Monday, April 4, 2011

namaste monday: my yoga class

welcome to week one of namaste monday!
a lot of you expressed interest in having a weekly yoga post, so i figured i'd give it a try!
i'm really excited to introduce things like weekly poses, monthly sequences, descriptions of breath work, and an inside look at my yoga practice.
if you already practice yoga, i encourage you to comment!  i'd love to hear all about your practice and experiences.  i always love to hear about how people got involved with yoga!
if you have never tried yoga and are thinking about taking a class, do it!  seriously, it was the best decision of my life to begin making yoga a part of my life.  if you don't like your first class, go to a different one.  there are so many different options and teachers that you're sure to find one you love :)

last week i wrote a post where i discussed how i became involved in yoga and my decision to do the 200 hour teacher training.  this week it's all about my class :)

as I neared my yoga graduation in August 2009, I began to worry.  I had spent everyday that entire summer in the yoga studio.  All day, everyday.  I had loved it.  And while I was physically drained, I was worried.  What would I do now?  Luckily, my TT teacher offered me a job teaching a 1 1/2 Sunday afternoon class. I was so happy.  Looking back, I probably should have spent more time just taking classes and learning as much as I could about yoga, but I am very grateful for the experience.  I went there every sunday and taught.  Since it was a new class, the first week I had one person.  Eventually I built my class up to 12-15 regulars every week.  I loved when people complimented me on my teaching. It felt like I had really found my niche.
Unfortunately, like I wrote in my last yoga post, the owner of the studio wasn't the best person to work for.  Our first problem came in November when I had emergency surgery.  i knew I would be out of teaching for at least a month.  Since my surgery was on a Sunday morning, I needed to find a sub for my PM class ASAP.  I figured she'd be more then willing to help me out in my time of need, but she ended up being a little rude and forced me to send emails and frantic phone calls to subs.  While I was in the hospital.  At 9 AM.  One hour before an emergency appendectomy.  
I was peeved, but held it in.  
Then came the late paychecks.  Yoga wasn't about the money for me, so I didn't mind.  But it bothered me because I knew there were a lot of teachers who depended on these checks to survive.  Then came the extra hours at work, that we were told we would be payed for, and then after they were over she said "oh no, that was volunteer".  I'm talking 8 hour yoga open houses.  Not cool.
While I'm grateful for the job, we parted ways in May of 2010.  She had so many teacher trainings, and while it was nice she offered classes to all her graduated teachers, it also meant as soon as new teachers graduated, most of the old teachers were booted.  

At that point I wasn't sure what I wanted to do.  I knew I wanted to teach, but I wanted something different.  Not many people are open to hiring a then 16 year old yoga teacher.  Not many at all.  I soon realized that even thought I was a teacher, that didn't mean I was done being a student.  Since I had recently taken on a new job as a lifeguard, I decided to focus the summer on just taking yoga classes.  I'm so happy I did, because I learned more then I would have had I busied myself teaching.
I understand why people are less then willing to hire someone my age.  While I successfully completed the training, and I consider myself a great teacher, I don't have as much yoga practice under my belt as someone who is, say, 30.  

Despite wanting to focus on my practice, I knew there was a kind of teaching I had to get involved in.  Back during my training, we had to do what was called "Karma Hours".  Basically, we had to give back to the community through yoga in some way.  Some volunteered at open houses, some cleaned the studio, and some did what i did.  I chose to help out at the Special needs class that met every Tuesday.  It was a class of about 10 students who had Down Syndrome and came to the studio as part of their camp.  
I fell in love.   I came back every week to help out, because I loved seeing the smiles on their faces and the improvement that showed.  These were kids who faced more difficulties in a single week then many of us ever will.  They had had countless surgeries, were taunted at school, faced learning disabilities, had multiple injuries, and encountered simple things like tying their shoes to be problems.  
I remember one little girl who had so much trouble in the beginning, and by the end could do Tree pose all by herself!

Following my final "adult" yoga class in May of 2010, I spent every Tuesday during the summer volunteering with the same program.  This was the only yoga program for special needs children in my area, and I knew there were plenty of kids who didn't know about it.
The studio I go to for hot yoga has one teacher whose daughter is Autistic.  We began talking, and she suggested that I start my own class.  The owner of that studio offered me use of her studio on Sundays, plus free mats for all of the children.  I was overjoyed!
In September I started my Yoga for the Special populations class on Sundays from 12:30-1:15.  Unlike the class I volunteered at, this class was open to kids with an entire range of disabilities.  I have kids with CP, Down Syndrome, Autism, and Sensory Integration Disorders all working together in our class to create a better life for themselves.  I even decided to make the class FREE.  I wanted the families of these children to have a worry free experience coming to yoga.

And it has turned out better then I expected.  The teacher with the Autistic daughter volunteers every week with me, and I have three other volunteers that come regularly to help out.  I also have various teens from churches, National Honor Society programs, and clubs come for community service hours.  The kids who have come have responded better then I expected.  What started as a little class of 3 or 4 kids has grown to up to 15 kids.  They have all different degrees of disorders and range from age 2 to 17!  it's great that they all work together, and many of them have created friendships outside of the classroom.  What's also great is it gives the parents a chance to grab a cup of coffee or simply relax in the waiting area.  They have all become friends too!
In my class, I focus on poses that can help a range of disabilities.  I do spinal twists to aid digestion and balancing pose to reinforce concentration.  I use yoga games to help the younger children adapt, and breathing exercises.  I do things like Shoulder Stand as their inversion pose, and I include partner poses to encourage the kids to work together.
I'll do a big post on disabilities and yoga one week, since it's the focus of my Senior Thesis.
The most rewarding part of this journey for me has been the enthusiasm and response from everyone.  I always teach the kids in my class that everything they do in class can be done at home.  I teach them poses to do before bed, in the morning when they wake up, and after they eat.  I tell them the breathing can be done in stressful situations.  And I love that they are actually enthused my yoga enough to do it at home!  One Mom told me her daughter took out her mat and had her Barbie doing yoga!  A girl with Autism told me she does her twists every night after dinner for digestion.  And one young boy told me he does his breathing in school when he needs to focus.
The parents have been amazing.  They tell me their children's lives have changed.  
And that's what makes me smile the most.

Two years ago when I began my TT journey, in fact five years ago when I began yoga, I never expected this would be what I would be doing.  But it's truly been a blessing, and I couldn't have asked for a better experience.  
The entire thing as made me realize how much this means to not only to me, but to the children.  I've decided it's something I want to continue my entire life, no matter where I go.

My most surprising discovery?  I may be the teacher, but it truly is the kids in my class who are teaching me.


  1. The minute I clicked on your blog, I thought to myself "I know that namaste card!"....I'm giving away a $25 gift certificate to that shop (fine day press) tomorrow on my blog! Make sure you enter! ;)

  2. Oh my, you are simply the greatest. After reading this, I just want to give you this big hug! Alas, I can only express the sentiment via the internet instead of actually doing it.

  3. I randomly stumbled across this blog, and this is one of the most inspiring posts I have ever read. So wonderful to know there are some genuine people out there with hearts of gold.

  4. Nice blog post and fantastic your job as well as maintain your fitness and after sow your post, every one inspired for that job.Thanks

    yoga austin


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