When I recall my students, I’m thinking back on my first ever yoga classes with my friends Sonia, Nicki and Elspeth who graciously allowed me to experiment on them and were my enthusiastic, loyal guinea pigs. Then how can I forget the tea, the laughs, the stretches and breaths I’ve shared with my prenatal yoga groups when we were all nervously expecting our first, then second little bambinis? And more recently, I’m deeply appreciative of my private student Phuong, who reminds me so much of myself at the beginning of my yoga journey: The eagerness, the curiosity with a blend of fear of failing to “perform”, appearing silly, like a fish out of water, not exactly sure what to expect, what to do with those hands and feet. Like my kind yoga teachers, I start with the breath. I lay my hands gently on his back to encourage a freer flow of breath into these undiscovered territories. First there’s more tension, but then slowly it happens: His breath expands, his body loosens, his solemn expression gives way to a charming smile (and soon enough - to happy chuckles!), his classic beginner’s claw-like hands are magically transformed into beautiful yoga wings, et voilà - he takes off! He is not only unafraid to attempt those scary yoga poses, but unafraid to take up dance and figure skating!! I’m always so happy, so proud and so inspired to hear about his new ventures! I’m grateful to know such a brave “student” who teaches me it’s never too late to try out new things.
But nothing humbles me as much as being a parent. Every day I’m reminded of my great responsibility of guiding two little people into the world and providing them with all that they need to become strong, smart, and above all – kind and loving people. The greatest yoga - and life! - lessons I have learnt from my 3 and 5 year old girls. As they ask their innocent questions: “Maman, toi tu étais une soldate, mais tu ne l'aimait pas ça, ha? Pourquoi? (mum, you were a soldier, but you didn’t like it, right?), “Maman, pourquoi le papa et la maman d'Eden ne vivent pas ensemble?” (Why don’t Eden’s mummy and daddy live together?), “Maman, tu sais, ça existe - l'amour entre deux filles.” (Mummy, you know it exists – love between two girls) and “Maman, pourquoi tu ne veux pas manger de la viande? Je veux que tu me explique tout ça, tout de suite!” (mummy, why don’t you eat meat? I want you to explain it to me, right now!), I am asked to reflect on my whole life philosophy and what important lessons I want to pass on to them.
Children think in simple terms and live in the present. Politicians’ convoluted (bullshit) explanations for starting wars that they can feed to adults would be lost on them. As my 4-year-old daughter so eloquently explained to me the hopeless Israeli-Palestinian conflict: “Ils doivent apprendre à partager!” (They have to learn to share!)
Watching my 3 year old dance so freely, and my 5 year old throwing herself fearlessly into a headstand, I realize that much of my yoga teaching to adults is not about teaching them new tricks, but about helping them unlearn the bad habits they (we all!) have accumulated over the years! We can all draw inspiration from children about how we could live more authentically, have more fun and approach everything in life, even the hard stuff, with curiosity and a sense of play! Watching my girls dance, laugh, cry and even throw a tantrum, I am always reminded that I should just soak it in and stop being so afraid!