Earlier this week, I was asked to teach a few 16-year olds at an all girls school in North London. They were in the middle of their GCSE exams, and their head of PE strongly believed that a yoga session would benefit them. How to prepare? I asked myself. I have not been around ANY 16-year olds, well, since I was that age. So I began to think back to what I was like back then, what I would have needed from a yoga session at that age. And I came up with absolutely... NOTHING. I certainly was never interested in yoga at that age, and someone would have had to literally pull me by my hair to go to a class, but what I would have thought or how I would have acted while in the class, I had no idea.
So here was my plan: don't have a plan. Look and see them as you would any adult, and teach them from there. They will tell you what they need. And that's exactly what happened.
We started in child's pose. I could sense their nervousness, not knowing what was to come. Next pose: downward facing dog. 'Now lift your left leg up' I said. And that's when it began. One of the girls had her leg lifted for barely one second before she came crashing back down. 'I can't do this, it's really hard'. Believe me, she was more than strong and capable enough to stay in the pose, so that definitely wasn't the issue here. As we moved on to various different poses, I saw them all, at some point, easily reach their quitting point, "I can't do this" attitude. They are so young I thought to myself. So it got me thinking, how early on do we, as human beings, start to develop these "I can't, so why bother trying" thoughts? Where has our society gone wrong, what are we teaching our kids that allows these destructive thoughts to start so early?
As a child, I always worked hard, at school, in my martial arts class etc, but did I think I could do anything? No, I don't think so. I remember being terrified when we would have gymnastics at school. Some of my classmates seemed fearless as they performed the tasks we were given, one of which was walking on the balance beam. That damn beam! Well at least that is my recollection of the events. I do remember not wanting to try out of fear of falling. Would something have shifted inside me if my teacher at the time encouraged me to try? Who knows. So that's what I did for these girls. I did not allow them to get away with quitting, instead, I encouraged them again and again to try. Will that tiny moment in their life make a difference? Probably not. But if we persist, if we keep encouraging them to get out of their comfort zone, to live in the scary and the unknown, then surely that will make a difference.
"Life begins at the end of your comfort zone"
I didn't learn this at a young age, but that's ok. NOW I choose to do what scares me. I choose to ignore any voices in my head that insist that I am incapable of achieving what I want out of life.
"If you want something you've never had, then you've got to do something you've never done"
When we try, we fail. That's inevitable. I wouldn't even call it failing in fact, I would just say it's just a step in the process. If we continue to chase a dream, the universe may have other plans for us, and one dream will transform and evolve into another. For me it's also about having faith, faith in the process. If something doesn't turn out as I had planned, I choose to keep persevering and keep chasing, because I know there is a purpose.
"Believe you can and you're halfway there"
Ok so back to these wonderful 16 years olds. As the session progressed, I noticed a sizeable shift in their behaviour. As I cued them into a couple deep hip-openers at the end of class, something magical unravelled. Their curiosity to look around, and see what their classmates were doing, turned into a deep meditation, and they ALL closed their eyes, without any instruction from me. Their shortness of breath transformed into deep and meaningful rib-expanding breaths. Complete surrender... Now that's inspiring, wouldn't you say?
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