it’s funny. i mean not ha-ha funny, but funny nonetheless.
i work with a lot of special needs yoga students (that’s not the funny part), of every age and every challenge, be it mental, physical, or emotional. most of the time, i make tremendous strides. i’ve had a student come to me in a wheelchair because he didn’t feel comfortable walking…and we got him out of the chair. for good. i had a girl with add/adhd who could not get through ten seconds of meditation when we started…but eventually got up to a full hour. i had a mentally disabled woman who could only walk on the balls of her feet learn to balance on one foot…flat. and then–now here’s the funny part–i worked with a textbook.
well, he wasn’t literally a textbook, but his mother and entourage thought he was.
he had therapists and nutritionists and shadows galore…and a yoga teacher. and all but one treated him like a textbook.
although he was already in his late 20s, everyone coddled him because that’s what the textbooks said to do. despite struggling with his weight, his nutritionist thought that replacing his soda with fruit juice and sparkling water would be too jarring for him. so he stuck with big gulps and doritos as his snacks of choice. his therapist thought that challenge was too disruptive for him, so he kept him in his comfort zone…always. and then there was me. i don’t believe in comfort zones and i don’t believe in limitations.
even though this young man was fully physically capacitated, he suffered from asperger’s syndrome, which caused him to mentally function differently than most. every pose i offered him, he would back off, telling me he couldn’t do it. simple poses like cat/cow or tree with his hand on the wall. but i don’t allow the word “can’t”…just “i’ll try.” and i pressed on and guess what? he could do the poses. in fact, he could do every pose i asked him to. after i asked a few times.
first down dog i asked him to do, his mother jumped in to intervene that he absolutely can’t do that one! wonder where he got his ideas from. ’cause, guess what. he could do down dog, too. and he could do it for ten breaths. and through all the poses i gave him, nothing ever broke, nothing ever tore. we just worked on frustration tolerance. because with people with asperger’s, the real work in life is learning to work through life without stressing out. actually…i guess that’s everyone’s work, really…
anyway, as my student got more proficient, i challenged him more…and, by golly, he got stronger. and stronger.
but his team didn’t want him strong. they wanted their textbook. the book said that he is not capable of working beyond his comfort zone and he is not capable of change. his psychologist came down on me for pushing him too hard and said that i would need to cut out all challenging poses…which, according to my student, was every pose. and let me state an aside that this student loved coming to yoga and called it his “happy place”. so it wasn’t that he didn’t want to practice yoga. he just didn’t want to practice frustration tolerance.
anyway, despite what the textbooks may say, i disagree. i think that everyone grows through challenge. i’ve seen remarkable transformations through challenge. and i believe that without challenge we would all just die on the vine.
yes…the student quit yoga because his psychologist didn’t like my approach. and that’s the funny thing. my approach is that i push people because i believe in people. i believe people are capable of amazing things. i believe they can break boundaries and expectations and move beyond the studies and the means. i believe that all people of all needs can be remarkable. but they have to believe it, too.