In April, one of my students was helping to organize career day at the elementary school where she teaches English, and she invited me to present – not as an editor, but as a yoga instructor!
In fact, she was inviting me back. I’d done it last year at the same time. At first I thought it was odd she would want the kids to learn about an activity that most people consider a hobby (and that can be difficult to earn a living doing, as any yoga teacher will tell you). But my participation last year taught me that it was about more than just careers. This was a valuable opportunity to show kids a way of life that encompasses education, exercise, spirituality and, yes, even a possible vocation.
It was a deeply moving experience in many ways, but one particular aspect – or individual – stuck out: Landon, a tow-headed kindergartner with big glasses and a spectacularly positive attitude.
After some brief remarks, I had the kids sit and do a little guided breathing. When they opened their eyes, I asked how they felt. There was a consensus of content, but Landon pumped his arms like he’d just thrown a touch-down and yelled, “Awesome!” I had to laugh. He wasn’t showing off; he seemed to really like it that much.
Then, we stood in a circle and did tree pose holding hands (I learned this in a Sianna Sherman class at last September’s Anusara Grand Grand Gathering in Estes Park, Colo. Thank you, Sianna!), first on one leg, then the other. After each side, I got the same “Awesome!” from Landon, with an increasing amount of full-body enthusiasm each time.
Last (I only got 20 minutes with each group), we did a couple seated stretches. How did they feel afterward? Landon gave it extra emphasis the last time around by adding, “That… Was… AWWWWWWWesome!”
In their afternoon classes, the kids wrote thank you notes to all the career day presenters, and I received mine a week or so later. I’ve attached an image of Landon’s note (just to show I’m not making this up!).
Naturally, Landon was the inspiration for all the classes I taught the week following career day. His way of whole-heartedly embracing the experience reminded me of some things I had learned during teacher training about the Tantric philosophy behind Anusara Yoga.
The Anusara world view starts with the radical affirmation of everything. This is a difficult proposition to accept for some Western adults , who have spent a lot of time and money learning the art of rejection.
What comes next, discernment, makes it easier to swallow. No yoga I’ve studied so far teaches practitioners to blindly embrace whatever comes their way, and Anusara is no exception. My teacher, Noah Maze, uses this analogy to explain discernment: a piece of food can go in either the refrigerator or the compost heap. How do you know which one?
There is also the element of free will. Having discerned whether your apple is food or garbage, you decide what to do with it. We let some things in, and keep others out. This is related to what Noah’s teacher, Douglas Brooks, has called (in workshops I’ve taken with him on the Shiva Nataraja and the Nine Rasas) the first goal of Rajanaka Tantra: to savor the sweetness of life’s honey.
Landon reminded me of this little sliver of Anusara philosophy, because he came to the situation completely open, ready to let whatever came next wash over him. Radical affirmation. Having discerned that this yoga was something he wanted to try, he did so with gusto, with all his energy and senses. The result was that he got the full effect, the full sweetness, of the experience. Best of all, his innocent ebullience allowed him to express what he was feeling without inhibition.
Next time you’re practicing or teaching, try adopting Landon’s attitude. You may find it’s pretty awesome for you too.