Teach With Your Heart

IMG_1007To embark on a new opportunity, I will no longer teach the Boys & Girls Club yoga program I designed to help empower children

I begin training my replacements today.

Few yoga instructors want to teach children. Of those who are willing, many cannot. Captivating attention of 30 children in the confines of a school gym is a cacophony,  released in all directions.

My student’s lives are marked by poverty and hunger, violence and uncertainty.  Harsh realities have made them far tougher than me; manners and protocol are not part of their vocabulary.  Many have learning, behavioral or executive function issues.

Before the children would listen to me, they had to trust me.  To succeed, I teach with my heart.  It is the only way to lead.  Even the littlest heart knows this truth.  The heart sees.  

I ask for input and for agreement.  I look into their eyes.  I explain they may participate or nap, provided it is on their mat, where it is safe and appropriate to let go and express oneself fully.  Within this micro-framework of the mat,  I encourage mental control via lively stories to spark imagination.  I teach self esteem by inviting them to step forward and teach beside me.  I allow them to discover internal self regulation through constant reminders to return to the breath.  

Together, we stand strong as a mountain, wiggle and hiss as snakes in the grass, extend arms to balance like a tree, and reach for the brightest and most beautiful star in the sky to place inside our body.  We each describe our Star, then relax on the mat to breathe.

I tell them I am leaving to reach for a Star.  Suddenly, arms, hands, faces, elbows and hugs surround me.  They don’t want a new teacher.  It’s not the same.

You can’t teach love.

 

Yoga Burrito

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July gifts us with the coldest evening on record, as The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Cincinnati summer Project Yoga session ends.

After completing stretching and balancing poses, we sit on our mats and breathe deeply. Focusing on the breath directs attention and promotes relaxation, providing the kids a simple and accessible tool to reduce anxiety.

The kids say their “Yoga Nap” is the part of class they like best.  I them to select a place to go in their imaginations, then guide them to relax and have a peaceful rest.  As I watch, the most fidgety child rolls up in his mat like a yoga burrito until, within its embrace, he finally becomes still.  What makes each of us feel safe is very personal.

I breathe deeply myself, knowing I’m making a difference.

Mandala Monday (Part 2)

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(Click here for Part 1)

As a cognitive and behavioral therapy tool, Carl Jung believed mandalas provided a link to the Collective Unconscious, and access to a patient’s spirit.

Why did he surmise this?  On some level, we are all the same; symbols and colors are nearly universally understood.  United by human experience, we share a similar unconscious understanding of the world, most readily evidenced by archetypical legends and fairy tales which echo global themes.

Art therapists use these archetypes when evaluating mandalas for clues to a patient’s past and present, although some detractors question the validity.

Regardless of clues that may or may not exist within my scribbled circle, the suspension of my thoughts during its creation lead gently to a peaceful meditation, for which I am greatful.

Mandala Monday

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The mandala, a Sanskrit word meaning circular, has its origins in Buddhism and can be seen in cultures across the world.

Used as a contemplative tool for centuries, multiple studies now show drawing a circular shape reduces anxiety.

My pen meanders without purpose, until lines and squiggles bcomee patterns, finally forming a cohesive whole.  I am surprised to realize my stress has neutralized, my brain relaxed, and my choices became clearer, as I created a world within a circle.

Seasonal Return to Moksha Yoga

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Temperatures dipped low enough today to have me heading to Moksha Yoga, a favorite hot yoga spot.

Ellen Bradley’s Cincinnati studio kicks it up a notch with both heat and humidity, relaxing the body and providing a comfortable cocoon in the depth of a cold winter.

The noon class was tough.  Just as my thoughts began to run in circles around my perceived failure, I heard, “Breathe in and allow more space in your mind… breathe out and allow more space in your body.”

 

Wise words.  And a relaxing reminder our breath is always there to provide us with what we need.

Drawing #23 created on Doodle Buddy for iPad by Pinger, Inc

Girl Scout Chair Yoga

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Girl Scout leaders work directly with the girls, while an army of staff work behind the scenes to make the scouting experience happen.  The Girl Scouts of Western Ohio management team host an annual wellness day to acknowledge these unsung heros.

I was invited to teach a chair yoga class. A series of stretches easily done at a desk increase circulation, flexibility and reduce stress at the office.  This Yoga Journal article outlines a quick mid-day stretch to lift your energy.

