Monday, August 11, 2014

Home from Haiti

When asked how my trip was, I can't help but reply with, "One of the best experiences of my life." And that's far from an exaggeration. We spent the first half of our week at the Haitian American Caucus with a group of 15 school teachers. Our goal was to give them skills and tools to use right within their classrooms with their students. We designed a curriculum and broke the 3 day training into themes of Connection, Energy Building, and Relaxation - thinking of course, what would be the most beneficial approach to reaching children through yoga during their school day. Many of the students were new to the practice and had beginner yoga questions. So, in order to experience the practice of yoga first hand, each day they were taken through a kid style yoga class based on the three themes. This way, not only would they know how to share the benefits of yoga with their children, they would be able to absorb the benefits of the practice themselves. 
And benefit they did! Not only did they enjoy the experience of yoga through play, but they were also able to connect in a way they may not have known they could reach – they were fullof life and able to let go, all within the same session. We left the group with breakdowns of poses to use with their children to help them find connection to themselves and their surroundings through breath and movement. We left them with yoga games to play, like Yoga Freeze Dance, Animal Asana and Pass the Pose. We left them with creative calming activities like Mind Jars, Eye Pillows and various meditations. We left them with ideas to either lead a mini kids class right within their classrooms or to simply take the much needed classroom yoga breaks. We even left them ideas and supplies (thanks to the generous amounts of donations collected) on how to build a Peace
Corner within their classroom - to have a safe space available for the child who may be in need of taking a break and finding some peace. And amongst the questions upon the closing of our training...when will you be back so we can learn even more!? My heart was full. 
I didn't think my heart could get any fuller, and then it did. When we arrived to Petionville, we met 20 beautiful young adults who had been in a year long yoga teacher training through Ayiti Yoga with Lizandra Vidal. They had an established yoga practice, amazing body awareness, and had already begun how to learn how to structure an adult yoga class. Our goal here was to teach a 4.5 hour workshop on how to structure a children's yoga class, since that is the population the majority of them would be teaching to. We reviewed the comparison of an adult class to a kid’s class...very similar, except we may be playing some games after our Sun Salutation, as well as mooing and meowing through Cat and Cow! After experiencing a fun-filled and heart warming kids class, we broke down the 5 Pillars of
 Children's Yoga, a comprehensive approach to teaching a kids class inspired by our own training with Little Flower Yoga - Connect, Breath, Move, Focus, Relax. Or as our Haitian friends may know it - Konekte, Resipre, Bouge, Fokus, Relanche. Following the workshop, we travelled through the streets of Haiti with mats on backs, to the local YWCA. Breaking down into small groups, they began to structure mini classes to teach the groups of girls there. 
Outside under a canopy of trees, I stood observing these young budding yoga teachers put into practice what we had just taught them. They had a bag of tricks to use with their kids and I had tears in my eyes, loving what I was seeing - not only had they grasped the beauty and lightness of bringing yoga to children, but you could also see a sense of love and lightness in themselves. It's something I strive for every time I teach or step on my mat to practice - to be able to put down whatever it is we carry - our stressors, our worries, our fears, our doubts - and to find freedom from that which weighs heavily on our shoulders. Sometimes it feels like we do, but no one person can carry the world. When we come together and share a common good, like the practice of yoga, we begin to unite, find support within the community built and ultimately let go. Watching these children practice yoga, in a part of the world that has been traumatized and devastated, fills me with hope and continues to open my eyes to the beauty and magic that fills every corner of this ever inspiring country. I’ve been home from Haiti for a little over 2 weeks now…and I can’t wait to go back! 
Confucius says, “Wherever you go, go with all of your heart.” I feel as though I’ve left a piece of my heart with each of these groups and in return they have filled my heart with the strength and courage to continue on my own path. Yoga is union, connection, community. I definitely feel more connected then I’ve ever been and I thank Go Give Yoga and the community of yogis in Haiti for that. Much gratitude always.

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