Slipping Yoga In

While it’s great to have a yoga class to go to and yoga practice, I find the act of slipping a little yoga time into other parts of life rewarding. One place I do this is with my Adult classes. The students are there to learn English or computers or to study for their GED, yet, if they happen to be in my class, before they know it, they’re imitating a tree! I find it very gratifying, albeit sneaky, to give yoga to people who normally might not ask for it.

  Let’s be Trees!

These days, when I teach adults English or GED classes, there seems to be some unwritten rule that they are assigned a hot stuffy room–sadly, often called “community rooms”. Yuck. Then there are the computer classrooms, often in dreary windowless basements or shadowy caverns. Basically the ‘no one else wants this room so you can have it” variety. When you enter one of these rooms, all moisture is sucked away by the parched air. My eyeballs instantly protest. My lips crack. It’s no wonder why these often huge spaces are sparsely inhabited.

The rooms are crying for some vim, some energy, which I the teacher am charged with dispensing. Thank goodness I can wield a yoga respite as a very helpful tool. Sometimes we begin with a little warm up, but more often I use break time to have students up, stretching and breathing deeply. We love our class, yes, but we also love our breaks! I like to say that we can create our own ventilation. Of course, we have no other choice.

Some of my students might not know what yoga actually is, some are suspicious, and a few others believe themselves allergic to exercise of any stripe. But within the confines of a class setting it’s usually possible to ask that students try something new. I advertise the ‘break’ as a chance to get their brains flowing, which sounds enticing to most people who want to learn. There are the odd naysayers, but it has been rare. After all, it’s just 5 minutes! What can it hurt? C’mon, give it a try…

I am not a certified yoga master nor yogi, but I have been doing yoga on and off for over 20 years. To keep things as simple and efficient as possible, I mostly adapt sun salutations and basic asanas that highlight stretching, awareness of breath, and circulation. There is no room for pretzel postures or anything too bendy. I like to throw in a tai chi movement or two for flow, as well. People also like the pose names; they’re interesting or funny.

 Pretzels discouraged in my class

So, if nothing else, our modest yoga timeout brings a laugh and a smile. The students love that it alleviates yawn-i-ness. Most people in my experience enjoy a challenge, especially one that I set as deliberately relaxed. They also get a kick out of watching each other’s attempts. Just as a shared activity it’s worth doing. And if we’re lucky, it can accomplish a measure of true gain: lower stress, better concentration, alleviated stiffness and aches. My hope is always that they’ll ask for more, and then that they’ll want to bring what we learned home. Someone might even get the ‘bug’.

In one such arid community room I teach a class of awesome Russian, Persian and Korean Grandmas. These ladies have led long, fruitful, enduring lives. They deserve relaxation and time to enjoy. A flexible nature is one of the strengths that has them here today, in their later years still interested in study. Unsurprisingly, they are enthusiastic yoga participants.

Today our room was so poorly ventilated and so drily hot that one of the women began to feel faint. After water was dispensed and the door propped open, we stood to get our communal blood flowing. It is so gratifying to see how just 5 to 10 minutes can have people smiling and breathing again.  The faint student began to feel better and could continue with class.

   No competition here

My modest yoga break is one practice that always works, for me and for my students, and for that I’m so grateful. I honestly don’t know what I would do without it.

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