Every Day Is Valentine’s Day

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I had to share these photos that I took in one of my kids yoga classes yesterday. My theme was Every Day Is Valentine’s Day. We pretended we were Cupid (none of the kids knew who Cupid was). Sending love, chocolate and lollipops to anyone who was sad or needed extra kisses. It was so sweet.

Teaching Yoga

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When my friends learned that I was searching for a yoga teacher training program, they assumed I wanted to become a yoga teacher. I did not. I wanted to deepen my own yoga practice. I wanted to learn about the Sutras and the Gita, ancient yogic texts. What I didn’t realize, though, was that I would have to teach in my training. As students, we were supposed to teach, if I recall correctly, at least six community classes. For some reason, my teacher thought I was going to be an “amazing” (her words) yoga teacher. She told me I would get a following. She had me sub for her during my training, something most trainees don’t do.

I never enjoyed teaching. I was very nervous and insecure. I know some my fellow classmates felt the same. I reached out to experienced teachers for advice. I learned they too recalled feeling similarly as they began teaching. One or two even admitted they would take something to calm their nerves before teaching.

I felt I didn’t know enough to stand in front of a class and tell them what to do. I was scared someone was going to get injured in my class. I prayed, I sought the help of energy workers and spiritual coaching to help calm my nerves. I even had a session with a hypnotherapist. I often had to sub classes and I swear I could hear people’s voices saying “Oh shit, a sub! Ugh, I want to leave!” I did approach a few students after class to find out if they were thinking that. Why yes, they were. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a Reiki practitioner and am quite sensitive to feelings but I hated it. OK, I didn’t always hate it. I did teach a few series where I had the same four or six students every week. I knew them and they knew me. I got to know their bodies. I integrated yoga with Reiki. I did enjoy those classes. I felt I was serving these students to the best of my ability.

Even though I was nervous, I kept on teaching. I would say yes to most opportunities to teach. I approached yoga studios about getting on their schedule. It was a struggle since there are many yoga teachers in my hood. I even looked into renting my own space to teach a class after teaching six students in my living room for weeks.

And  yet…..

It wasn’t until I returned home from my trip to India last Fall that I realized, hello, I did not have to teach adults! Apparently some of my friends had given me that advice but I never heard them. Once I decided to devote my teaching to children, it was as if I had lost weight. I felt much lighter and freer.

I don’t always feel light and free when I teach kids. It’s challenging work. I don’t walk around a room teaching and demonstrating a few poses. I’m on the floor with them doing frog jumps and donkey kicks. I try to maintain their attention and focus. I’m constantly scouring blog posts and websites, taking trainings, buying books and props to use in my classes. However, I generally don’t get anxious and nervous as I used to when I was teaching adults. I do feel some anxiety before teaching at a new school or center, but it’s really not the same.

Yesterday, I read an article titled Memo to New Teachers: Be Patient. I thought the article was good until I came to the end when the author wrote “The world is full of great artists who never came to be because of a fear of being bad before they were good.” That sentenced took my breath away. Was he talking to me? Had I let fear win?  Or, was I simply following my dharma?

In my case, I believe my skills and gifts are best served teaching children. Who knows. Maybe if I had continued teaching adults, I would have overcome my nerves and anxiety. I also believe life is too short and there are many great yoga teachers. Once I made the decision not to teach adults, I wondered if I would change my mind. It’s been over one year, though, and my mind hasn’t changed. Will it ever?

Fellow yoga teachers, how did you feel as you began teaching?  Have those feelings changed the more you teach? Yoga practitioners, do you know or sense when a teacher is a new teacher or if she/he is nervous or anxious about teaching?

Yoga Isn’t Just For Kids

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Now that school is back in session, so are my kids yoga classes. This past week I’ve slowly eased back into my teaching. I taught two classes in East Orange to kids who have suffered trauma and now demonstrate severe emotional and behavioral issues. I will admit to being a bit nervous about resuming teaching there. Before I enter the Center, I take a few minutes in my car to center myself.  I pray and ask for guidance and support to best serve the kids. I send Reiki to myself and the room. I slather myself in calming essential oils and off I go. The classes I taught this week are the “easy” ones. The kids are younger and, for the most part, not as affected. Yet, I was cursed at, called stupid, had my props thrown across the room and a child tried to kick me. This particular child knew me from last year so I was surprised at his reaction. I do my best to stay calm and present to them an adult that will not react to them by yelling or getting overly upset.

I also led my free kids yoga class at Shatki Yoga. I had 20 kids (!!!!) in my class.  While my class is geared for kids ages 3-7, most of the kids were on the younger side. This free class always draws a large crowd. We like to offer a free class a few times a year so the kids can try the class before the series begins and the parents can see how it goes. This free class is a bit different than the classes I teach in the rest of the series simply because there are so many kids. I had an assistant this time which helped tremendously. What usually happens is one child asks to use the bathroom and then every single child has to go. With that amount of young kids, I needed an extra set of hands. All the kids seemed to have a lot of fun. So did I.

On Friday I visited Karma Kids Yoga. I became certified to teach kids yoga through this studio and I have continued to take numerous trainings they offer. One of the great things that the director, Shari, extends to graduates is the opportunity to observe classes. Since I don’t begin to teach on Fridays for another two weeks, I took the opportunity to head into the city and observe a 3-4 year old yoga class.

