I forgot to mention the Yoga demonstration that I put on in front of 30 people last week. I started sweating and shaking a few hours before, nervous and jittery. And when I stood in front of them sitting before me, I hoped that they didn’t notice that my voice was quivering and my hands were shaking.
Well, it was 30 fourth graders, but it was still nerve-wracking. My friend is student teaching at a Portland elementary school and she’s putting together a unit on relaxation techniques. One of these techniques is yoga, so when she picked me up from the airport on Wednesday, she asked if I could do a little demonstration in front of her class the next day. I hesitated. My mouth went dry. My mind raced. “Um, I don’t know… Maybe… Um…”
“Oh come on, it’ll be fun!”
“But what if they laugh at me?”
“Jenna, they’re 9 years old.”
“I got laughed at a lot by 9 year olds when I was 9 years old.”
“Yeah, but you’re older and cooler now.”
Well, I’m older anyways. I’m not sure about the “cooler” part. In the end, I agreed. So the next day, I gathered up my things and walked to school.
I went into an empty classroom and rolled out my mat. I sat and waited. The class filed in quietly, and made a semi-circle around my mat. They all sat on their knees or “indian-style” with their hands neatly folded in their laps. I certainly don’t remember being able to sit that still when I was 9. In unison, they all said, “Hello, Miss Jenna.”
I gave them a brief introduction to my yoga practice, what yoga was all about, etc. I demonstrated Surya Namaskara A. They all gasped and clapped. “This is an easy audience,” I thought. I went through a variety of poses… mostly those that are the good “party tricks” poses: Marichyasana A plus the fancy vinyasa out, Bakasana B, Koundinyasana, Pincha Mayurasana, Muka Hasta Sirsasana C, standing up and dropping back from Urdvha Dhanurasana…
Of course, before I started all of this, I told them that I had practiced for a very long time and that they shouldn’t try any of this without the supervision of an instructor.
At the end, my friend invited the children to ask me questions. One boy asked what my hardest pose was. I tried to answer honestly and “yogic-ly” (did I just make up a word?): “Every day is different. Some days, a pose is very easy. And then the next day, it’s very difficult.”
“What’s your hardest pose today?” he asked.
I thought for a minute. There are a lot of poses that I don’t do very well. There aren’t many I “can’t” do, but one that I can’t do is Mayurasana. So I chose that one. “Will you show us?” he asked.
“Um… sure… but I can’t do it.” I gave it a go. The whole class ooooooooed… and then I fell over.
At the end, my friend asked the class if anyone had anything to say to me. Most children raised their hands and said “Thank you” or told me that they could put their feet behind their head or whatever. That one little boy raised his hand and said, “I thought it was very brave of you to do your hardest pose in front of all of us.”
How’s that for empathy?
The best (or worst) part of the afternoon’s demo was Koundinyasana. I had come into a headstand after Bakasana B… and when I swung my leg around for Koundinyasana and expelled all my effort to push up into it, I let out a little VART. In front of 30 fourth graders. I heard one or two little giggles, but miraculously… no one pointed or laughed at me. I’m sure I turned bright red. And then I thought of Laksmi and her sea sponge.
Next time I’m called upon to demonstrate, you can bet I’ll be using one of those.