Nope, Yoga is Not What You Think It Is
Looking out at a room full of defiant and curious 9th graders, I began my yoga class. This is high school, and on this occasion, I’m teaching to a group of kids who are in “regular” PE. So far, I’ve heard, “Oh, man, yoga? Gah. This is gonna suck,” “Yoga is lame,” “Do we have to do yoga?!” “Yoga is gay,” “I can’t do yoga.”
I invited the kids to take a deep breath before we did a check in: Breathing in, breathing out. Then a second breath. Breathing in, breathing out. And then a third: Breathing in, Sighing it out. The room started to settle. I invited everyone to look around, check out where they were in time and place. And then I asked them to share their name and how they were feeling in one or two words. Then I asked them to share what they think yoga is. I asked them to be totally honest, and I love what happened.
- You gotta be flexible.
- It’s for skinny people.
- It’s not for big girls like me. I can’t do that!
- It’s too hard.
- It hurts.
- I’m not good at it.
Then I asked them what they SEE when they come across yoga in magazines and social media:
- Everyone is white.
- Skinny people.
- No one looks like me.
- Everyone looks like crazy circus performers!
The class became an opportunity to unravel some of these myths and to share the powerful change that is happening in the world of yoga and media through the Yoga and Body Image Coalition and the #whatayogilookslike campaign. Looking around me, I saw a beautiful group of diverse kids, none of whom are represented in mainstream media. I wouldn’t want to practice either if my exposure was such. What evolved was a thought provoking, insightful discussion about what yoga IS and what it is NOT. Kids spoke with honesty, dropping the walls of defiance and leaning into their curiosity. The diverse images from the YBIC Calendar garnered a lot of oohs and ahs, not because the photos are awesome, but because they saw themselves represented. I shared the practice of mindful breath, grounding, and orienting. And as I led them through a series of asanas, I guided them into the poses in an accessible way. They practiced in earnest, and when they checked out after savasana, this is what they said:
- I feel amazing.
- I am calm.
- Whoa, I feel like I’m flying.
- I want to do it again!
- That was pleasure!
This is some of what yoga is to me, and what I intend to share with all of you:
- Awareness of the breath.
- The awareness of the air against our skin.
- Awareness of our feet snuggled into the ground.
- A safe haven.
Sarit[contact-form][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Comment’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]