Here’s my story and how yoga has helped me make smart choices and connections. It was 2010 and I was teaching yoga at a really tough high school in Newark at the time. There were 60+ high school students in the class in the gym and I was teaching them yoga. We all had yoga mats. The acoustics were lousy due to echoing of the gym. I had a mike that was on a cord and it didn’t help much. There were three PE teachers for the three combined classes. None of them were participating in yoga. All of them had whistles around their necks.
Inhale. Exhale. Down dog. Mountain pose. In between my guiding of the class, an 11th grade boy in the front row kept saying in his loudest, most obnoxious voice ever “YEAAAAHHHH.” “YEAAAAHHHH.” “YEAAAAHHHH.” This went on until out of the corner of my eye, I noticed one of the PE teachers going to him.
What do you think was about to happen? You are right. The PE teacher was about to tell him to either SHUT UP, blow his whistle to get him and the entire class quiet, or pull him out to sit by the bleachers out of the class.” That is what can go on in an urban school where teachers themselves are super stressed.
Here’s what really happened. I put my arm out to stop the PE teacher from going over. His look to me said “Are you crazy lady? What are you thinking?” He did, however freeze in his tracks. I then said to the class ‘Your friend in the front row has a great idea.” Yes, I had everyone’s attention now especially the boy in the front row. His look to me was “Huh, lady, I am disrupting your class and that’s cool?”
The next thing I said is “YEAAAHHH” has just become the mantra for your school. Lets all exhale into a downward dog and say it together. Ready…”YEAAAHH.” I then told them they did it so well, lets do it one more time. “YEAAAHH.”
Want to know what happened next? The young man in the front row was satisfied—he got the attention he was craving. The rest of the class went on without a hitch. The PE teacher came over to me after the class and was in awe at what happened.
Lessons: Use yoga to pause and assess all situations. This boy just wanted attention. Turn a negative situation into a positive one. Know that as yoga teachers we can be huge role models not just for students but for teachers as well. The behavior we model in our classes are behaviors that can present new ideas to students and teachers to try on themselves.