Today I want to share about my work of becoming a children’s yoga teacher—because I’m starting to realize that I am here now. I am doing it. It’s happening!
I could write about outdoor Pre-Grounded yoga that works, why you should teach professional development yoga for pre-school teachers, sweet family classes on Saturday afternoons with mamas and daughters holding hands in Savasana, weaving in story, how to overcome the naysayers and teach 0-3, how to rock a library story time—the few sweet successes I’ve experienced so far. This is what you would expect me to write about—Amanda Hendricks, M.A., Ashtangi grant writer, almost Certified Grounded Teacher.
But I want to write about my work—the discomforts of becoming a children’s yoga teacher. Discomforts, lessons, and growing pains—the real highlights of my first year teaching children’s yoga. I don’t want to forget them. I want to remember the discomfort I felt when:
The little moments. The growing pains of being a new teacher—the growing pains of opening to something new. Because even opening to something new and wonderful, like my dream of teaching yoga to children that started on the seaside in Kerala many years ago, can still be hard. It must be hard. All the best things are.
Even meant-to-be-things take hard work and dedication to grow and blossom. Even though I’ve found my path, the journey is still challenging. It is hard work to stay inspired and dedicated—to trek back to Staples, 4-year-old in tow, and print more flyers. To change, flow, and adapt when you are trying a new teaching environment, or when something that was working suddenly stops working. Will I get discouraged? Maybe. Will I quit? Never. I’m here now. This is my heart. And I have my own Ashtanga practice to thank for that—the poses that I want to run from or skip…but my teacher says, “No take Garbha Pindasana again.” Again! Ah! Yes, again. Take it again. And don’t forget to breathe.
If you are a new teacher, alone in a city with not enough Grounded teachers like me—yes please Philadelphia needs you! Listen to your heart. Listen to the part of you that knows this is the way. It is whispering and sometimes it is yelling. Sometimes it gets tired and shuts up, but it’s still there. I cannot remove Garbha Pindasana from the Primary Series of Ashtanga Yoga. I would like to, but I cannot. It is there to teach me something and so are the challenges and mistakes of the early days of teaching—and all the days of teaching for that matter. I am trying on my training and making it my own. This work needs to be done—and the work of beginnings isn’t easy for people like me who like to get it right every time, especially the first time. This is humbling, empowering work. It is all at once perfectly comfortable and intensely uncomfortable. You cannot circumnavigate errors and pitfalls. We need those imperfections to make us better and to make our classes the vibrant, emanating works of folk art that they are. We need to mess up. We need to do poses we don’t like. That’s how we learn. That’s how children learn.
This is what I wrote on my self-reflection forms, to remind myself that it’s okay to make mistakes. After listing 5 things I am grateful for about the class, I list the dreaded mistake and what I hope to learn from it. And then I read my reminder.
Every class is handmade like a quilt. When it is handmade it is filled with love. “Mistakes” make it handmade—mechanical perfection erases love. Leave the love in. Love your “mistakes.” They are the crooked stitch—the chance to show your humanness—the chance to grow and practice gratitude—the part that says “a loving, living, breathing person made this class for you.” Let your classes be handmade, homemade works of folk art. Nervous means you care. Be gentle with yourself. Think about your hands in Chataranga Dandasana. Breathe. Ground them down into the earth. You are Worthy of Love!
Actually, that is what my name means in Latin. Amanda—worthy of love. I remind myself this every day. I am worthy of my practice and I am worthy of the title of teacher.
Here is my prayer for my journey:
May I always have something to learn.
May there always be work to be done.
May I always care as deeply as I do now.
May I always have something to give.
Suggested reading: It’s Okay to Make Mistakes by Todd Parr
Suggested listening: Just Because it’s Different Doesn’t Mean it’s Scary by Yo Gabba Gabba! Don’t Ever Give Up by Moona Loona
I love the feeling of my feet reaching towards the sky, lightly floating through the air. I first experienced this in a shoulder stand, watching my toes point towards the ceiling above me, free and weightless. When I was ready, I set up for my first headstand. Creating a stable base with my hands and head, I eagerly sent my feet up above me. Obviously I fell a few times. I even took down other headstanders next to me in class once (fortunately, they didn’t hold grudges). As soon as I was ready to hold myself up stably in a headstand, I couldn’t stop turning myself upside down.
During this time, I was also forging my way through high school, balancing classes, homework, clubs, work, and yoga all at once. When the hours of homework stressed me out, I took inversion breaks to kick my feet up. Before big exams, I kicked up into handstands against the hallway walls. My feet balancing in the air reminded me of my freedom and stability in the midst of difficulty.
During high school I also completed my 200 hour yoga teacher training, which led me to Grounded Yoga trainings. At first I didn’t think teaching yoga to kids was for me. I like kids, and I like yoga, but the first time I put the two together I couldn’t even get the kids to stay on their mats, let alone stop talking, and I was used to adult classes where everyone just follows my cues.
Fortunately, I had the opportunity to intern with Cheryl at Fernbank Elementary. There was one girl who represented everything that scared me about kids’ yoga. She complained, left her mat, wouldn’t follow directions. Then one day she learned how to stand on her head and she, like me when I first learned, didn’t want to do anything else. So we went to the side of the room and I showed her how to make a stable base so her feet could float through the air. I had fun, because all I was doing was showing her how to do what I loved to do.
When I started teaching my first teen class, I was nervous to be teaching students not far from my own age. I decided to teach restorative poses with bolsters at the end of class because that’s all I wanted after a long day of school, and every class after that they asked for restorative poses. I soon realized that teaching all yoga to kids is nothing more than showing them what I love to do, like teaching headstands at Fernbank.
Being upside down reminds me of my freedom and power, but also to teach what I love. The world is a lot less intimidating upside down.