Armed with puppets and props, I entered the private preschool in an upscale New York City
neighborhood in 2005, ready to introduce a group of preschoolers to yoga. How tough could it be? I’m
no pushover. I’d been an elementary school teacher in the Bronx. When a thief snatched my handbag one
day, I won the tug of war. So, presented with the opportunity to teach yoga to humans who didn’t even
reach my bellybutton, I was fearless. This would be child’s play.
The munchkins greeted me with hugs. They tipped the cuteness meter at first. I soon discovered that
keeping their attention for longer than it takes to say Namaste took serious effort. To begin
our first class, I gave them flowers. Everyone was to smell a flower—my stealthy way of getting
them to breathe deeply—and then say Om. But Giselle wanted Sara’s pink flower. Joshua hit Grace
with his purple flower. A brawl broke out. Pandemonium ensued.
Future classes were calmer. But when the kids wiggled and giggled, I’d panic, scramble to herd
them, then attempt to dazzle them. “Hey, wanna play a yoga game?” I was an entertainer who couldn’t
get them to focus. I felt like a chump. Six classes in, I was giving up. Then, during my meditation
one day, I thought maybe I could use my breath to help. It worked.
We imagined a “car trip” to the desert. The kids sat in Dandasana (Staff Pose), steering their vehicles to poses
we called lizard on a rock, snake, and camel. Little Henry exclaimed, “We’re out of gas!” We laughed.
Rather than trying to exert control, I became present. I smiled and breathed. I was calm; they were
calm. After that, we would “fill ‘er up” before every trip. Class became enriched by their
imaginations. And I didn’t hyperventilate.