a hole in my mouth!

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i had a fairly busy day after lunch yesterday.

first i had to meet with a new yoga space…or at least with the person in charge of said space. you know, meet, greet, smile. 🙂

then i went to teach a class of 14 kids and their parents…all of whom were new to me. you know the importance of first impressions, et al. big smiles all around!!!  😀 😀 😀

on to my next client, starting with a meeting with the mom, followed by class with her almost-five-year-old son. a boy i’ve been working with for years and who has no inhibitions with me at all.

so, we’re just finishing meditation and he announces to me “shana, you have a hole in your mouth!!!”

i wasn’t sure what that meant. of course, my mouth is a hole, but beyond that, what kind of hole could i have? i asked him where it was…was it my chapped lip, which was a little cracked?

“no! it’s a hole! open your mouth!” i opened the mouth for my pint-sized dentist as he pointed and declared “you have a cavity!”

now, if his dental credentials were a tiny bit stronger (maybe a preschool diploma, at least), i might take this more seriously. but i assured him i did not have a cavity.

“it’s right there! on your tooth! a hole!”

“ohhhhhhh,” i said, “it’s probably just a piece of broccoli that got caught in my teeth.” i poked around a little.

“no! it’s black!”

okay, it was time to get back to yoga. i laughed, “then, it’s blackoli!” and we went on to do our yoga class.

the episode was all but forgotten until i found myself approaching the yoga studio for my next class and i decided to give a quick check in the mirror. in fact, i had what must have been the entire skin of a black bean stuck to one of my teeth and, well, it looked like a gaping hole in my mouth.

i hear first impressions are everything. how awesome that the first 30 people i had encountered since lunch will now have a mental imprint of me with a big gaping hole in the front of my mouth.

but you promised…

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i have one group of preschoolers whose favorite thing to do right after meditation is run over and plop down in my lap. by this, i mean PLOP, not sit. and if i don’t stem the process quickly enough, another child will plop on top of the first and so on, making a ploppy lotus tower of sorts.

anyway, as you might imagine, even with little little guys, if they plop down hard enough it can hurt…especially the kid who gets stuck in the middle.

so, i told the kids that if they plop on top of each other, they will flatten each other out like pancakes. and then after class i would have to carry them out and hand “jamie pancakes” and “kalea pancakes” and “name-your-kid pancakes” to their moms to take home for dinner.

it seems they got the picture, because they proceeded to unpile from my lap and return to their mats. fine. class goes on.

at the end of class, everyone left but for one precious and absolutely edible three-year-old who comes up to me with huge, expectant eyes. she has one of those three-year-old voices that you understand most of what she says, but maybe a few things slip through here and there.

huge smile, she asks me what i thought was “what about the pandas?” i had no idea what she was talking about, so i said “pandas? you mean the spotted doggie toys?”

“no. the pandas!” she implored…i think.

“panda stickers, you mean? i’m not sure if i have any today…”

“no!” she explained, completely deflated, “the pandas you said we could have after class.” i thought she might cry.

and then i realized, she didn’t want pandas. she wanted pancakes and she thought i had some hiding in my bag. man, did my heart break. note to self: sometimes kids take things a little too literally…don’t mention pancakes.

it’s the buddha smash!

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one of my very favorite students has been diligently planning his birthday, exploring his vast options. granted, planning his birthday parties is pretty much a year-round sport for him, but now, just two months away from the big FIVE, it’s time to get serious.

today he asked me–not unlike a formal interview–“shana, do you do yoga birthday parties?”

“of course, i do!” i told him.

“well, what do you do at a yoga birthday party?”

i explained that it’s sort of like his own yoga classes, but even more fun and more games and more crazy…and no one even has to meditate.

no meditation! now, that got his attention. i made it to the second round of questioning.

