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Teaching Yoga at Ronald McDonald House

Article written by The Adventures Of Super Stretch Yoga Instructor, Ursula Richards Scheele, RYT 200, M.S.Ed, Up North Wellness

I wasn’t too nervous about teaching my first kids’ yoga class at RMH in January – I had worked in public education for 12 years. How hard could this be?!

For my first class I only had 3 kids and I had carefully prepared a 30-minute yoga lesson just in case it went really well. I was thinking that we might get through at least a handful of poses and sit crossed-legged for a few balloon breaths together on our mats since it was our first class together. Well the kids all had other plans for their time in the gym and most of it did not involve sitting, standing or even lying on yoga mats! Especially not when there were hockey sticks, pucks, nets, scooter boards, corn hole games, basketballs, footballs, hula hoops, you get the picture here – that gym was one big heavy dose of competition for the new lady who wanted to talk about reaching up high to the sky with your toes on your mats. I tried a few “teacher tricks” to get started; yelling “Freeze!” in a friendly voice did not work. We finally got to name tags and each child had a mat (small victories!) and not much farther. It felt like 33 kids and I started to seriously consider getting one of those really loud gym teacher whistles before the next week.

As a former school counselor, I know that kids who have a hard time settling down and kids who refuse to even try to put their toes on their mats are sometimes the ones who might benefit the most. Kids who are on overdrive might be over-tired or already over-stimulated or might have some hard emotions going on. While they might challenge you the most, they also can make you a better yoga teacher because to be successful you have to be authentic and be in the moment. So while my 30 minute lesson plans were out the window it forced me to model mindfulness to the kids by truly just being in the moment with them – really going with the flow of the kids. I had to meet them where they were at that moment in time – one was rolling around on the floor in the hockey net, one was climbing on the stacked gym mats in the corner like a little tiger in the jungle, and one was sitting peacefully in lotus pose meditating quietly with his eyes closed. By the end of the class we managed a few minutes of rest and relaxation time. When we did check-in, much to my surprise, everyone gave a thumbs-up, and one child asked if I would be back. He smiled when I said, “Yes.”

As I put on my jacket to leave, I laughed to myself at how exhausted and bewildered I was. It was a feeling I have never had after teaching an adult class and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.