“I love yoga. I am so happy right now! Yoga is the one sport where you can relax but still sweat.”
~ Emily, 13, Fort Worth, TX
Being a teenager sucks. Do you remember those years? Really. Try to remember. Did you block them out like I did? I have them seriously blocked out. The people who say “high school was the best time of my life” are not the type of people I’ve ever been able to relate to. Being a teenager is rough. Hormones, self consciousness, anxiety, home issues, grades, pimples, weight gain, puberty, periods, mean boys, mean girls. It’s awful.
This week, I was asked by my sweet friend Sara to come and teach yoga at her school, to a group of thirty-one 8th graders. As nervous as I was to teach that grade level, remembering my own 8th grade year and how much I did not enjoy it, I jumped at the chance, because I love yoga, and I see how greatly it has benefitted my life and the lives of those around me. I became a certified yoga teacher last year, and I love having the chance to share my knowledge and passion with others, especially with those who are going through a very challenging time. Yoga has changed my life more than anything else I can possibly think of in the last decade. It’s awaken me. And as my friend Laura says, once you’ve awaken, you can’t look back.
So, I taught yoga this week to a group of 8th graders. A group who at first, didn’t all want to focus, who started out giggling, embarrassed by the movement, thinking everyone is watching them. But eventually, they calmed, followed the rest of the tribe, and focused in. Eventually they broke open, as we all do. Because yoga is love. That’s it. It’s sweat and stillness and stretching and growth and flexibility and awareness, as well. But mostly, it’s love.
And this group of kids allowed me into their life, for 50 minutes, to help open them. To help show them love. To help them embrace the mystery in their bodies and to help find some stillness.
Yoga was not trendy when I was a teenager, and I so wish it was. If there was a group of years I could just magically erase from my life, high school would have been it. I feel for these kids more than they’ll ever know. I want to just hold them and tell them to close their eyes and buckle down and the next four years of their life will magically pass and then they’ll be off to college. But really, college isn’t much easier, it’s just different. And then adult life, it’s not much easier either, it’s also just different.
To have something like yoga in your life, to be able to go to a place, to enter in a new world, it is literally magical. There’s no other word for it. When I’m in yoga class, and when I’m on my mat at home, I have entered into a new dimension. It’s gorgeous and powerful and it’s my happiest, most loving place. It’s like discovering a new book by your favorite author – time completely erases. Someone or something outside of you leads you, and you move, you flow, you open up. You embrace the mystery of your body and you embrace the moments you have to fully breathe.
And this week, I was able to share that magical place with a group of teenagers, really with a group of people who need yoga in their lives more than anyone. If they would have asked me to come back tomorrow, I would have. I could see in their eyes – the self-consciousness, the doubt, the uncertainty. And by the end of class, they all showed me smiles and love. They all broke through.
Yoga, I fully believe, should be in all schools, in all grades, in all corporations, in all situations in life. Anytime I am sad or mad or lonely, I go to my mat. It’s how I cope through life. Because life is damn hard. Our loved ones leave us, our friends leave this earth too soon, our worlds turn upside down, but our practice is still there. Whether on a mat or the grass in my backyard or the linoleum floor in the room I taught in this week, we can all embrace yoga. We can all escape for an hour into the world of acceptance, of love.
I asked Emily, who I quoted above, if any of her family practiced yoga, and they don’t. It’s just her. She sat in the back of class this week, and I went up to her afterwards and told her how beautiful her practice was. Because it is. Because she fully lives it. It’s her escape, I am sure of it without ever asking her. Yoga is her release. I hope with all of my heart, that she sticks with it. That her smile and her joy never fades. I hope, 10 years from now, I’m taking a class from Emily. That I’m learning from her light.
This: yoga. This is what it is all about. This is love. This is why life is worth living. Because being a teenager sucks. Truly. It’s awful. And college sucks at times, and real life sucks at times; sometimes it sucks more days than not. But if you have a practice, you can have relief. You can have love and understanding. And you can see the world as what it is: one big vat of water and land and molecules and atoms, open to exploring, open to connection, open to community, open to love.
With so much love, Jen.
This is one of my favorite lunches, and it’s great for kids to take with them to school too as none of the veggies need to be heated up for them to enjoy. The sweet potato is sweet enough that even pickier kids will like taste of the veggies with the potato, hummus and walnuts!