Teacher Reflections: Salvador Martinez
Blog Posts from our Little Flower Family
Oh, yes! It’s time to store the bathing suit, shorts, tank tops, and flip-flops, and bring forward the layers. Time to switch the summer beverage of lemonade to perhaps to maybe a hot chocolate. It’s fall and the kids are back in school! That could only mean one thing. It’s yogatime! I have been teaching yoga in NYC schools for the past four years and each year keeps getting better and better. At the beginning of the school year, through the hallways there’s a sentiment of, “Oh, boy. Here we go. Let’s do the best that we can do, be positive, and march on through to June.” And when June arrives, it’s a sentiment of, “We did it!” Voila! Summertime! I have had some kids express and show signs of sadness that yoga is over and that we won’t be meeting any longer. But I reassure them that it’s just for the time being and they are going to have an awesome summer. I also reassure them that those feelings are perfectly fine and that now they have wonderful memories to carry them through the summer up unto the fall when we meet again. I also shed light that to have those feelings is a good thing. It shows that they care; they care for themselves, others, and the practice. That’s what yoga is about. To me, as a yoga teacher, I couldn’t ask for anything more. Now that the school year has begun and we’re back in the classroom that means for us little yogis at Little Flower Yoga that we’re back on the mat. Hooray!
With the beginning of every school year, I take it upon myself to go to my schools the week before and touch base with the teaching faculty and staff, making myself available, and answer any questions or concerns they may have just before we start yoga classes. As I walk through the halls I hear, “Salvador! I missed you! I’m going to have you again for yoga!” The kids give me a hug and I notice that they’re taller getting taller! It’s a great beginning. I have the pleasure to work at schools where the faculty, staff, and parents appreciate what the practice and I have to offer. While the kids study their ABCs and 123s, I link the school’s teaching philosophy with the teachings of a yoga practice, creating a learning environment that nurtures their intellectual, social, physical, and ethical growth. And we are silly and have fun! Living in NYC can be stressful, no matter what age you are, and to see the kids laugh, giggle, and smile is exactly what the doctor ordered.
In these first weeks of yoga I establish a ritual and a pattern to the class, so the kids know what’s coming up and that they feel safe. We acknowledge the yoga space, I introduce basic yoga poses (cat/cow, child’s pose, down dog, mountain, sun salutation, tree, and rest and relaxation), while teaching the kids that they don’t have to participate in anything that makes them feels uncomfortable in any shape or form. We acknowledge that they have breath and I ask them, “How are you breathing?” While in the yoga poses and yoga movements I ask them, “How does this pose or movement feel in your body?” We work on being focused in poses and movements, asking them, “Where is your focus?” And during rest and relaxation, I ask them, “What is a relaxed body?” In this yoga beginning, I’m teaching them to recognize how they are feeling. We make the body strong and flexible, but what they are thinking and feeling count just as much. I also set guidelines and expectations, honoring yogic principles of love, compassion, truthfulness, generosity, balance, and being at peace with oneself. And names, names, names! That’s always a challenge for me. It’s the new kids that get me. I really love name-games! “My name is Salvador and I am forty-one years old.” The look of shock on their faces! “Whoa! You’re just as old as my daddy and you have more grey hair this year!” That’s funny!
I’ve been with the kids for a month and we’ve established a practice, acknowledging a beginning, middle, and end. I’ve got to know their names, but this year I have a lot more brothers and sisters, and I find myself mixing up names, just like how my parents would mix up my name with my older sisters and older brother. I’ve been called MagdalenaRebeccaJaimeSalvador. Thanks, mom and dad.
Now that the kids are back in the classroom, and we’re back on the mat, it’s great to see the kids again, taking note of how they’ve grown and developed over the summer. We’re a family. We’re a community. As I plan my classes I always think of the kids and honor a yoga practice that unites strength, softness, comfort, ease, compassion, and kindness. That’s yoga. It’s an honor to share it and have practice with the little ones! We’re off to a great start! Here’s to a great year! Yoga!
This is a great relaxation exercise to try any time you feel tired, stressed, angry or frustrated. It is also very helpful if you can’t fall asleep.
Begin with a gentle warm up, and then start your relaxation with tree pose. Stand tall, find a still point to focus on, and imagine your feet rooting firmly into the ground. Slowly lift one leg and bring the sole of your foot to the inside of your standing leg. Press your foot and leg into each other to keep you steady, and reach your arms up to the sky. Take several deep breaths and imagine the cool fall breeze blowing by; Feel the warmth of the sun and see your leaves slowly turning to beautiful shades of red, orange and yellow. Gently lower down and move to the other side.
When you have completed your tree pose on both sides, lower down to the mat and rest in savasana. Lay down on your back, with your feet falling to the sides and your palms open to the sky.
Close your eyes and allow your whole body to relax. Let your feet relax, let your legs sink into the mat, allow your belly and your back to get soft and heavy, feel your arms melt and let your neck and head be totally supported by the ground. Imagine that your yoga mat slowly turns to a soft pile of autumn leaves; Let your body sink in and hear them crunching underneath you. Take a deep breath and smell the crisp and earthy air. See above you the clear blue sky, with fluffy white clouds slowly drifting by. Maybe you see a flock of birds heading south for the winter, flying together in a perfect V shape. Then in your mind see the trees all around you, getting ready for the winter. Watch the leaves turning their vibrant colors. See them shudder and flutter, dancing all the way to the ground as the wind blows. All around you the leaves fall, surrounding you with their cozy warmth.
Keep breathing slow and steady. Watch the leaves fall until you feel completely at surrounded; resting in your pile of leaves. Stay here for as long as you want, being nourished by the crisp autumn air and the warm sun.
When you are ready to get up, take a deep breath and stretch your body from fingertips to toes. Keep your eyes closed, curl up and roll onto one side. Slowly sit up and take a minute or two to focus on your breath. Gently open your eyes, and try to keep that peaceful feeling with you throughout the rest of your day.