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"Johnny" an Inspiration

I thought that I would tell a story, about one of the inspirations for opening the studio. I work at a middle school. And for a couple of years there was this FANTASTIC thing called "BEAR" time, where all the adults in the building got to teach something....as an elective. Some picked robotics, some did tie dye. The Kitchen crew taught a sort of home ec, the ladies in the office taught office skills. It was awesome! I opted to teach yoga.


The way BEAR time was structured, kids were supposed to sign up for classes ahead of time, as some were very popular, and would fill up quickly. Other classes were open to whoever walked in, or couldn't get into something else. My class was one of the latter. I knew that a 45 minute class of straight yoga, might be a little dull for most kiddos...., so I told them that we'd do 30 minutes of "regular" yoga and if it went well, we'd do 45 minutes of Acroyoga as a reward.


One day, on an especially challenging day, the kids managed to get through the regular portion and it was time for the acro part. I always asked for volunteers to help demo the move/posture. And today it was "johnny's"' turn. (Relax, that's not johnny's real name....). Johnny was sort of known for being pretty emotional, and when he would lose control, the teacher would excuse him to go out in the hall way to regain his composure.


Our acro move was a "backpack" stretch, in which two people stand back to back, link elbows, and take turns gently lifitng the other off the floor by bending forward. One person gets a nice weighted forward fold, and the other person gets a supported backbend. (Like all acroyoga "postures", when done correctly, its a huge exploration of trust, communication and support.)


So,Johnny and I stand back to back. We link elbows. (Keep in mind, I'm about a foot taller.....) And as I explain to the class what we're doing, I start to lean forward. I feel Johnny's feet get light on the floor.... and Johnny comes completely unglued. So, I relax him back down to terra firma, and tell him he can go out in the hallway. I turn to pick another demo person, and he pulls on my sleeve. I turn to to look at him, and he looks terrified, but says to me "Lets do it again".


And so, we go back to back, link elbows. This time, I feel him get light, but as soon as his feet leave the ground, he starts screaming and thrashing. I put him down. Escuse him to go to the hallway again. He shakes his head, and asks to do it one more time.


And this time, I go a little bit faster. Before he knew it, he was up in the air. And Let me tell you, I have never had anyone model stiffness and rigidity so well as this kid. Johnny was like a steel beam up there. I felt him draw a big breath.... And I was sure he was going to start screaming. But the scream never came. Instead, what I felt was the biggest, longest exhale I've ever witnessed. And that kid, who was so stiff, so TENSE. relaxed. I felt his body just let go, and he melted over the top of me. And we just stayed threre for few breaths. Nobody in the room moved. But I wanted to get the other kids going, so I gently stood back up and put Johhny back on the floor. Then the bell rang, and the kids all left.


The next day, I got an email from Johnny's mom. Johnny had told her about what had happend, and at first, I thought she was going to be angry. Then She said that Johnny came home that day, and was super mellow. She said that he was so much more calm, and relaxed.


Then, the day after that, I happened to overhear two teachers talking about johnny, and how he seemed way less stressed out.


Here's what I know. When I started doing yoga, and particularly acroyoga, I was able to tap into a calmer, gentler side of myself. I never really had the chance to talk to Johnny about his experience, but I imagine Johnny was able to do so also.


So, a short time later, I opened the studio, because I wanted to offer that kind of experience to everyone that wanted it. it seemed to me like for lots of people, the only awareness they have of their bodies was when something was wrong with it. People went through their lives stressed out, and carried that stress in their bodies. They interacted through a filter of stress and negativity, and I wanted a way for them to see a different way of viewing their body. A different way of using their body to interact.


8 years later, we're still here. Still doing our thing. Sure, we're not everyone's thing. But often enough, wer're the right thing for one person. We Love it when people walk into the studio full of "I can't"s and leave with "I can"s or "I dids". We love it when they prove their naysayers wrong. We love it when "adults" can play, like we did when we were kids.


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