I come from a background of few yoga rules. I use a lot of "allowing" languaging. Anything goes. If you don't want to do it, don't do it. Listen to your body. You've heard me.
Every once in a while I get a group that challenges me and makes me come up with rules.
It makes sense that some groups will do better with clearer guidelines and expectations. The group I'm talking about in particular is the kids who've been expelled or suspended from school. They get to go to a special school, and I'm their yoga teacher. Their new principal is an old student of mine and he thought maybe yoga would help them to relax and learn how to cope better.
The first class had about 10 students in it and was awkward. A group of expelled and suspended students is a group of mostly boys, that's the reality. So we wondered how to present it so they'd feel good about going but not too weird to be in there with their buddies. Over the past few weeks we've worked it out but there were days when I had to take a big breath to walk in the door and deal with rowdiness, smoke breaks, phones on, people coming and going, the class ending early because everybody bailed, it was not what I've become used to when people pay to come to a yoga studio!
I worked with their social worker on the rules and we agreed: if you come in, you're in for the whole class. Come in on time or you can't come. No talking to each other during class. No texting - your phone isn't on your body. If you don't want to do a move, don't do something else instead. Stuff like that. Basic respect and manners. And I have to say the rules at the beginning of each class.
With those rules in place, we've had more repeat customers. They're learning some poses and sun salutations but the thing they seem to love the best is the relaxation where I touch them. I do the "leg jiggle, arm jiggle, head scratch" thing (the assisted relaxation if you've ever been in one of those classes with me).
Watching a group of troubled young men relaxing on their yoga mats makes me happy. It reminds me of the pride I felt when I was new with the police and would have a group of 20 guys (without their guns) taking 2 minutes to relax and how powerful that was.
It's taken a few weeks to get it together, but it seems like it's falling into place and having the other staff on board assisting me in holding space for these young people who choose to come to yoga (it's optional for them but 2 are doing it for gym credit) is making a difference and the kids are getting it.