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The studio is filled with butterflies, bright colors and fun. It was great to watch the teacher. It made me feel a lot better about my own teaching since her class was very similar to the ones that I teach. Sometimes I worry that I’m not doing a good enough job but observing this class helped increase my self confidence. The teachers who teach there are so lucky as the studio is filled with amazing props right at their fingertips.

Lastly, I volunteered to teach a free kids yoga class for my community on Saturday afternoon for the Maplewood Loves Wellness event. Even though I had just taught a free class a few days before, I still felt compelled to offer my service at this event. I assumed there could be families who weren’t aware of my class at Shakti. There really isn’t a way to prepare for an event like this. The event was like a street fair. My class was announced over a microphone and kids started to come over. I had kids ranging in age from 2-12. We sang some songs, did sun salutations and breath work as parents and passerby’s walked by.

All in all, it was a nice transition week back to teaching. Plus I was also able to give two in person Reiki sessions and one long distance session. I’m thankful to be able to continue offering healing energy sessions in addition to teaching kids yoga. As the weeks go on, I will be teaching at a preschool and an enrichment program at my daughter’s elementary school. Summer was great while it lasted!

Read It and Believe It

A few weeks ago, I blogged about a group of kids that I teach. I think about these kids all the time. Honestly, I think about all the kids that I teach all the time. I spend a ton of time online, searching blogs and websites to get ideas and things to do in my yoga classes. I buy books and props to use in my classes. I’m always on the lookout on how I can best serve my students.

I am really enjoying the Nurture Affirmation cards. The kids love looking at the pictures and try to read the affirmations on their own. The other morning, my daughters and I picked out a card for ourselves. It was a fun way to start the day.

I told the creator of the cards, Roxanne, that she should create affirmation stickers to go along with the cards. I’ve been craving a way to give the kids a take away, something they can have for the rest of the day. This morning, as I was preparing to teach, I thought of purchasing tattoo markers.

I gave each child a card and we took turns reading each card out loud. Then I told them that I was going to write one word on their hand with a tattoo marker. As you can imagine, this was a big hit! I had only intended to write down one word that was on the card on each student, but then one child asked for two words, then three words, so I ended up writing three words on each child. I wrote words like love, helpful, and courage.

The children told me they were never going to wash their hands or arms. One child said he wanted to keep the words on his arm to remember me. I just hope they  know and feel love, helpful and courage.

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More Than Words

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I’ve been teaching yoga to children for nearly two years. I never imagined myself in this position and yet here I am, doing my best to serve my students. My intention when I teach kids is to get them to smile. It sounds easy, doesn’t it?  But that’s not always the case.

I teach four classes a week to children who have suffered trauma and now demonstrate severe emotional and behavioral issues. Most, if not all, do not live with both of their biological parents. Some are adopted but aren’t aware of that. Some have one or both of their parents incarnated. Some have been expelled or suspended from school at age 5. Most of my kids can’t sit still. They will tell me “Miss Judie, I can’t help myself. I can’t stop moving.” Of course sweetheart, I think, this is not your fault.

I do my best to introduce props, songs, books, whatever I can to brighten their day. I bring in my Tibetan healing bowl. I bring in essential oils and crystals. I give out coloring sheets and stickers.

I recently entered a contest to win a deck of Nurture Cards: Affirmation Cards for Children. OMazing Kids is an AMAZING website with fabulous resources for anyone who works with children. OMazing Kids offers contests on what seems like on a daily basis. I am so grateful to them!!!

I was SO HAPPY to have won the contest. Even though the cards were shipped from Australia, they arrived very quickly. I was able to use them in my classes this afternoon. I put a card on each mat. Most of the kids do not know how to read but the ones that did took pride in reading the affirmations. I read every single affirmation. As I expected, the kids loved the cards.

Some of the affirmations were “I love myself for all that I am” and “I enjoy doing my very best in all that I do” and “I am happy to forgive the people that I love.” When one of the students got that card, we spoke about forgiveness. It was such a sweet conversation.

I wish I could show you every card! I especially love how the cards feature faces of all different skin tones. I have used yoga cards with these kids before and they once asked me how come none of the kids in the cards had brown skin. Hmm, good question! Now I specifically search for cards that have all skin colorings.

Thank you Angela at OMazing Kids and Roxanne from Nurture Cards. The world is a better place because of you.

Trying New Things

I like having a routine. However, as a yoga teacher, I often find myself out of my routine and into new situations. I sub often. I say yes to different teaching opportunities. I tend to say yes a lot and then freak out later. How the hell am I going to do whatever it is I agreed to do.

For example, I agreed to teach a 6 week yoga series to a 4th grade class in my town’s school district. As the date grew closer, I began to freak out. My husband was really confused as to why I was so nervous. I am a certified kids yoga teacher. I teach multiple classes every week. I even have a daughter in 4th grade! I explained that I’m used to teaching younger kids. This, to me, felt different. And I was nervous.

I did my research, read books, scoured online blogs, referred back to my multiple teaching manuals and came up with a lesson plan. Nevertheless, I was very, very nervous and anxious before I taught my first class. You know what happened?  Continue reading