A couple of years ago, my daughter’s friend was struggling. I’ll call her Melody. Upon turning 12, Melody suddenly became self-conscious and embarrassed by her changing body. She began “shrinking” into herself, truly trying to hide from the world. Eyes cast down, shoulders hiked up and curled in, Melody began to disappear. Her mom spoke with me about the changes, pointing out that they were more than physical. Melody had stopped participating in class and was hesitant to try out for the track team, although she was a strong athlete.
I invited Melody to join my yoga class. It was my hope that yoga would help her find her innate strength, her body’s wisdom, and her confidence. If she could stand taller and be brave enough to take up her space, that power would inevitably leak into other parts of her life.
So, Melody started coming to class, setting her mat up in the darkest corner. Little by little, she cautiously began to get back into her deeper self, to the Melody that she enjoyed and celebrated. The poses that seemed to “light her up” were the Warrior postures. You could see her grow into her body, extending her arms and lifting her head proudly. It was amazing.
Taking what I observed from Melody’s growth, I volunteered to lead a yoga class at my son’s school. I worked with about forty “at-risk” fifth-grade girls, all of whom were new to yoga. I decided that the best way to make them strong, both physically and emotionally, was to make them warriors. I introduced Warrior 2 by first having them show me what it looked like to be timid or scared. Of course, they dropped their heads, curled their arms into their chests, and slouched down. Just like Melody. Then we did Warrior 2. We took the time to feel our strong legs, so stable and powerful. We reached our arms wide like we were embracing whatever challenge was coming – bring it on! Our heads were held high, not intimidated by anyone or anything. And we breathed. We breathed in our own power and strength. We breathed out fear and embarrassment. I reminded them that those positive, energetic feelings were always with them, and when they felt small or insecure to close their eyes, lift their head and heart and imagine their bodies in Warrior 2, even if they were sitting at their desk or on the soccer field.
To make the class more fun, I added some songs and activities designed around Warrior 2 pose. My favorite was Surfing Warrior. With their mats as surfboards, the girls came into Warrior 2 (you could use Warrior 1 or Warrior 3, as well) and imagined they were surfing in the ocean. The waves started out calm, but sometimes we caught a big one. That’s when we had to really work our legs, spread our arms, and ride it out. I used the classic surf song Wipeout while we were surfing. When we switched sides, we jumped our legs into the opposite side’s posture. I then pointed out that their worries were like the ocean waves, and they were able to ride them out without wiping out. They were warriors.
We also did Warrior poses as partners and groups. Partner Warrior 3 is done face-to-face. Each person reaches their arms forward and holds their partners’ wrists. From this half-fold position, raise one leg, helping each other balance. Warrior 1 can be done back-to-back. With back heels touching, reach arms up overhead and behind in a backbend to grab their partner’s arms. And Warrior 2 can be done in partners, with the straight legs lined up side-by-side, each holding the other’s hand and reaching opposite from each other over their bent legs.
Melody came to class a few months, but her mom tells me she still practices her yoga at home, especially when she’s feeling stressed. My goal for all the students in my classes, regardless of their age, is to give them the space, tools, and time to fully embrace their awesome selves. Everyone should have the ability to walk like a warrior.
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