The first thing I noticed was her yoga “mat.”
Her makeshift yoga mat was a sheet or two of carton packages spread out outside her house somewhere in the far flung corners of Bacnotan, a coastal town in La Union province.
On Sunday afternoons, Nicole tunes in to my live-streamed Kids Yoga classes on my Facebook page, Lala Moves. She looks forward to practicing yoga, her mother, Precy Rodriguez, tells me on Facebook Messenger.
It’s Precy who forwards to me this video of Nicole following along:
“Sa labas po ng bahay sya (Nicole) nagyo-yoga. Naglalatag lang po sya ng carton kasi po wala po kaming mat. (She goes outside and spreads cartons on the ground because we don’t have a mat),” Precy writes to me on Facebook Messenger.
“Sa totoo lang po sya talaga yung may gusto na gawin yan. Natutuwa naman din po ako kasi napaka-tiyaga mong magturo. Sana po ipagpatuloy mo pa po ang pagtuturo at alam ko po na maraming matututunan ang katulad ni Nicole. (It’s really Nicole who wants to do yoga. I am glad that you are very patient in teaching and I hope you will continue. I know that students like Nicole learn many things from the yoga classes.)”
My heart melts.
An 8-year-od kid somewhere in a remote place likes to do yoga. I let that sink in.
I practice yoga because I experienced first hand its physical and mental benefits. (READ/WATCH: The full story of why I yoga)
I teach it because I wanted to share and spread yoga’s impact on calming people down, getting to know and respecting the body, and increasing self-awareness.
In these times when there’s so much uncertainty because of how COVID19 has disrupted lives, I resolved to teach yoga as my own way to calm people down. After all, the literature on the impact of this global pandemic on mental health — of both adults AND kids — is a dime a dozen.
When we do side bends, twists, and forward folds, my students are reminded to be mindful of our inhales and exhales. Syncing the breath and the body movements has a relaxing and reassuring impact on the mind.
Yoga may look like another physical workout, but beyond working on strength and flexibility of the body, we go through a journey toward building strength and gaining flexibility inside.
Nicole knows that for sure.
She tunes in to my livestreams, strives to find a spot in their remote place to access better data signal, AND follows along even if the adults around her find the effort worth a joke or two.
“Yung karton na ginagamit nyang yoga mat ay hiningi lang nya sa store. Naglalakad sya papunta sa store para makakuha ng karton. (Nicole walks to a store to ask for the carton packages she could use as a mat during Kids Yoga time),” her mother adds.
Nicole knows it, feels it, and wants more.
TEACHING YOGA ONLINE
Yoga has long been wrongly associated with fancy photos of people in intimidating poses, and I wanted to make its benefits accessible to my friends and family.
While business journalism remains my main profession, I carve out time to teach after I finished a 200-hour YogaWorks yoga teacher training program in early April 2020. Half of our sessions were moved online due to the COVID19-related lockdowns. It turned out to be a blessing since learning how to cue and adjust students on screens are now handy.
Watching Nicole came at the perfect time.
Just moments before I received that video, I was contemplating focusing on my private mat yoga clients and would no longer stream the Sunday Kids Yoga classes on my Facebook page. The Kids Yoga videos didn’t seem to be getting traction, unlike my chair yoga sessions for adults streamed on Saturdays.
I have been teaching Kids Yoga classes to my friends’ children who need to do something — anything — while school is on break. The parents need a break, too, they tell me.
That’s when we started sessions via Zoom in April, 2020, when parts of the Philippines were on strict lockdown (aka “community quarantine”). For 30 minutes, I had their kids’ attention as I lead them through yoga poses that mimic “animal” shapes and sounds.
Teaching yoga to kids has been quite challenging. They don’t know their body parts yet. They tend to stare at me on the screen instead of following along. Their balance is shaky. And I have to sequence the yoga poses and verbal cues in a pattern vastly different from my classes for adults.
I started streaming my Sunday Kids Yoga classes after I decided to move my Saturday chair yoga classes from Zoom to Facebook Live. Initially, it was weird not seeing how the adult students in the chair yoga sessions are doing the poses, but it also meant I needed to be clearer and simpler with my verbal cues. The Type A in me was all-in on that challenge.
While I received several positive feedback and grateful messages from those who tuned in to the chair yoga poses, those who attend the Kids Yoga classes were pretty quiet. I was blind to how the kids — who I don’t see or hear from — are benefiting from the effort I put in.
Then I watched Nicole.