I was asked by a high school media specialist if I would be interested in helping their students deal with the anxiety of final exams. “Of course I would, that’s what I do” was my response. On a side note: Witnessing students transform fear into freedom in a matter of minutes is something you can’t un see. Nor can you then deny the potential value that even more minutes of yoga on a regular basis would have on these kids. If you want to teach more kids more yoga, volunteering is visible value.
My plan was to teach our Focus Ten: Time and Again series and also base the teaching on their answers to my opening question “How are you feeling about finals?”
This is the time of applied, intuitive consciousness.
This is the time we let our hearts open up.
This is the time we need our children to experience reality through the compassion of the heart.
This is the time I asked our Fernbank Yoga Club Students~
What do you need to feel more present?
This is the time to state your needs so we can better serve our yoga club…
I love using Yoga, especially Grounded Kids Yoga poses in my role as a certified Peace Circle Trainer with educators. It such a natural fit as the philosophies of both are about tapping into that ever present true or best self. Creating a sacred and safe space for participants to practice using their deep and rich reservoirs of wisdom and compassion for self and others is the foundation of both Peace Circle (P.C.) practices and Grounded Kids Yoga.
Let me back up and explain as a semi retired school Counselor of 38 years who has used circles in classrooms and groups for the last 20 years, I now have the privilege and the skills to train any community group in Restorative Practices, especially Peace Circles. Many schools here in western N.Y. and more specifically the Rochester City School District are embracing these trainings and incorporating them into their school environments in an effort to uplift the school cultures for both students and staff. More and more evidence is now available to show that these experiences build relationships, reduce violence, harm and conflict and when wrong doing does happen using Restorative Practices is a humane way to hold those accountable. Harm can be repaired with this process with support instead of punishing and alienating people, most often students. Its an honor to be a part of this cause and using Grounded Kids Yoga in these trainings is extremely helpful and a wonderful tool to use and to teach others to use for themselves and their students.
I am happy to say I when I began working as a trainer 3 years ago I started using the Grounded Kids Yoga in most of my workshops and now many of the other trainers are incorporating some of the poses as well. I always begin first by briefly explaining the philosophy behind Grounded Kids Yoga as we all know there are many different types of yoga. Since doing openings and closing for every P.C. session is an integral part, I teach participants Just Breathe, “I am”, Lotus Breath and Namaste’. (I also add my own success stories using this yoga with kids.) I explain the mind jar when we do JB and have one available to demonstrate. Many educators have since adopted this for their classrooms and counseling groups. Tree Friends is a favorite to use as a closing (as in the picture above with educators from July 2015). If time allows we do Mountain, Tall Mountain, Breath of Joy and Half Lift. I use a chime for some added mindfulness and talk about ways to use this in the classroom. Dark Seed Light might be hard to do in the classroom but having the kids do a quieting, centering breathing pose with the chime is what I teach educators to use as great substitute and a positive way to facilitate kids managing their own behavior.
The list is growing and I find teachers have become more open to all of these practices as they recognize the value of connecting more with their kids, co-workers and themselves. Its exciting that many of our city schools are actually building in time for teachers to this. By the end of a training they all seem so appreciative for the experiential learning process, feel more connected to each other and are encouraged to have practical and new ways to create a more positive atmosphere in their own groups and classrooms. I walk away so grateful that two of my loves have come together to give me such purpose as well as hope for many of our struggling schools.
For more information on Restorative Practices and Peace Circles:
My training with the grounded program started over a year ago and has truly been a journey (that I am still on) of literally and figuratively finding my voice. First, I want it to be clear exactly what I mean by that. I hear a lot of teachers say when they start teaching that they struggle with imitating their teachers. And I want to make it clear that that is not what I mean when I talk about ‘finding my voice’. I don’t mean ‘my teaching voice’ as compared to imitating someone else. First and foremost I mean- literally, I needed to find my actual vocal ability- I need to be physically able to speak in front of a crowd. Secondly, and it turns out, more difficultly but just as importantly, – I needed to find the strand of myself that I could cling to when I was feeling overwhelmed, overexposed, and lost and point to and say- This! THIS! This is my voice- I need to listen to this! This is what’s important!
Let me start at the beginning. I went into the first Kids Grounded Training Module with no real teaching goals. I signed up for Module 1 because I wanted to do yoga with my kids in what I felt was the right and complete way. I wanted to always be safe, and I truly believe in the power of the whole practice. I think the Grounded methodology is real; I’d seen the classes and their effect on my daughters. I believed that if I was going to do yoga with my kids I should know exactly I was doing. I didn’t have any grand dreams to be a yoga teacher one day, not for kids or adults or anything. I just wanted to learn safe ways to teach poses and flows and class design. I simply believed in yoga and wanted to facilitate my kids practicing it.
