I remember when I first got on a yoga mat, how awesomely PAINFUL it was! Holding downward dog made me want to scream. Leaving the class, we all agreed what a tester it had been and were looking forward to doing something different next week. Fast forward 3 weeks and we were still doing the same practice, much to the grunts and groans of the class.
“I don’t think I’m coming back next week. It’s getting a bit boring doing the same thing each and every class”, declared one of the group members. Just to paint the picture, the yoga class was held at our local gym, so most of the people attending were workout bunnies loving the high impact and spontaneity of a workout class (and who had just seen Elle MacPherson showing off her 50-year old yoga body).
When I eventually took up my teacher training, this little samskara was embedded in my brain, so when teaching I would try and make the practice different every time for fear of people getting bored and going elsewhere. My teaching left me feeling drained and that I wasn’t actually very good (having many thoughts of giving up teaching). This is a great reminder of the monkey mind! As we age and accumulate excess thoughts and feelings, the need for more adrenaline stimulation becomes an addiction. The need for different, more and change appears to be a necessity. Taking this mindset into teaching yoga to children with special needs left me dog-tired and wanting to sleep for a week! I worried so much about keeping them entertained, I actually wasn’t paying attention. And then I took the KAY teacher training online, connected with others and realised what I needed for these children to open up, learn, enjoy and have fun was repetition. Due to this samskara of constant change being necessary, I was ignoring the most obvious signs of the children ASKING if they could repeat something from the previous week (those naughty samskaras)!
The constant change made the children clingy to their parents, restless and not wanting to sit on their mats. This obviously left me very disheartened, but through my KAY training we worked out what they loved. Toe-ga, red light green light, Jogging Through the Jungle, The Yoga Slide; simplicity and easy going fun. Once I took the “trying” out of the practice and let it just be, it happened on its own accord. To see these children get stronger and realise THEY have made it all by themselves is heartwarming.
It was our first week back since Christmas, and I began to get all excited about new things and getting the group to try something different when….. WHOA! Easy, tiger. Remember, this isn’t about YOU. It’s about the children and what makes them feel secure and safe. So, for our first week back we have Toe-ga to remind them of the previous practices, the fun they had, stimulation of the senses and what they can manage on their own. We have our favourite songs of The Yoga Slide and Jogging Through the Jungle so they can remind themselves of the postures they know deep down, but might be a bit rusty since Christmas. And we have some new songs to gently challenge them and draw them more out of their shells.
The Secret Garden, Kidding Around Yoga’s version of Yoga Nidra, is always a bit trying for some of these kids as they don’t like laying down. Again, this used to worry me as I wondered if their parents thought that I wasn’t good at what I did or that I couldn’t control the situation. But what have I learned? That repetition builds trust and very slowly, they are all laying down for longer. Even if it’s just for 1 minute more, it’s progression. And one minute for them may feel like a lifetime! I’ve found that some parents feel the need to constantly stimulate their children through whatever special needs that they have. Said children then find it extremely hard to switch off. In this situation, coming into the Secret Garden has caused emotions to rise and fall, tears and screams, but again through repetition they have realised that this is a time to just come to sit in the silence and respect others and their quiet time. Instead of pandering to their emotions, we just let them be until they come to rest.
Personally, repetition has given me the chance to learn from past experiences and evolve with these children, in my own practice and in life.