6 hours ago I was sat on a bench in some leafy suburb of Oxford. It was gorgeous sunshine, but I was pretty aprehensive. How was I going to teach these teens with learning difficulties and autism. How should I pitch the class??? Help!
My experience with learning difficulties is very minimal and I have to say until today quite negative. My Grandma would have an annual party at hers and a friend of hers would bring her boy with learning difficulties who was young enough to play with my sister and I but as he got to be older he would chase us around the house and in our child like way we got spooked. The whole situation reminded me a lot of my grandparents actually, a leafy red bricked suburb, a school (my Grandma taught), it was autumn, somehow we always went there in autumn. Even the dragon motif on the school brought her back- my Grandma embraced the Welsh dragon of my Grandfather’s country and loved it as an emblem. Her (or her friend) would collect dragon ornaments.
So memories were flooding in and I had no idea what to expect from these teens.
What pace should I go at?
Music.... yes or no?
Distraction or sensory stimulation?
Full Up dog or Cobra?
Quick talk or slow?
Interaction or not?
Adjustments or demo?
How the hell do you pitch for Autism at the same time too?
I perceived Autism to be about high functioning mathematic genius kids with emotional detachment. Not learning difficulties. This was going to be a weird class to go midway between that. However Anna very quickly put me at my ease and educated me!
I met her outside the class, she introduced me to all the teens who were eating lunch, and as soon as I’d met them, shook hands and they chatted to me- I knew it was going to be ok!
Anna and I set up the room when she explained how the parents are going to love us doing this (we will chill the teens out!)..... why she was in youth work (she ran retirement homes and found it too bureaucratic)..... why Yellow Submarine was founded (Rob had an uncle with learning difficulties and took him and his uncle's mates on holiday- and it went from there!)...... how Dragon school were really generous and gave Yellow Submarine run of the school during half term. And she told me a few of the EPIC activities they had been doing. Seriously imaginative and fun. Such as making jelly brains for Halloween, karate, rounders, swimming…yoga.
I was so pleased to be able to sit and play and chat with them before the class because it helped me with my empathy. I like to know where my student's heads are at before I go and teach or present or meet people!
My class that I had designed was very colourful and imaginative, and I was worried teenagers just wouldn’t like it and may feel patronised. But these teens were joyous and playful and kind to me so I knew it was just the ticket.
We went into the yoga room. And except two teens (one who just wasn’t feeling it, the other who was enjoying giggling at me instead!) everyone seemed to love yoga. Sun salutaions turned into ‘waving at the sun’ and we made the sun come out brighter! The leaves I’d picked up from the street to hold during Tree pose went down particularly well, especially with Will who you can see in the photo with the leaves and some bigger and better ones he found afterwards. It even drew one of the chaps who didn’t fancy it into the group. Warrior poses were also well received (well they are teenage boys after all!) some menacing warrior faces, humble warrior when they saw a princess or a king they appreciated, warrior two with bow and arrow and peaceful warrior when they’d killed the dragon! Cobra with hisses too.
They didn’t like child’s pose but that was because I blundered and said you’ll look like a child in it- durgh! Teenagers are NOT going to want to look like a child! We moved on quickly from that.
I got on with Sean (that’s an Irish name I was informed) who had a penchant for cricket and a knowledge of countries. (Namaste – that’s Indian! he declared!) but all of the teens were a wonderful intriguing group of people and I’m pleased I met them.
So I thoroughly enjoyed myself and am invited back for more classes. Which I will do in a heartbeat. Yellow Submarine are really giving these teens such an awesome half term. And I particularly love their passionate aim that Adults with Learning Difficulties should be treated exactly the same as everyone else. Thus their scholarships into catering, employment in their café and help with CV writing to land jobs.
It was really moving. Yes I cried on the way home! I had to listen to Radio 4’s gardeners hour to settle myself (strange innocent lives gardeners have very distracting and alien to the lives of those teens!)
Thank you everyone for your response to my facebook post earlier this week. On Monday, looking at my bookings, we would have been just one over the Yoga Quota of 50 to make the Yellow Submarine class by the end of today. Which is fine, but risky! Then one person cancelled so we were borderline not going to make it. I posted a little facebook and now..... we smashed it thank you!
I'm unashamedly a book worm. What a treat to wander into a bookshop, choose whatever takes your fancy and devour it! In a library now which is a dangerous place for me. My students are too because nearly every one of them have asked for recommendations on yoga books, so here goes:
I completely get this desire to read up on something that you're about to dedicate hours of your life towards.
Before I got onto my inversion junkie stage of my yoga journey I was afraid that if I said 'I do yoga' people would know what that ACTUALLY meant or would assume that I was some Siddhi-manically-crazy person. Which is no bad way to be- but you've got to make sure you agree with what you're doing before you go and invest your whole life into it!
So if you're at a similar stage where you're like, "sounds good...but I'm not sure what this yoga thing actually is..." to save you doing what I had to do (downloading the reading lists of all the teacher training courses that I could find and getting the books for Christmas, reading them and subsequently pestering masses of teachers about it) can I just point you to 2 books that I think will start you off fairly well?
Firstly read this edition of the Bhagavad Gita. Mainly for the introduction which goes through the basics of hinduism and indian culture that you need to have as a foundational understanding. Then for the actual upanishad- the authors introductions again make things quite straightforward.
Secondly, if you have the energy and are a true book worm read this. It is nice and critical, I'd say the chapter on types of yoga is very, very good. Any of the physical stuff you're doing is Hatha yoga and don't be scared by the powers and acsetic side of that! If you can't stomache that heavy tome I'm summarising part of it in a blog but as it began to become an essay- which is a skill that I am poor at- I decided to summarise it in a diagram. This you will have to wait a while for as it is work in progress as I am currently studying for Pregnancy Yoga.
So happy reading book worms, as I am continually reading up more and more about yoga, Buddhism and all this area of knowledge that I generally lump in my head as 'interesting spiritual takes on life' I will write little reviews.
If you are particularly wedded to the concept of Chakras and may be offended by my interpretations, don't click 'read more'. But don't jump to conclusions... I don't consider it to be a pile of poo by the way- judging by my un-scientific-un-statistically-significant experiment today!