When you attend a children’s yoga teacher training, you are told there will be challenging times, there will be moments that you will have to make decisions on the fly about what to do about one disruptive four year old in a class of six and you will be given a handful of coping mechanisms that hopefully will help. You will have your plan and your back up plan, and your plan C in your back pocket, but nothing prepared me for the first time it happened. Nothing. It began as most of my classes did: Ommmmm, the “I am happy, I am good” song, and a “how is everyone feeling today?” check in. I had a grandmother joining the class as a guest with her two grandchildren that were visiting from out of town who were oh so eager to do some yoga. I was excited, they were excited, so far, so good… and then it happened. One little girl in the class began to draw attention to herself in a way she didn’t usually in class. I had a little background knowledge that things at home were currently unstable, so I gave her space to express herself as she became more settled into yoga class.
When she didn’t get the attention from me that she was seeking she stood in the middle of the room and screamed at the top of her lungs with her fists clenched and her eyes squeezed shut. As I brought her to the side of the room (while still directing a game the class was playing) I spoke with her softly and asked if everything was okay and if she needed anything from me. The screaming continued. I was surprised to see how this little four year old screaming right at me triggered me and I felt the heat begin to rise from the bottom of my belly. As this grandmother looked on I wondered how I would handle this. I rounded up the classroom and had them begin the “I am Happy, I am Good” song once more and brought the little girl outside the room in case the energy in the room and the attention from the other students was too much for her. I crouched down and asked her to join me in taking a few deep breaths, this didn’t work, I asked if she needed water, that didn’t work, I explained how this behavior was very disruptive to class and she would need to calm down before she could go back in the room. I left the door open so I could see her and went back in to prepare everyone for Savasana. A moment before Savasana ended the little girl reentered the room and decided that she wanted to join in on Savasana but it was too late, it was time for our closing circle and the screaming started again. I felt the heat in my face as the other students sat quietly to see what I was going to do. From somewhere deep inside I found compassion for the turmoil that was happening inside this little body and how hard it was for her to express herself. I looked at her as sweetly as I could and said, “do you need a hug?” She immediately stopped screaming, opened her eyes to look at me and began to sob and proceeded to walk curl up in my lap for the last five minutes of class while we did our closing routine and cried. Once class was over, she wiped her eyes and helped me clean up.
This moment changed the way I see children that are lashing out. Not that “do you need a hug?” Will work every time, but digging deep to relate to this little being and what they are trying to process outside of class. This is what yoga does. It opens us up to release feelings and emotions that are stuck. This is exactly what it did for this little girl and the only way she knew how to let it out was to scream. I am eternally grateful to her for teaching me this lesson and remind me again why I teach children.