This summer I taught a group of kids yoga at a day camp. The class was comprised of nine girls between the ages of 3-5. All girls that age are cute, but there were two that I've thought about repeatedly in the last month since the camp finished. Hazel and Sienna, both 3-years-old. Hazel was one of the littlest at the camp. She watched the bigger girls, observed them, found entries into activities when she could, but was consistently calm, quiet and contained. I wondered at times if she was actually verbal. Sienna, on the other hand, was hyper and very kinesthetic. Sienna was a major plushy. She loved her stuffed animals and had a running monologue of who her animals were and where they should sit during yoga. At any given moment, Sienna carried between 3 and 7 stuffed kittens, bears, dogs. They overflowed from her short little arms, making yoga postures difficult to perform. Sienna moved constantly in all directions. Her face seemed to be in an ongoing state of manic smiling.
Over the course of the week-long camp I practiced Savasana with the girls at least once per class. I played Deva Premal, dimmed the lights, and read them meditations while they practiced Savasana. I had the girls close their eyes and, once they were still, put a beany baby on each of their bellies so they could feel it rise and fall with their breath. You can imagine how a stuffed toy on Sienna's belly must have tempted the poor little energizer bunny. Sienna needed extra help to find her stillness. I learned to put my hands on her head or her arm or leg, a little weight to help her stay contained. She still wiggled, her eyes shutting for just split seconds, but she was able to find moments of being still. Hazel, on the other hand, was shockingly capable. As soon as the lights dimmed, Hazel was down. Her body still, eyes closed, brow relaxed. She didn't even open her eyes when I put the beany baby on her belly. Savasana was seemingly easy for her.
I hear it all the time in reference to my own child--- kids are born with a personality. They have their own special characteristics that, no matter how we try to chisel them into a certain form, they come out their own way. Being with Hazel and Sienna over the summer, two children with such starkly different natures, reinforced this idea for me. Of course they have different homes, are exposed to different foods, play with different kids, but it was obvious to me watching them that they each came into this world with a way of being.
This idea has helped me in my own role as yoga student and teacher. I think I am somewhere between Hazel and Sienna. Most people are. For me, Savasana is sometimes really really difficult. Other times, not. I remember when I first started practicing yoga in my twenties, Savasana felt as foreign as playing the bagpipes, (I was definitely closer to Sienna's wiggly state in those days). As I've practiced more, I've inched my way closer to Hazel's nature.
So how was I born? I am pretty sure I came out closer to Sienna-style. Over the years, with practice, I've changed. It's possible. A student said to me the other day, "I hate it when the teacher tells me to calm my mind." She hates it because it's hard right now. It will get easier as she practices more. It's not her nature, so she has to work harder than someone like Hazel.
Everyone has to work hard at achieving stillness in Savasana. Even Hazel. And some people have to work even harder. These people, the more active, energetic ones, might excel in an Evelyn Wood speed reading class. It all balances out in the end. We work harder at the things that don't come easy and we get a little break when we do the things we were born to do. Even Steven. No right. No wrong. No better, no worse. We all have to work hard at something.