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

Via Alden Wicker
on Feb 28, 2011
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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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About 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.

Comments

66 Responses to “Get that 9-year-old Out of My Yoga Class!”

  1. Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the new Elephant Yoga homepage.

  2. Yogini5 says:

    You can blame the media for that one.

    In the late '80s nobody was under any illusion that yoga would help them lose weight.

  3. fivefootwo says:

    Err…I didn't say Manhattan and is this about the other day?

  4. fivefootwo says:

    I'm me. Who else would I be? Maybe I should assume she changed all the details….

  5. I appreciate that you shared your honest feelings and perceptions about the girl in your class. Sounds to me like her presence triggers something in you that you might not want to see. So maybe she is giving you an opportunity to explore and befriend your personal shadow: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2010/12/afraid-of-

  6. wendy says:

    something you can do is find another class.

  7. Circleseeker says:

    This article does read like it is written by a self centered 20 something as the author describes herself basically. I think sometimes the yoga community loses all sight of what yoga and "sangha" is really. I have a great teacher who would tell you that this situation is all about not allowing another individual to govern your experience. Also, we are all one. Why is it you cannot embrace this young person who so obviously needs love and acceptance? Is there some part of her that reminds you of yourself as a young person or even now? I have had more fidgety adults in class then the sound of this little girl. Adults just play with their i-phone and whatever but it seems the accepted and the norm. Hmmm, I find this article sad but telling. Telling in the sense of what I see as a yoga community that hangs together at times out of a sense of judgment of others outside the clique. Your spiritual practice should be 24/7. This little one is part of it. Sounds like you are the one with the real issue here.

  8. Karen Ann Campbell says:

    Could not have said it better!

  9. asdfg says:

    Get over it – kids are kids, adults are adults – grown up don't want kids being annoying during their "adult" time.

  10. Kids yoga and adults yoga are quite different. Bringing a nine year old to adult yoga is like asking an adult to watch a Hanna Montanna marathon. They don't care about the same things.

    The girl doesn't sounds like she's enjoying the class. It sounds like, for her, its another thing she is supposed to do because its good for her. I wonder if she chooses to be there? Maybe you could ask her why she comes, it may give you some insight. The studio owners could also consider reaching out to her school to start a program.

    Alden – you could also try a little "law of attraction" type of stuff with her since she looks up to you. Try to be completely neutral to all behavior except when she does a good job, then really encourage and congratulate it. For some children even negative attention is better than no attention. This works for me in my kids yoga classes.

    But if you need to, I think its fine for you to find a new class. Sometimes the lesson is to learn to walk away.

  11. I can't find the photo on the internet right now but I love the picture of Saraswati Jois doing a backbend when she was about nine years old. Pattabhi Jois would then give a lecture for an hour while standing on top of her. I wish my kids were into it like that.

  12. Fastcat7 says:

    I had the same experience but with an adult advanced yogini who was so impressed with herself that during poses in class, she would move into more challenging poses and then hold them longer so that everyone could see her in them. If my head even turned the teeniest bit in her direction, she was ready with intense eye contact. She made little noises to call attention to herself, and frequently chimed in with pronunciations and pose structure hints. She almost made me hate yoga. Luckily, a new instructor has moved to our area and has provided a much more challenging class for this woman. I am still trying to figure out what I was supposed to be learning from her distracting annoying presence in my sacred yoga world.

  13. Antonia Reed says:

    Wow, great article! But when you were describing her behaviors, you were describing me! Ack! I laughed because I do agree with you, 9-yr olds do not belong in your class. They do belong with other kids because of the energies that they put out. I have been the one who farted (unfortunately right in front of a man who was brave enough to try his first yoga class at our woman-centric center, and I was in triangle pose!), I have fidgeted with my t-shirt, I have squirmed, fallen over (laughing), and done most of the things that bothered you in class (although not all in the same class, thank the goddess). I have been doing Yoga for about 11 yrs and I still do some of those things. Oy. Guess I need to remember that my energy does affect others. And next time that I am bothered by someone in class to have a sense of humor like you do.

    Oh and yes, you aren't ready for kids, but having a sense of humor about it (like you showed here) will make you ready, should you choose that path in life! Keep on making us laugh at ourselves…

  14. Eric says:

    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!

  15. Beverly says:

    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.

  16. Beverly says:

    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….

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