Very early into Module 1 we had to practice-teach to each other. Simple? No. Immediate panic. I know lots of people say they get nervous when public speaking. Butterflies, they say. That’s such an understatement it doesn’t even qualify as an understatement anymore. I was sick with the anxiety. I was overwhelmed with the anxiety and I could barely think straight- “They’ll all be looking at me! I’m not a yoga teacher! What am I doing here!? They are all looking at me. Oh my god. They are all looking at me.” I looked around and the room looked the same, but I was lightheaded. I was dizzy. I literally COULD NOT SPEAK. I wanted to. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t make words come out of my mouth.
I know people say they understand, and they get nervous too- but no one else in that room burst into tears just walking up to the front of the classroom. No one else started to hyperventilate. No one else needed to be replaced by another teacher and literally physically calmed down. That was my first teaching experience. Even just typing this, and every time I reread it, I can feel my heart rate rise and my eyes tear up. And I know what this is. This is not news for me. This is my disorder. This is what kept me out of a gym for years. This is what stops me going to dinners with friends and going to parties and meeting up in groups. This is Social Phobia (Also sometimes called Social Anxiety Disorder, although technically it’s not quite the same thing). This is what it feels like to be literally paralyzed by fear of what others think of you. And it’s not because “I care too much what other people think” because I’m so vain or self-centered. Believe me when I say it’s almost the opposite. This condition at its worst has me chained to my house and stuck on my floor in tears. At its best I have to remind myself daily that my paranoia is unfounded. That people aren’t thinking those terrible things about me. That it can’t possibly be that bad. That everyone isn’t looking at me. Even typing this it sounds ridiculous, I know. But this is the condition, every day. Some good days. Some harder days.
Eventually I found my voice that first teaching day in that room- I had good people there with me and they encouraged me and believed in me (even when I didn’t) and I got up and I made myself do it. And since then that experience has served as a stepping stone for the experiences that have followed- walking to the edge- feeling the fear- facing the anxiety and the panic. And ultimately what that day taught me is this: Sometimes, sometimes, when you are feeling completely lost, you can look deep inside, and you can listen for the voice- and you close your eyes and make a decision. What is MOST IMPORTANT? And you move from that voice. Stepping right into the fear and the anxiety and the panic. You decide what is more important- the love, or the fear?
Since taking Module 1, I went back and forth and fought myself and struggled and finally- nearly sick with the decision- I decided to pursue a YTT 200 hour program. The first night of the program’s immersion week we introduced ourselves and had to say what we were hoping to get out of it. I didn’t want to become a great teacher or learn fancy poses or teach 8 classes a week. I said “I want to find my confidence”. I just wanted to find my voice.
When I started teaching I once again felt so super exposed. I felt like I was walking around with my insides on the outside of my body. It was a constant state of feeling like I couldn’t breathe deep enough, like I couldn’t quite concentrate with all the thoughts that were running through my head. Panic. Anxiety. Paranoia. I had to somehow find my way back to my private self. My first desire was- of course- to quit. I don’t know how many weeks it was of every night in a row I said I want to quit- I’m too out there- I’m too exposed- I can’t take this. I felt like I was suffocating.
It’s not a coincidence that the feelings here are all tied to the 5th chakra. I felt like I couldn’t breathe or speak through the exposure, until I realized that if I was going to find “me”- I actually had to LISTEN. It’s all Vishuddha- 5th Chakra. I had to listen. I started to make lists of what was important to me. What I needed most in my life. My family- yes! My husband and kids. My personal meditation, asana and pranayama practice. I realized I had to turn inside and listen to that voice deep deep down. What did I believe to be TRUE? What did I value? Why was I doing what I was doing? What was important to me? And the voice was loud and clear- teaching advanced asana- yes, teaching meditation and pranayama- yes, teaching kids- yes- all these things- I BELIEVE in them. I believe in the power of them. That’s why I was doing this. That was where my voice was. This is my yoga. This is the yoga that I believe in. This is where the truth was. I could hold on to that.
And so here I am. On the journey. I’m not saying it was an instant fix. It’s still hard, and anxiety is still a constant, but it’s grip is a little less tight. I completed my 200RYT, and am so excited to be about to complete 100RCYT. I teach arm balances and inversions at my favorite yoga studio once a week. I teach private lessons every week. I have a weekly kids’ class. I use my voice- my beliefs and my values- to do what I believe in. I am my own true authentic self, and I teach. And it is hard, every time. Because it is real and honest and true. Moving from love, not from fear. Listening to the wisdom of the true inner voice