 

Drawing #20 created with Draw

 

 

 

Sunday Support

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Weekends wind down quickly.,

I begin Sunday in shoes, and welcome uplifting words and fellowship.  My afternoon hours are equally precious, in bare toes, with a few special friends who join my yoga practice class.  Their attendance allows me to develop teaching skills.

I cannot express my depth of gratitude for their support!

 

Drawing #15 created on Doodle Buddy for iPad by Pinger, Inc

Yoga Cat

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The still-unnamed kitty I rescued seems happy to live in my home.

I did not want a pet.  But she needed a home.  This seemed an appropriate right action.  Imitating the the most fundamental of yoga poses, Downward Dog, she seems to have perfected “downward cat.”  Perhaps that is a sign.

Drawing #12 created on Doodle Buddy for iPad by Pinger, Inc

Tennis Anyone?

I was invited to play tennis today,

Then someone canceled. Then we were on.  Then we weren’t!  Finally we were on, which is the subject for drawing #3 of my commitment to draw every day for one month.

I loved playing on summer’s soft clay courts under the setting sun of a blue Fall sky.  Surrounded by the brilliant colors of changing leaves, I  considered I could have spared myself the back and forth planning, and its accompanying uncertainty.  I could have said “Let’s play sometime next week” and gone for a walk in the park.

But I would have missed the joy of honoring a commitment to my sporting friends – and a drop shot that won a set!

 

Created with MyPaint Free by MyMedia

Here Comes The Sun

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The sun rises each morning, and so do I.

Although, the two don’t always coincide.  Today began for me with Sun Salutations, a series of yoga poses called Surya Namaskara, meant to wake the body with gentle breath and movement.   Loosening joints, stretching and strengthening; this little morning dance is a wonderful wake up call.

And, keeping my commitment to do 31 drawings in 31 days, it is also the topic of drawing #2.

Created with MyPaint Free by MyMedia

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Summer Yoga Program

This summer, I was blessed to teach K-6 children yoga in the Cincinnati Boys & Girls Club program.

Day 1, only a few hands went up 1 when I asked what yoga was.

Kids wiggled, paying little attention to direction.  But within weeks of having fun together while learning to stretch and calm down by focusing on breathing, they became more coordinated and responsive, enjoying each class’ unique themes and games.

The weeks have progressively filled me with joy.

What a thrill to witness their little smiles!  Boys & Girls Club staff report children have asked parents to let them stay after school on Yoga Day!  And I overheard one little boy said to another, “I was going to punch my little brother last night, but I took a deep yoga breath instead.”

This YogaJournal article outlines benefits yoga provides children.

Tennis Yoga

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I’m certain yoga helps my tennis.

After more than a year away from the game, I am playing better than when I practiced regularly!  During a difficult match, I noticed how often I stop breathing. I began focusing on a steady breath and my muscles relaxed.  I was able to play better.

I recalled yoga legend, my teacher Lilias Folan  reminding me to align with my “witness self,” the part that observes everything with detachment and compassion.

As in yoga, tonight’s tennis became about observing my breath.  And about hitting an exceptionally high number of great shots!  I stepped into that coveted Zone.  There, a “bad” shot didn’t upset me; rather I observed it was just a placement of my body which yielded a result.

The results were marvelous.  We won.

 

A New Twist

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I walk very fast, and don’t sit still for long.

One year on April Fool’s day, a colleague collected packaging material to build a speed bump in the hall immediately outside my P&G office.  Clear communication I might consider slowing down!

For a decade, my life has been constant movement between offices across continents. Always onward.  Work came first. Exercise consisted of running through airports. Seriously.  One day I realized I actually cut through crowds in the airport faster with a joyful smile on my face, shoulders back, and a calm certainty I would make the flight.

That was the day I did my first yoga pose; I just didn’t realize it yet.   Unknowingly, I discovered a transcendent ability to achieve my desired outcome by simultaneously harnessing ease, joy and will.  It was magic.

Hundreds of thousands of air miles later, I tried yoga, and wondered how this stuff could possibly transform life and limb?  My biggest challenge was to remember to breathe; I was constantly holding my breath.

I stuck with it and yoga taught me to breathe on my mat.  Slowly, I’m learning to breathe in life. And after a particularly deep breath, I dove into yoga teacher training.

Ready for a new twist.