— where years of condensation and stagnant air have absorbed into the walls, and painted a hue of green that makes everyone in the room look sort of green too. The floor collects wrappers, smashed and sticky juice cartons, and clumps of dust and hair along the edges of the wall. It gets too hot in here during the winter, and too cold during the fickle spring when the windows are open. But, this is our space, what we have, where we meet to do yoga after school every week.
When people see photos of my classes or learn that I teach yoga in schools, they exclaim, “That must be so rewarding. You really are helping them so much. I needed yoga as a kid.”
When people closest to me hear about my difficult days, they remark, “I don’t know how you do what you do. I couldn’t do it.” If they are teachers themselves, we sometimes find ourselves asking each other, “Why are we doing what we are doing again?”
Yes, sometimes the work lights up your heart up with divine meaning and purpose. There are also days when you feel overwhelmed and incapable caught in a maelstrom of bureaucracy, budget cuts, generational poverty, overworked teachers, and adolescent mood swings. We all feel the conflict, energetically, on every level. Most days my students are so distraught that I wonder if they are learning anything at all.
I cannot change the situation of my students’ lives. I am not here to fix them, or to impose lessons on them on what I think my 6th grade self should’ve known.
What I can do is create a safe space for them –
To articulately communicate to me that they’ve have a bad day and just need to do restorative poses.
To resolve a months-long feud with a social rival after a session of partner poses.
To feel the empowering stillness of relaxation.
Week after week, I hold this space for them to learn, grow and experience the capability of their bodies, the articulation of their movements, the strength of their minds, and the joy of being a kid.
This is all I can do, hoping they crystallize the moments in their practice and carry this space within themselves for the rest of their lives.