Yoga is not a team sport. Yoga is an individual, highly personal practice, where your mat is your world, you are focusing on yourself, trying to be aware and mindful and don’t even try to look at others! Partner yoga with Sharikay and Laura was a brand new experience to me.
We were told that, through partner yoga children have a chance to connect, learn to cooperate and trust each other and how to give and receive help from others. Wow! All that by just practicing yoga in pairs?! The leading teacher – Sharikay (known as well as Shakira, Cherry Cake or my personal nick name – Kalashnikov, as she is shooting with words and ideas like crazy) made it fun and simple, without going into unnecessary details or focusing on visual aspects (not much time for cool pictures for Facebook or Insta…).
With the accuracy of a Swiss watch and God’s speed, our Master of Puppets led us through a sequence of different posses, movements and partners. Practice, practice, practice. We do, we feel, we learn. Collapsing figures, different sizes’ bodies and even roosters jumping into the yoga sala, nothing could stop the show. Somewhere in the middle of Savasana, holding the hand of my new partner in crime, I realized how this short class quickly brought us together and helped us to be open to each other. To perform any partner pose, you really have to communicate, read and respond to your partner’s reaction. You would be surprised, how difficult it can be even with someone that you already know; how much we have to learn about ourselves and how this kind of practice can help us with that. After that session there was not much more to explain. Theory class focused on how to adapt the poses to needs and abilities of children of different ages, variations and options, funky names. All it’s fun, love and butterflies.
Ok, let’s move to more serious stuff… It’s a teacher training not a hippie commune, right? Being former primary school teacher and having 15 years of experience working with children, Laura introduced us to the educational philosophies of Howard Gardner and Reggio Emilia, as well as children’s developmental milestones. The ball was mostly on our side of the playground – learn by doing, seemed to be Laura’s teaching philosophy. So we did. We worked a lot with the right sides of our adult brains, to come up with as many ideas as possible on how to bring those philosophies to real life. Trying to match children’s ages with characteristics, we found out that (surprise!) we underestimate children’s social and emotional skills. Can you remember, how annoying it is when adults think that you are too young to understand what’s going on? Yeah…
Afternoon session with Sharikay took me back in time around 25 year ago, when life was simple, branches of the trees could still hold my weight and eating mountains of ice-creams was a social event when nobody was concerned about keeping it vegan. The class was addressed to 6-9 year old children and was led in age-appropriate way… and it was awesome! At least until the point when we had to switch the roles and became adults and teachers again. After 45 minutes of rolling, jumping, crawling pretending to be a box, a bottle, an old newspaper and God knows what else, we were left with some crazy named poses and 10 minutes for preparation.
During my first serious attempt at teaching a children’s yoga class, my body became a messy pretzel; the wise witches changed in hyperactive, know-it-all youngsters and six years of practice on perfect alignment went to hell. The kind of hell where the unicorns are shooting rainbows from their horns, bats are living in the sea, nothing makes sense and you start to accept that.
Crisscross apple sauce!