I sat with Danielle on her bed, asking her questions as she folded her clothes. I was struck by how mindfully she folded each item of clothing. She took great care with each piece, and I could tell that this typically mundane activity was serving as a meditative practice for her. I was inspired by her recent commitment to minimalism, although I had (somewhat hypocritically) collected some of the items she had recently given away. This practice left her with only those that remained of most value to her.
I asked her about how teaching yoga to adults coincides with her current job teaching first and second grade at a small, rural school in southern Vermont. She spoke to her experience balancing school, yoga, self-care, and personal life. As our conversation unfolded, we found that her Creature emerges in flow states of teaching.
Yoga has given me physical stamina that I use in my professional life. I can take my kids outside and run around with them at recess. I do yoga with them, I am picking them up when they’re crying, or there will be four of them sitting in my lap. So the physical stamina of teaching yoga is helpful.
On the mind space side, it helps me remember compassion for the children that I’m teaching, because often-times I’m wanting to tear my hair out… but now I can sort of step back, or ask my students to take on the role of observer. Whereas five years ago, even though I was doing yoga then as well, I was more quick to react.
Setting boundaries is important to assure that I’m not being pulled beyond my limit, or feeling like I need to go beyond that limit to prove something. So aside from making proper decisions around that, it stills goes back to self reflection, to thinking about what I could need in any given moment. My family is a big part of how I care for myself, because when my relationships with them are healthy and thriving, I feel like I’m healthy and thriving.
The yoga that I practice is based in the Ashtanga system, which includes more than physical practice. It translates into “the eight-limbed path of yoga” and so the physical practice, the asana, is one of eight limbs of a whole.
One of these limbs is called Svādhyāya, which translates into self-study. I always want to look back inside, always go back to that practice of constantly practicing Svādhyāya…not necessarily as a way to correct myself, but just to get a better picture.
My yoga practice has helped me self reflect all the time in my teaching practice, so that I don’t get stale or complacent.
The lesson I really take to heart is Satya, which translates into truth. For me, this means not only speaking my truth, but also trying to live my truth, which is my current and longtime struggle as a teacher. I know I am a teacher of many things, and yet at the same time it is so very difficult to be a teacher of yoga and of children. I’m still figuring out what my truth is, how to practice Satya in teaching. Due to this, when people ask me “do you love your job?” it’s very complicated for me to answer.
When I teach children, there is a lot of calming that I have to do for them, and for myself. I have to remember to breathe, and I have to dig very deep to keep going all the time. I think children are natural yogis when you give them the space, but you can’t rush through teaching children because, A, it doesn’t work, and B, they just won’t let you. They force your attention to be present all the time. Just like a yoga practice does, or should. The mental place that I have to put myself in to teach can also be the mental place that I have to put myself in to do yoga.
I know my best yoga classes are when I feel that back and forth, that reciprocity with the people who are practicing. It’s not just an affirmation like “that was a great class, Danielle” but a moment where I can step back and see that they are having a great class because I can see it in their bodies…that is extremely rewarding. That, to me, is when I am in my Creature space, in my flow state.
When I find moments during my yoga classes where I recognize that everyone is listening to me, and listening to their bodies…I can see that we are all in a state of flow.
There are moments of flow like this at school, although they are much more rare than when I teach yoga. It’s not just when I’m teaching children, it’s when I’m supporting my colleagues as the literacy coach, in building and knowing what resources to give them, holding a really productive meeting…that’s where I feel more in a state of flow as a elementary school teacher, at this point.
My Creature is adaptable. I’ve always felt adaptable. It’s not hard for me to slip into a new skin at all. Whether that’s socially, in different social circles, or at different jobs…
As a student of Danielle’s, I can attest to this dynamic – one of comfortable progress that transpires from a shared flow state. As an admiring friend, I will say she is indeed an adaptable Creature. She is wise, compassionate wisdom. She embodies her truth, and expresses no shame in doing so. By practicing self-discipline along with self-care, she continues to honor herself. She continues to hold space for her Creature.
Danielle currently teaches at Frog Lotus Yoga, where these photographs were taken.