13 MarVolunteer Celebration – A Letter to Street Yoga
Last month, our devoted Volunteer Coordinator created a space for our volunteer to gather, nourish and share their experiences with Street Yoga. Hosted by the magical Inner Elements Yoga with treats provided by Papa G’s Vegan Organic Deli, our volunteer yoga teachers enjoyed the community of service.
I am honored to share a letter from one of our long-standing volunteers, Madelyn of Mickelberry Gardens.
I am so happy to be a part of such a wonderful organization of people committed to yoga as service. Yoga is such a gift in my life and I’m thankful every day for my ability to invest in studying with wonderful teachers and developing my own practice. Street Yoga has inspired in me a sense of responsibility to these gifts: to share yoga with those who both can benefit greatly from it and who do not have access to it.
It’s been teaching me a lot to work with the students at SSC these past few months. I feel fortunate to have a group of students to work with over the course of the school year. It gives me the opportunity to get to know them over a longer period of time than is often possible. I’m working on my own philosophy and purpose as a teacher, and teaching this class grounds me in trying to give my students tools they can continue to develop and use throughout their life.
The high-schoolers at SSC are inspiring, and sometimes amazingly intuitive and interested in the practice. In my class last Tuesday we did our warm ups, a series of gentle spiralling movements – neck, shoulders, wrists, arms, hips, knees, ankles. I pointed out that it can sometimes seem like everything is about straight lines and right angles. Jory says “that’s from everything that is man-made”, emphatically shaking his fists towards the ceiling. “that’s right, but there are lots of spirals in nature, and in our everyday life”. For kids that spend their entire day inside 2 rooms with little opportunity to be outside and experience nature, and much of their time at home playing video games or watching TV, it can be wonderful to discover natural rhythms and patterns in their own body. Teaching them to tune into the calming nature of their own breathing, and simple postures and movements connected to the breath, gives them skills to help cope with negative emotions and feelings, and practical ways to feel better.
They get very little exercise during the school day, with no PE facilities to use – I was told when I started that 40 minutes of PE often consisted of playing Cranium. Fortunately yoga postures can be done anywhere, and once you learn a few you like, you become empowered with ways to keep your body healthy, no matter what your surroundings are.
They sometimes complain of feeling depressed and are listless at the beginning of class (I’m sure many of these students with challenging behavior patterns are medicated) – linking breathing and movement, some focusing on the breath, laying down and relaxing, and bringing to mind and body a feeling of peace, and holding their mind there for a little while, can lift the spirits. By challenging them to focus on doing the movements I teach and to tune into their breath, they may begin to notice that practice can change how you feel, and even how you react.