Almost 20 years ago I was working with a teenager who was, as so many teenagers are, angry. He was angry at many different things, and his anger would come out in aggressive and dismissive language. Usually toward me, his teacher and focus, but often times toward himself.
If he found a balance pose difficult, it was someone’s fault and therefore stupid. When his hamstrings held him back in a forward bend, he’d curse like Eminem and often times, if it wasn’t me he was directing his rage at, it was himself. This is a familiar pattern for people who don’t know any other way. Anger, rage, frustration and helplessness are silent brothers, all emotions that make the person experiencing those emotions push hard, lash out and strike back.
When my yoga student finally understood that he was not being judged, not measured, not qualified as good or bad, and that the practice of yoga is not in the good or bad paradigm, something seismic shifted in my students mind. He understood something about himself more clearly.
The practice of yoga is not about being good or bad or best or worse. It’s about acceptance of yourself and your present state. GroovyKids Yoga puts the emphasis on connection between the student and the teacher. That connection is what we have in common. Even though yoga is an individual exercise it’s often done in a group. Once the student accepts themselves as they are, the impulse to compare, contrast and eventually even bully is morphed into a much more useful energetic response.
People who are fully involved in physical work don’t have time for anything else. GroovyKids Yoga is perfect for kids because it involves fast speedy movements followed by stillness. We celebrate that our tree pose will be different to our neighbours. Sometimes it can be as simple as using fine motor skills. In yoga we call them mudras. We use our thumbs touching on our fingertips to count, or use Sanskrit sounds with the movements. Other times it’s gross motor skills, such as jumping the feet between the hands and then back again, all from downward dog pose. Easy movements that require the entire body and mind.
By giving our students options, by showing them another way to deal with impulses, we educate, ameliorate and maybe even inspire new feelings in them. A feeling of being not enough, of having to drag others down to get ahead, these things dissolve in the GroovyKids Yoga class. No success is immediate, but like yoga itself, with care and consistent attention, the bullying impulse can be turned into a very positive energy. My student started off wanting to punch the wall like a boxer. After a few weeks of GroovyKids Yoga, he was happier in a warrior pose than a fight and to top it all off, his parents told me his school-work improved.
Giving kids another way to express their anger, frustration, annoyance, whatever it is that comes out as self-bullying or bullying others, that gift is a gift for life. They may not recall exactly what it was that freed them from bullying, but they’ll have a better life because of it.