Hot off the Mat:
In this issue, we present two stories of unusual teaching situations. For next time, tell us about your scariest moment on the teacher's mat. Send your stories to email@example.com. We may edit your submissions.
In the summer of 2004, I felt drawn to offer yoga classes at a juvenile correctional facility in central Ohio's Mohican State Park. The facility housed around 160 boys, most of them incarcerated for drug-related crimes, who were given the opportunity to form healthier life habits in a special six-month program. I had to be fingerprinted and learn the rules of entering and moving through a locked correctional facility, and had to overcome mild trepidation at the thought of being locked in a room with teenage boys who had at some point committed a crime. But I went ahead and volunteered, teaching yoga and fitness exercises twice a week to two groups of 15 boys. There was always a staff member present during our classes. The boys who chose to attend class were phenomenal! They were humorous, attentive, dedicated, and a true joy to be with. One teen who attended loved yoga so much he declared he would continue to study and practice for the rest of his life, and planned to find a teacher when he returned home. I think of him now and then, and I sincerely hope he is still enjoying his practice of yoga.
Michelle Star, Wellington, Ohio
A few years ago, a woman came to my yoga class carrying a stuffed teddy bear. She got down on the mat and didn't do a bit of yoga. She just lay there, hugging her bear, for the full 90 minutes. Afterwards, we all sat in a circle and talked, and she said she thought the class was terrific.
The same thing happened the following week and for some weeks after that. Then one night she came up to me as everyone was leaving and told me she would not be coming back. She said she had gotten exactly what she needed and thanked me. I replied, "You're very welcome, but I need to ask you something."
"I know," she interrupted, "but I really can't talk about that yet. Someday I'll tell you." Several months went by and I received a letter from her. She wrote, "Dear Roberta, I'm so grateful to you for creating a space where I could do nothing. You see, I'm an incest survivor. Soon after I started coming to terms with that, I was treated for cancer. I had had it with people telling me what I should do with my body. I just needed a place where I could focus on my body in my own way. So thank you for giving me that opportunity."
Roberta Schine, New York, New York
And here's another humorous story about teaching yoga that we just couldn't resist sharing with you. Read more hilarious stories from our members in the Summer issue, online in the Yoga Bulletin archive, click here.
I introduced a good friend to yoga, and for years we were students together in a multi-level class. After I completed my Kripalu Yoga Teacher Training, she started coming to one of my classes. One day she confessed that since starting yoga, she'd worked hard on relaxing the space between her toes in tadasana. But she'd struggled with the instruction to relax the space between her teeth during savasana. It took a good few years before she realized that we meant the space between the upper and lower jaws, not between the teeth themselves! Needless to say, I have changed the instructions that I give my students in savasana!
Naomi Landau, Jerusalem, Israel