Daily Archives: January 11, 2011

Poem for the new year

Another delightful side effect from our yoga session yesterday was that one of the students asked me about the poems I had been reading at the end of each session. She was curious to know if the yoga classes I take end with poetry (they do not). She also asked “Will you read us a poem?” My reply was that I hadn’t been sure they (the kids) liked having poetry read to them, and to my delight, not only did she say she enjoyed the poems, but she and a few others began talking about one of the early poems (Toe Eyes) I had read in December.

Talk about a revelation!

Always at the ready, I immediately popped out Aristotle and read the opening eight lines of what is a much longer poem by Billy Collins.

opening lines of ARISTOTLE by Billy Collins

This is the beginning.
Almost anything can happen.
This is where you find
the creation of light, a fish wriggling onto land,
the first word of Paradise Lost on an empty page.
Think of an egg, the letter A,
a woman ironing on a bare stage as the heavy curtain rises.
This is the very beginning. 

1st and 2nd

It turned out that our first yoga class back from December vacation was, indeed, last Thursday. It also turned out that the doors to Memorial Hall were locked. Memorial Hall is a 135 seat auditorium, and we practice yoga on the floor of the podium area, a quiet space with a wooden floor and adjustable lighting. Between us, we were in a mix of tiredness due to readjusting from vacation to being back at school, and excitement due to the anticipated snow day that would happen on Friday (which it did), and I decided we would have an abbreviated yoga session right there in the semi-protected hall in front of the door to Memorial Hall.

This was probably not my best decision, as some of the kids (mostly two boys) were focused on trying not to be seen by anyone else who might come our way. Since Memorial Hall is at the end of a long hallway, we were fairly isolated, but there were two people who passed our way in order to get elsewhere. I would say we didn’t so much have a yoga session as a stretching session. Upon dismissing the kids, I promptly went to make sure that we had reservations for Memorial Hall for the rest of the term, which would mean it would be unlocked for our use.

Yesterday was our second class back from December vacation, and I was determined to set the tone for the rest of the winter sports term. I arrived at Memorial Hall early (yippee, it was unlocked!), set the lighting low, set up my iPhone with soothing music, and determined to separate the three boys who tend to get giddy. 

Upon arrival, the students found a soothing environment, and were promptly asked to align their mats arm’s distance apart and in a row across of eight, with one short end against the front wall and the other short end facing me. I positioned my mat at a right angle to theirs and at the center front of their view. Oh yes, and I asked that the three boys find positions that were not next to one another. Interestingly, the rest of the group was not particularly enthusiastic about positioning themselves in between these boys. One boy wound up at the far right, one at the far left, and the other was able to intersperse himself between two other classmates.

If you’re listening to your breath, you’re not listening to your mind. That’s the whole point – to give yourself a break from your thoughts.

Caroline, one of my yoga teachers, has often said the above during the classes she leads. To help settle and calm my students, and to give them a technique they can use prior to taking tests or whenever they want to be able to self-calm, I had determined to start class with Caroline’s comment. As soon as everyone had their mat arranged, I began class by asking them to place themselves in a comfortable seated position, and then find their way to their backs, where we spent a bit of time focusing on breathing, in particular a three-part breath. Not only did this calm down the energy in the room, but a number of the students had questions about the technique and breathing in general.

From the breathing session we followed, more or less, the session I described in my previous post. I was especially pleased that, while my notes were available, they were not my script. (Hazaah!) Rather, I determined to guide class from my instincts and experience, using my visual and kinesthetic memory. Twice, when changing the music, I glanced at my notes, but their purpose was more as a backup than as a reference. I had no difficulty filling a full 45 minutes, I was calm, the kids were calm and the most engaged and participative yet, and at the end of class a few of them actually said they enjoyed class. Ah, Happy New Year 🙂