“I took the Street Yoga teacher training about a year ago. Soon after, I realized I wanted to be close to these teens and share with them the gift of yoga.
For the past 10 months I have been teaching at a shelter for runaways in Seattle at a transitional home for teens who stay there for about 7-10 days. This is the maximum amount of time it takes the staff to reunite them with their parents or primary care providers. I only see these kids once for 60 minutes. I don’t have any expectations that they will do a perfect ‘tree pose’ after class or that they will go back to their room and do ‘downward dog’ every morning. What I’ve learned that these teens have in common, is they all want to be seen and appreciated for who they are. So my goal is to create a space where they feel safe and where they can be with whatever they are feeling in the moment.
I always start class by introducing myself and I ask the teens to share their names. Often times a teen will say ‘my name is Giovanni’ and the kid next to him will say ‘no, your name is not Giovanni. Your name is Bob’. So I would turn to that kid and I will say, ‘well, he wants his yoga name to be Giovanni for the next 60min. What is your yoga name?’ And he would say, “my name is Bold Eagle” and I will say, “nice to meet you Bold Eagle.”
Another time half way through class, a teen said, “I don’t want to do yoga anymore” and the rest of the teens in the class followed. So I told them “Okay, let’s not do yoga. What do you want to do instead? I am here for another half hour.” And the teen said, “let’s dance.” So we all got up from our mats, made a circle, interlocked our elbows and did the hokey pokey dance. After a while, the same teen that wanted to stop the yoga said, “I am tired of dancing, can we do yoga again?” and I resumed the yoga class.
Lastly, I leave you with this story…
A few weeks ago I had a very flexible and very energetic teen in class who kept saying “Yes, I can do this man. Yes, I can do this.” We did a side angle pose together, and at some point our right arm was on the floor in front and I said, “if you feel comfortable, loop your left arm around. If you can reach, try to hold your right wrist with your left arm.” And she did it while saying “Yes, I can do this man. Yes, I can do this.” And if you can imagine, at this point we both looked like pretzels and then I said, “Slowly shift your weight to your right leg and if you can, lift the left leg slowly.” She threw her arms up in the air and said, “No, man, I can’t do that.” I looked at her in the eye and asked her, “Do you want to try one more time?” and she said “Yes, I want to do it!” I told her “Let’s do it together one more time and see how far we can get.” After a few breaths we were both up in ‘bird of paradise.’ When she came down, she made a strong gesture with her fist and said “yeaahhhh!” I could feel how for a moment, that girl felt strong and powerful.
I love StreetYoga.
Street Yoga would like to thank Ana and our many other teachers who give themselves to those in need of yoga daily. Stories like Ana’s are inspiring and remind us about the importance of yoga therapy. If this piece resonates with you, we would love to hear your stories below. If you want to know more about our teacher training, visit our site.