I'm not supposed to have a favorite student, but I do.
Students come to you in all stages of life. They come to you with love in their hearts or very broken ones. Injuries in every joint and new body parts. They come with baggage of their bad experiences; the one time they tried Bikram and threw up or the yoga teacher who chanted for an entire 90-minute class. They are either old or young or something in between. Every body and shape and mind is different.
And guess what? I love them all.
Just for today though it's not equal.
You see this past week I had a 13-year-old girl arrive in class. She came with her dad on a daddy daughter date and they have been back to my shala a handful of times. She immediately became one of my favorite students. Not because of the way her eyes follow me in savasana when I'm giving assists (as she waits with glee for her own lavender temple touch). Nor is it because of her focused attention or love of my Apollo as he greets her at the door. Nor is it even her new and flexible, strong body that wants to participate in every flavor of class we have on the schedule.
It's her heart.
She gives me hope. I only wish that at 13 years old I had the knowledge of what yoga was. I wish I had a way to find empowerment in myself, because being alone in a big scary middle school world is tough. It's hard to make new friends, to reach out and to keep your innocence and love of barbies, while trying to obtain that well sought after first kiss with the boy next door. It's tough to maintain who you are as the mean girls create drama when all you want is peace.
There is so much to navigate, to learn and to understand when you're 13 and every class I try my best to give love and empowerment. I'm always talking the way I write on my blog: in quotes and with lots of love. But when she's in class? I dig deep for new passages, I open my heart even wider and try to give her as much encouragement as I can. Her safety is my goal. Safety in body but also in spirit and mind. Giving her tools in the subtlety of my words during class is the gift I try to give her each time she comes through the front door.
Here's the best part: she's making me a better teacher. By focusing on the love and empowerment I want to give my old 13-year-old self and her present self, I am gifting wisdom to everyone in class.
As a teacher my purpose in life is to give love to everyone I cross, no matter who they are. And if we start in the hearts of 13-year-old girls, they will rule the world with hope and love. They will teach others to dig deep and love themselves, they will remind the world of optimism and joy. They will push everyone around them to become a better version of themselves and ultimately they will create an OMazing world for everyone to live in through the coming years.
We need to feed the generation below us in order to grow, to move forward and to fill this world with love.
So shine on yogis and share your enthusiasm with everyone. You never may know who is listening when you're giving advice to the person next to you on the train. Nor would you know if the person at the cafe overheard a conversation you were having with a friend. Even if our messages are meant for one, they can effect millions around us. Keep those positive and empowering thoughts and send as much love as you can into the universe.