Monthly Archives: January 2012

mais oui! non?

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you know your is pretty mal when parisian four-year-olds rirant hysterically every time you parlez.

i was teaching in paris over le weekend and even though it was billed as “taught in anglais”, i thought it would be a bon opportunity to dust off my cinq ans of high school francais lessons.

keep in mind, that first of all, i was up all night trying to construct simple sentences like “sit still” or “close your eyes.” i could remember “close your eyes” quite easily for some reason (“fermez les yeux”), so i was sure to say that one as often as possible.

anyway, once les enfants showed up for the class, i introduced myself and told them (en francais) how bad my french was…not that i needed to tell them that. literally, as soon as i started talking, all the kids started laughing. and the more i talked, the more they laughed.

the interpreter was called in at that point. best part: she wasn’t only translating my english. apparently, she decided my pauvre efforts at le francais were so bad that she had to translate those as well. like when you watch “trainspotting” and their cockney english is accompanied by english subtitles…because it’s english…but like english from another planet.

when i speak french, there is no regard to conjugation, tense, first or second person, plural or singular, or any other grammatical rules. all i care about is if i can magically remember a mot, i say it.

anyway, here’s le thing. when you are teaching kids, everything is about connection. and when you need an interpreter, the connection deteriorates chaque time the interpreter steps in. by the middle of the class, i had all but given up on my francais and left it to the unwitting interpreter to take care of the rest. in essence, she was now teaching the class.

it was unfortunate, as i was not able to draw the kids in on any level but the physical. they had fun, but that’s it. a good reminder to me that all the talking and joking i do with kids in america isn’t just me being funny. it’s me establishing rapport…connecting…and being able to change lives.

au revoir, francais. je t’aime, mais je returne a america ou les enfants comprendes moi. 🙂

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kiddie crushes <3

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so, i have this class that currently has four little girls in it, ages 3.5 -5. and a five-and-a-half year old boy tried out the class. an older man.

it was enough of an event that all the girls actually put shorts on under their cute pink skirts in a rare act of modesty. some had skorts, as i was informed. whatever it was, this boy wasn’t going to get to see any undies today.

at first he came into the room and hid behind mom. so many girls! and such big eyes they all had…all on him!

this boy was cute. tall (at least three feet!), curly hair, nice eyes. it didn’t go unnoticed by anyone.

all of a sudden all of the girls started showing off…doing poses for the new boy, big smiles. i pretty much lost all control of the group, as he inched his way sheepishly onto his mat…the best i can explain it was awe and wonderment. like he had just walked into a four-ring circus. but, even better, he got to be a part of the circus.

he immediately and full-heartedly joined in the melee,  his harem buzzing around him, the king bee.

anyway, the class itself was in a bit of chaos, but the boy…couldn’t wait to come back. overall, a big success. some yoga was done and a little boy was won over…partly by me, but mostly by my little princesses.

no chanting, please!

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i don’t chant. and i don’t chant with kids.

i’ve had it out with a lot of people on this one. many of whom contend that devotion (bhakti) is an inextricable part of yoga.

well, i agree. but i still don’t chant.

why? because i’m jewish and my god isn’t the same god that is being invoked in most sanskrit chants. who says that in order for me to practice bhakti, i have to do it to hindu gods? isn’t a jew praying to her own god daily, passionately, mindfully, practicing devotion?

and there’s an even bigger reason why i don’t chant with children.

i believe there is a lot of power in words…especially in prayers. and you can either (a) believe there is power in words (hence, chanting) or (b) words mean nothing (so, why chant?). assuming you are in camp “a”, then you agree that chants are powerful…otherwise, why bother? and then what makes them powerful? that they are invoking gods (or manifestations of gods) that are meant to help us get through life’s challenges.

i’ve never heard a sanskrit chant to hashem (the jewish god), or jesus, or allah. and that’s why i will never impose one devotion’s idea of “prayer” on a child. parents who raise their children with a particular faith are not sending their kids to yoga to pray to a foreign god who is manifested in a different faith.

let’s put this in more westernized terms. no offense, but as a jew, if i were to come home from elementary school singing “jesus is lord, jesus is king,”  you can be darn sure the school would hear about it from my parents. with all due respect and deference to jesus, he simply isn’t my god.

people always tell me they’re just chants. songs. the words aren’t what matter. what???? the words are all that matters. otherwise, chanting is a vacuous exercise in singing. let’s just sing.

other people tell me that parents (and i) are closed-minded if we don’t want our children chanting. let’s talk about closed-minded. who says that your faith is more appropriate than mine? mine says i only have devotion to one god. everyone with religious conviction other than hinduism is thereby closed-minded? i’m closed-minded because i believe in one god and his name is not shiva, or lakshmi, or durga, or…jesus?

if i want to chant with kids, i’ll do it in english, so that they understand each and every word they are saying. so that the words are powerful and meaningful and meant to be what they are meant to be…devotion to goodness, greatness, and the perfection of the universe around us.

pavlovian (downward facing) dogs

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what kids won’t do for a head tap…

we all know that rewarding positive behavior is a very effective way to encourage said behaviors (right…?)…some might call these bribes.

i like using rewards with my students. sometimes they take the form of pencils & erasers, stickers, beanie babies, five-carat diamond rings…sometimes they simply take the form of a pat on the head.

one thing i like to do to get my children still in seated meditation is walk around the circle (of kids) and tap the heads of the kids who are sitting still and quiet with their eyes closed. they want that tap.

in fact, i have this one precious little three-year-old who always announces before meditation that she does not want to close her eyes. so i tell her that’s fine, she can just sit still with her eyes open. knowing full well…as soon as she sees the other kids get their first few taps, her eyes close right up. and in come the taps on her head, big smiles.

you see, rewards don’t have to be anything fancy, expensive, or even tangible. a simple tap on the head may be all your little downward facing puppies need….

i’m not playing favorites!…well, not really…ok, maybe just a little bit…

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sometimes i get a kid in my yoga class who just doesn’t fit in well with the others. maybe she’s shy or brash. maybe he lacks confidence or social skills. but for one reason or another, s/he just doesn’t fit in. the other kids talk and joke and bond, but this one kid is left out. even worse, sometimes the kid will pipe into a conversation and the other kids will just stare and stop the entire conversation abruptly on a dime. man, that kills me.

generally speaking, if my students are talking a lot in class, getting loud and out of hand, i stop them, have them regroup, sit, meditate, quiet down, and get back on task. i certainly allow a certain amount of goofing around in every class, as i do want yoga to be a fun and enjoyable experience for my kids. i just don’t allow things to get out of hand.

but…if one of my less social kids is a part of the conversation and clearly enjoying the process, i often will let the talking and joking continue. even if it is a bit out of hand. why? because for a less social child, it can be very empowering to be accepted by others. for a less social child, being included in social situations can lift their spirits and help them emotionally and mentally to deal with the world. for a more social child, learning to include and accept kids who may not be so cool is a great exercise in acceptance.

i think that these lessons can be every bit as important as the yoga itself. i think these lessons are yoga itself. maybe there’s a little less discipline, but there is a lot more acceptance and one more kid is going to go home happy and empowered. job done.