Yesterday I spent an hour at a local elementary school teaching yoga and mindfulness to a group of children from Puerto Rico. Their families were relocated here after hurricane Maria hit their island nearly six months ago.
The principal told me many of these children were already living in poverty, and that many had already been traumatized in some way. And then a terrifying hurricane destroyed their houses, leaving devastation all around them, to the point that they couldn’t stay in the only place they’ve ever lived. And they’re now here in eastern Pennsylvania, which must seem to them like they’ve moved to the moon.
Many of them speak no English. I don’t speak Spanish (I’m learning, but it’s slow). But, this actually turned into a fun game. I asked them for help: I’d teach them a pose, and ask them how to say it, and they’d happily holler out the Spanish word. We’d breathe, and I’d ask them to help me count to five breaths. Older ones translated for littler ones.
The plan I made for the class went right out the window once I got there. I was reminded anew of how beautifully rhythm and music transcend language, as a rhythm game on a drum was a big hit.
One boy who clearly didn’t understand anything I was saying bounced off the walls the entire time. Another boy with huge brown eyes just sat on his mat and didn’t say a word. I asked if he was tired, and he nodded yes. Toward the end, he sat silently with his back turned to our circle.
I’ll be with them for one hour a week for the next six weeks, and will keep you posted. Any constructive suggestions are totally welcome.
(This pic is from a school session last year.)