Yoga is still looking for it’s big break in England, especially outside of London. It takes a lot of effort and patience trying to get parents to give it a go with their children, with many either seeing it as some religious cult or not active enough to be of any health benefit.
So I was very chuffed when I was asked by Epping Forest District Council to assist a new initiative called the Compass Club, traveling to various schools on the outskirts of London for 1 hour workshops in children with special needs’ schools.
Bagging up those nerves and leaving them in my car, my first workshop consisted of 6 children with varying ranges of ADHD. Being told not to take it personally if they ignored me or didn’t want to do it, I think the teachers were shocked at how involved they actually were. I began by asking what yoga was and what OM was, where they all had an answer. When voices became muddled I would chant OM until they all joined in and were quiet, and this inspired them to then put their hands up if they had any questions or further answers. Kidding Around Yoga’s Crazy Monkey activity went down a storm and they all agreed that it wasn’t peaceful at all. There were 2 children who didn’t want to join in with the dancing, but their teacher told me after the workshop that due to their ADHD they found any sequence with more than 3 steps was very difficult for them to remember so instead of joining in and getting embarrassed they choose to sit out. I would only ask them once if they would like to join in when they chose to sit down, and then left them to watch the others as I felt that they probably have had enough pressure in their lives and this was meant to be fun. I was very touched when at the end they tried to join in. Again, I didn’t make a fuss, just offered them lots of encouragement. Was I dreading the Secret Garden, aka relaxation at the end of class? Just a bit! But, I’ve found with teaching children with special needs, they copy what you do. So now instead of walking round or sitting to guide them into the secret garden I lay down with them. If they move I just keep my eyes closed until it’s time to come up. The teacher from the first workshop was absolutely ecstatic about the session and was enthusiastic to get something rolling straight away – Yayyyyyyy!!!
Jumping into my car and onto the next workshop, I took the energy and positivity from the children in the first workshop to keep me inspired and open to any changes that needed to be made. I know you shouldn’t judge, but I felt the energy of the school weigh immediately on me as we went it. It’s sad to see a place full of young enthusiastic energy be treated like a boot camp. So many rules and regulations, you could feel like you’re being choked. After signing in, handing over ID and various other forms, we went into a small room where everyone sat at the table…including the teacher. Luckily a representative from the Compass Club was there to help move all the tables and create a yoga space. Once the children were on the floor with shoes off, their magical energy began to flow and they participated beautifully! Some got very excited and would shout, but I have a magic talking windmill that you have to blow into 3 times before you talk which helps calm you down. This helped fabulously. These guys were even more receptive to the secret garden and stayed quiet and still until the end.
My most heartfelt and inspiring moment in both workshops was explaining the locks and the keys. I didn’t know if this would work, to be honest, but I felt that with ADHD emotions needed to be explained so that they could help themselves and others. I would write the lock on on a piece of paper and then we would work it out. They took to it like a duck to water! My heart nearly burst in the second workshop when we were discussing the unhappy lock. They all said a hug would really help and then showed me by giving me a big hug and then having a group hug! It was so beautiful, I wanted to cry with happiness! They enjoyed the hug so much I had to promise they could finish the class with one, and it was even more love-filled than the first.
The energy of both workshops, but especially workshop number 2, were electric when they left the room. So many happy, smiley faces, all discussing the locks and keys and laughing at yoga! The hugs and thank yous I received from the children set me up for the most amazing Monday I’ve every had.
We have now had a further 8 schools sign up for workshops, which will hopefully lead to something full term. I would love to discuss specialised workshops for ADHD with anyone willing to share and create, so please feel free to get in touch.
Here’s looking to an England where Yoga is on the National Curriculum in the not too distant future!