~15 mi to class at Youth Home
It took me several days to get to Durham from the last class in Richmond, and I was surely looking forward to having class again, as well as settling down for more than one night.
The routine usually looks something like this as I bike to the next class: bike all day to a place, shower, eat, sleep, leave early the next morning. Repeat. I never unpack; never really settle down.
I come to dwell on Rumi poems a lot during my travels. The general "unsettling" nature of this tour has reminded me to "Return to the nowhere you came from even though you have an address here."
For me, it's a reminder to stay with my source. Regardless of circumstances, there is the opportunity to settle in to yourself even if there is no physical space to claim. This really is a true practice of yoga. Union of body and mind.
Biking to Durham was exciting. The weather was warm. The roads were pleasant. I looked forward to class. And I'd be there for two whole nights.
Before each class, I try to plan by considering the usual movements of the individuals in whichever facility I'm going; whethere rigid, tense, loose, energetic, lethargic, etc. But you can never really plan too concretely until you arrive and make the actual connections and assess energy, body and breath accordingly.
And then I meet them where they are.
This class was at Durham county's Youth Home juvenile detention center. 2 girls and 4 boys, ages 12-16. Jailed and uniformed kids who don't see the light of day. All of whom have never practiced yoga before.
They were lethargic, tense, rigid. And that's where we started.
We began with introductions and a feeling word that describes how we're feeling at that moment. That can be a super vulnerable task (for anybody), so I always start to set the tone.
"I'm Kristen, I'm feeling tired."
To set the tone that no one is supposed to say, "I'm ____, I'm feeling happy." Unless of course that is actually your choice word.
Our words were:
Tired. Nervous. Curious. Upset. Tired. Nervous.
We started with a brief Kundalini centering exercise of touching each of the four fingers to the thumb as you say "Sa" "Ta" "Na" "Ma"
Sa Ta Na Ma = Truth is my identity
In introduces movement. It directs attention towards the thing you're doing. It gets people comfortable in the class. It's safe.
We went through an hour of different movement and breathing as well as a 1-minute silent meditation.
I could feel the kids' guards going down during class, as we were gaining more trust with one another
We laughed a lot, because yoga should be fun too. And afterwards, we ate a snack and talked about how we can incorporate yoga in to our lives. Off the mat. Where it matters most.
They were energetic. Excited. Still laughing.
Before I left, I was speaking to one of the staff members who said, "You'll never believe which one of them committed murder."
I don't need to know; not because I'm naive, but because why should that have to taint the connection were able to make when, for a moment, our past and our story are not the thing that define us?