February 28, 2011

Get that 9-year-old Out of My Yoga Class!

When she first showed up, I thought she was cute.

Not anymore.

She fidgets and sighs. She plays with her hair, and takes her glasses on and off, on and off, or else just knocks them to the floor with a clatter. She doesn’t know her right from her left. She is unable to translate visuals from the instructor into positions in her own body. She halfheartedly tries each move, before collapsing to her knees and fidgeting some more. She gets up in the middle of class to use the bathroom, and yesterday she came back to ask the instructor with help getting in. The instructor obliged, leaving us in trikonasana for three minutes.

The day before, she farted while the instructor tried to show her shoulder stand.

She has dry skin, which she constantly itches, raking her nails down her arm. She tugs at her t-shirt in each move, trying to keep it down over that sliver of skin above her pants. On Tuesday she was at the front of the class, in front of me, and it was like watching a train wreck. She moves jerkily and quickly, collapsing over her legs for forward bend so fast I think she’s going to hurt herself. I finally asked the instructor if perhaps she could benefit from being behind me, so she could use me as a visual. He turned me down, but after a couple more minutes, reconsidered and we switched. But my balance was already thrown off. Her fidgeting had infected me, and my tree pose wouldn’t hold.

In savasana, she can’t stay still. I hear her next to me, moving around, coughing, gulping her water. I can’t not think of her. She is always there, demanding attention, demanding that I hear her and look at her, and I get angry with how bad she is. When I get home from class after having her there, I snap at my boyfriend, and I slouch in front of the computer, brooding.

The instructors have different ways for dealing with her, none of them successful. One tried to really teach her the moves, working with her personally, adjusting her physically, but she isn’t good at listening to instructions, and the rest of the class felt neglected. One instructor set himself up in front of her, but she still didn’t get it, or didn’t put in the effort, or both. One instructor all but ignored her, dispensing instructions to the class at large, barely letting her eyes flicker over the 9-year-old’s attempts at downward facing dog.

What makes me feel even worse, is that she really wants to be my friend. Her eyes light up when I walk into the room. She smiles eagerly at me, scurrying over to set up her mat next to mine. In class I radiate frustration in her direction, my mind chanting “Stop fidgeting! Be quiet! At least TRY,” but she doesn’t know that, and she looks at me for direction, eating me up with her eyes while I do a headstand.

The thing is, she needs yoga. She is a victim of the child obesity epidemic, and her legs bow inward. She seems so out of touch with her own body that I think that yoga is the only way to teach her to listen to what her core, her neck, her hamstrings are saying, or at least teach her right from left. Her posture is so rounded, yoga seems like the solution to making her stand up straight and proud. I want her to have the gift of yoga, just not MY yoga class. I guess you could call it a case of NIMYS – Not In My Yoga Studio.

She needs a class of kids her own age, but I don’t think that is available anywhere near her. She has some sort of connection to the owner of the studio, and that’s why she gets to come.

What is she trying to teach me? Patience? Unconditional compassion? How I NEVER want to have kids?

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Beverly Mar 26, 2011 2:01am

continued ……..Will we judge her? More than likely yes, for good or bad. But whatever your judgement might be I do hope that for those of you slamming her for her openness that you can see you are judging as well. There have been judgments about her age group and their shallowness, judgements on who and what she is, all based on one article. You don't have to like what she says but remember that part of our understanding in yoga is to realize that we all have judgements. Can we see them and acknowledge them without attacking ourselves, but allow ourselves to see what it is within us that creates these judgements. Not liking what she has to say does not gives others the right to then attack her, what a never ending cycle that would be. I hope we all find peace with who we are and like Alden try to look within and possibly improve on some of the places that are a part of us.ontinued….

Beverly Mar 26, 2011 2:00am

Hmmm. I read so many of the responses before I could read no longer and had to reply. Alden (that is her name) wrote this as, it seems an exploration of something she was/is experiencing. She did not hide behind a need to try and sell herself as the best yogi ever. She wrote what she was honestly going through. It is not up to us to tell her what she should be experiencing. We can offer support on this journey that is never perfect and congratulate her for seeing her own weaknesses.

Eric Mar 20, 2011 1:08am

That is certainly a challenging practice. Please keep us posted and best of luck! I'm also thinking of how hard it must be for that girl to practice. Best of luck to you both, actually!

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Alden Wicker

Alden Wicker is a freelance journalist and founder of EcoCult.com, a blog about all things sustainable in New York City and beyond. She also writes about electronic music, personal finance, and yoga for publications such as Well + Good, Refinery29, LearnVest, Huffington Post and Narratively.