be perfect does not even come from teachers or parents; sometimes it comes from within themselves. I’ve seen it happen with myself and my kids, for instance. Back to writing about the kids in that particular class, now that they have “tasted it”, they will know the difference. And one day, when they are really tough on themselves, pushing hard to be perfect, they may remember the one time when they were allowed (mostly by themselves) to not be perfect, and that imperfections are actually okay. Then, in the future, this seed may grow into a new belief for them: We each strive to be a better person, setting aside the expectation of being perfect, because that would not even be human after all.