“oh, cool.” he says in his extraordinarily precocious off-handed manner. “and…have you ever seen a yoga pinata?”

a yoga pinata…now’s there’s something i never thought of! i tried to picture what a yoga pinata might look like…

maybe a guy in seated meditation, full lotus, and as you smash and smash at his, er, equanimity, his mula bandha falls out?

perhaps a girl in handstand, hanging by her feet and once you eviscerate her skull, maybe there are like gummy brains and guts that fall out onto the floor?

or….?

hmmm…that one did leave me at a bit of a loss, but whatever it looks like, i just hope it doesn’t have my face.

kumbaya!

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i was working with one of my all-time favorite students yesterday. this eight-year-old boy hangs on my every word, does everything i say…with a smile, no less, and if he falls, always asks “can i try it again?” if i could clone this kid and work with him all day, i would.

well, add this to his list of awesomeness:

we were in the middle of practice yesterday and he suddenly asks me, “can we sing ‘kumbaya’ in yoga some time?”

i’ll admit, at first the question just cracked me up. i thought the only kids who sang “kumbaya” anymore were the kids of “south park”…as a joke.

but he was dead serious. he wanted to sing “kumbaya” and who was i to stop him?

and, let me add, he didn’t just sing kumbaya. he belted it at the top of his lungs with his huge toothy smile as accompaniment. it was a lot like being back in summer camp in the 70’s (yes, i’m dating myself here), only without the pinky swears and panty raids.

after we were done, he explained to me, “‘kumbaya’ means peace. and the whole song is just like ‘peace. peace. peace. peace. peace.’ because you know…it’s about peace. so it’s enough.”

kumbaya to that, little dude, kumbaya!

what it means to be special…

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the other day, i got an email from a mom who wanted yoga for her child for very specific reasons. she listed the reasons and then went on to assure me “…but my child is not special needs“.

ah…special needs. who wants their kid to be labeled as a kid with special needs??? other children have special needs! not my child!

well…here’s the cold, hard fact. every child has special needs. that’s right. every child is a special needs child.

how dare i say that? i’ll take it even further…every person is a special needs person.

come on. what is all the stigma about? we all have special needs, unique experiences, different backgrounds, specific frames of reference. yoga isn’t “one size fits all” any more than life itself is.

every child that i work with gets special attention intended to address his or her specific strengths and challenges, mindsets and attitudes. having special needs doesn’t make a child defective. it just makes him human.

http://www.miniyogis.com

college prep yoga!

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kids these days are pretty amazing with their college prep. mandarin and ballet on monday. tennis and art on tuesday. spanish and french on wednesdays. don’t forget soccer and cooking every thursday. fridays are set aside for swimming…then rest! only one class! weekends…religious school, gymnastics, sports teams. and the most amazing thing of all…these kids are only in kindergarten.

seems you can’t start that college prep too early.

naturally, these parents would like to see their children in yoga, as well. not only because they would like their kids to be well-rounded individuals (one more activity!), but because their kids are suffering from stress and anxiety (go figure!) and they want me to teach their children stress relief, calming, and grounding techniques.

i love working with these kids (and i have a bunch of them). yoga gives them true life skills and these kids are not just smart, but wise. like little forty-year-olds in four-year-old bodies. more often than not, they are whisked into yoga immediately from another activity and are just as quickly whisked away to the next…sometimes mid-savasana. wonder why these kids are stressed out?

and here’s the frustration: time and time again, the moms wind up cancelling the class because yoga no longer fits in their schedule. there’s no time for yoga–the activity that is meant to decrease the anxiety and stress built up by the myriad other classes and engagements that take up every second of these kids’ lives. no one needs yoga more than these pint-sized powerhouses.

it’s amazing how backwards this line of thinking is. granted, yoga won’t get your kid a college scholarship or earn him huge piles of money when he grows up (unless, god forbid, he becomes a yoga instructor), but it will give him the life skills to deal with life’s challenges and stresses and live a mentally stable and balanced life.

if you ask me, i think yoga should be the most important activity these kids do all week.

of course, i’m just a little bit biased…

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NOW i’m humble…

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one of the schools i’ve had a yoga program at for years and years was having their bi-annual enrichment showcase and, of course, i wanted to show my case for mini yogis.

