I recently began teaching a new tween yoga class. The typical class ages range from 10-14, though this particular group tends to be between 10 and 12. I also allow boys to register, but this class has all girls. In an environment where the "me too" movement and recent spotlight have once again turned to women empowerment, I begin to feel a self-invoked pressure to ensure that I teach things to support this. My self-doubt & judgement kick into full gear, reminding me not to comment on their appearances or praise them for being quiet and meek. Then I wonder if I should be teaching more self-esteem, discussion led themes, but also whether I am balancing this with enough physical asana which has its own form of confidence boosting abilities. Though it is well past due for women (men too!) to be supportive in all environments and to demand the same wage, respect, and challenges, small rays of hope make me believe progress is already in motion.
Towards the end of the class, the girls completed a focus activity in which they wrote things on each others' backs with their fingers. They had to guess the words written, and the words had to exhibit kindness/Ahimsa/peace about the other person. In other words, write something nice on your partners back. I was wondering how to steer the conversation away from the "pretty", "popular", and even "nice" compliments I remembered hearing while growing up. These words can not only be superficial, but emphasize those very things that take us back in time to inequality (think "sit still look pretty!"). Yet, I needn't worry-at least with this bunch. Girls that knew each other praised the other's ability in math or at humor, while other girls unfamiliar with each other likewise used terms such as "strong" or "has a good down dog pose". Thus-accomplishment focused. Yay! My heart soared, while at the same time I was reminded that sometimes if you allow things to organically evolve, they do just that and in the right ways!
Watching a popular program this morning with a panel of women, I was once again reminded that many of the thoughts of yesterday -though seemingly progressive-were well behind where we finally seem to be leading. They discussed beauty in all shapes, sizes, and colors. I know I have heard that term all my life, but I finally had a lightbulb moment. In my earlier years I would have shunned focusing on beauty at all. It should all focus on abilities right? Yet true character development is taking that whole person-that whole package and realizing outer beauty resonates from the inside. So by limiting ourselves to not even seeing external beauty in all forms, we are not even allowing ourselves to get further with individuals to see their inner beauty, which only makes them resonate that much more.
I guess what I am saying is, as grownups (or humans really!) maybe we need to take a step back when kids have these thoughts and discussions. Allow them to praise beauty-in all shapes, forms, and colors. But also steer them and allow them to go to that deeper level to notice someone's good humor, kind heart, and strong abilities in yoga (or other activities). Who knows? Maybe the next generation really IS getting better. My ever optimistic soul will continue to hope.