I recently had a great learning experience...from a bunch of 5-year-olds.
Yesterday I volunteered to teach yoga to my youngest son's kindergarten class.
I arrived at the school in time to hear the end of the book the teacher had been reading to the kids. They were all obediently seated on the rug and spied me as I walked in. Some waved.
The teacher welcomed me and asked the kids to stay seated, reminding them that yoga is a "quiet exercise not like Zumba," which they sometimes do in class as well. Some of the kids looked unsure. Some of them yelled out, "I know how to do yoga." My son was one of the latter. (At home he had asked me to teach headstand to his classmates.)
I took my seat, criss-cross applesauce, in front of my budding yogis. I told them yoga is fun and that we'll make a little noise and also enjoy being silent. I asked them to bring their hands together at their heart-center, and then I asked, "Do you know what we say in yoga class?" A few children replied, "We say OM!" So, I offered them the opportunity to OM -- they all jumped at it. "Close your eyes," I said. They did. "Take a big breath in through your nose, and then we'll OM," I said. I heard a deep inhale across the room, and a very beautiful soft OM filled the space.
I explained what 'namaste' meant (explaining that we all have goodness in our hearts that shines like a bright light, and that 'namaste' is a way to notice everyone else's bright light). They sat wide-eyed and listened intently.
And then we started. I took them on a yoga adventure -- packing a picnic in a seated forward fold, taking our doggy for a walk, greeting the sun, standing tall like a mountain, seeing and being a cat, cow, snake and lion (and loudly making all the animal sounds as well), going for a boat ride, crab-walking in the sand and then finally resting. It was a rare sight to see 20 kids lying in stillness with eyes closed...the teacher and I exchanged an appreciative smile.
Without exception, every one of the kids in class (plus their teacher) happily participated. They were 100 percent interested, attentive and willing.
I teach many adults every day and see far less willingness and excitement in their yoga practice. Something happens to us as we get older. We become concerned with what others think. We shy away from opportunities that may create positive shifts in our lives because we don't want to be judged, especially if we fail.
The first few times I ask new adult students to OM in class, I barely hear a sound from them. Often their eyes are shifting around trying to figure out what to make of this sound, and to see if others are buying into it so they won't look weird. But the kids? They couldn't wait to OM.
Yoga teachers ask adult students to try many different poses, some of which feel strange or challenging. Sometimes they fall out of these poses and become embarrassed, again looking around to see who noticed. But the kids? They tried it all. Sometimes they fell, but they got right back up and tried again.
I left the kindergarten classroom with a renewed child-like spirit. I relished in the feeling of "I don't care what I look like because I'm having fun, and I know I can do anything."
Something happens to us as we get older. The layers of life start to pile on. We let our confidence slip and allow doubt to creep in. The examples I give are just what I've seen on the yoga mat. But how about off the mat? How are we (adults) showing up in life?
What if we could all be like kindergartners, simply being exactly who are without any pretenses, which would mean dropping the perpetual need to look good.
I know our kids will keep growing up, but I hope they never grow old. Dig up your inner 5-year-old and let him/her teach you a little something about truly living life.