twice a year i go, do a fun and funky arm balance and inversion sequence, get oohs and aahs and lots of sign-ups.

this time–for some weird reason–i thought i’d do something different. just one really cool pose and that’s it. but i let them vote first: one extra-super-cool pose or a whole sequence of cool poses. they voted for extra-super-cool.

so i went to the wall and did a one-handed handstand (as i can’t do that away from the wall yet). and then i did my spiel (sign up for yoga! yoga is cool! yoga is fun! you can do this, too!) standing on one hand.

fine. clap clap.

then came the capoeistas –new to the school, completely foreign to the kids. they started standing on one hand (in the middle of the room, of course) and then proceeded to flip, twist, bend, balance, and, well, i guess fly would be the best word for it…all over the place.

the kids went crazy.

and oddly enough my yoga registrations came in at a tiny trickle that session while capoeira’s wait list stretched from here to new york city.

lesson learned. next time i’ll stick with the arm balances and inversion bit.

humble pie eaten.

burp.

this is home.

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it’s not always easy volunteering at a battered women’s shelter. the kids are sweet and polite as can be…but it’s sad. it’s sad that these kids have been taken away from everything that they know: their home, their room, their toys, their friends. as these kids try to piece together some normalcy in living in a group home, adjust to their new surroundings, there are a lot of inner conflicts, insecurities, and pain underlying the whole experience.

i love using yoga with these kids as a tool not only for calming and coping, but for playing and laughing. i love having an hour of seeing these kids smiling.

yesterday, we were doing turbo salutations and a four-year-old boy asked if we could do them even faster than a cheetah. “of course!” i said. and he continued on, telling me that he actually has a little cheetah.

wow. i wasn’t sure if he meant a real cheetah (!) or a stuffed cheetah, but he went on to clarify. “i have the cheetah at home.”

“home” is always a loaded word with these kids. my heart panged.

then, as much to explain to me as to rationalize to himself, he added “this is my home.” that just melted my heart…and i had to tell you…

fine art…

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in my closet, i have a huge collection of invaluable art work. i don’t have room to hang it all up, so some of it has to be kept in its most pristine condition in the closet.

today, a new piece of art.

one of my most precious students (age five…and the one who did the handstand!), handed it to me before class. i’m not positive what it is a picture of, though i’m pretty sure it involves some butterflies, a lot of letter a’s, maybe a house of sorts (?), and a random chunk of the page carefully cut out of one edge of the two-sided masterpiece.

as she handed it to me, with huge smile and unrivaled sincerity, she offered “here, shana. i made this for you. i worked very hard on it.” and i don’t doubt it.

i never throw away pictures like this. they all go into “the collection”. i really wish i had room to hang all the masterpieces that my kids give to me because they are worth so much to me…perhaps not in money, but definitely in love.

men!

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the other day, i met a new guy and as i talked, he was sitting there with the most beatific smile, hanging on my every word as if i were the most beautiful and scintillating woman on earth. and all i kept thinking was “awwwwwww…isn’t that cute?” the guy was five years old. well…almost five.

he was joining one of my mini yogis classes that day with one of his friends and we all had a few minutes to bond over finger food before class started. this boy was absolutely entranced with me. he laughed at all my jokes, answered all my questions, and i thought, “phew! i’ve got this kid wrapped around my little finger. he’s going to be a great listener in yoga.”

if only it were that simple!

when we rolled out the mats, my five-year-old admirer suddenly became that obnoxious guy at the bar who tries to get your attention by being arrogantly aloof, defiant and smugly smiley…showing off for the other kids how cool he really is. cool guys don’t listen to teachers. and they never allow themselves to be wrapped around some broad’s finger.

how did this precious little peanut become such a pint-sized recalcitrant nightmare? ultimately, it was probably my fault. when you are too jokey or chummy with a child before class, all they want to do with you is joke and play. you can’t just go from shana-clown to shana-yoga-teacher…no matter how fun you make the class. it’s like a bait-and-switch.

as with all men, there is a fine balance between getting the little guys to fall under your spell, but also always reminding them who’s really boss.