Having a child on the autism spectrum has helped me be a better yoga teacher. In fact, if I hadn’t a child on the spectrum I likely wouldn’t be a yoga teacher at all. During the very stressful early years, yoga helped me. I’d go to a yoga class frantic and in despair, and leave with a calmer nervous system, feeling like I could do it for another day.
And when an autism mom in Michigan broke mentally and did the unthinkable, that was my cue to take my first teacher training. No longer could my internal dialogue tell me I wasn’t young enough, bendy enough, thin enough, enough enough to be a yoga teacher. I could no longer hide behind my fears. I knew yoga had helped me as an autism mom, and I wanted to help others. My first classes as a teacher were for autism parents, and I cherish those classes and those students to this day.
In addition to that initial motivation, I believe the skills I have learned as an autism mom have helped me be a better teacher as well. One example:
When my kids were little, I might say something like this,
“Kids! We have to leave in five minutes! I want you to get your shoes on. Make sure you turn out the lights in your room. Make sure you brushed your teeth. Did you take your supplements? Is your hair brushed? Where is your book bag? Make sure you tell your teacher x,y and z…..”
I’d be exasperated when five minutes later, I’d find my child in her room, oblivious, playing with her toys. Too many words resulted in overwhelm/tuning out.
A better instruction for her at the time was simply,
“SHOES!” resulted in kids in the foyer getting shoes on and us getting out the door in a timely fashion. Cutting the fluff, less was more.
Now, as a yoga teacher, I do not bark out orders like “SHOES!” But I will be succinct. I might simply say,
“Downward facing dog.”
I don’t talk non-stop for the sake of filling the silence. I do not chitter-chatter for the sake of hearing my own voice. The information I want students to take in comes from meeting the sensations they are experiencing in their own physical and emotional bodies with curiosity. How can they hear themselves if I never shut up?
Now don’t get me wrong. I am hilarious (just ask me). I might crack a joke, or tell a funny story at the beginning of class, but once students fully drop in, my words become more measured.
Come back to your body. Come back to your breath.
This breath in.
This breath out.
Anything much more, is overkill.
Take a breath.
I learned that, from my kid.