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Yoga teachers come in all shapes and sizes. There are those who teach asana, some for a meager living, others are rock stars. There are those who fight the good fight, their lives deeply devoted to serving others, social justice or saving the planet. But the ones who have the greatest impact on humanity are those who are all too often under paid, under recognized yet over worked. The teachers I am referring to are those who have greatly impacted Olivia’s life.

My five year old, Olivia, is so blessed. In Bali, she had three of the warmest, most loving Indonesian teachers named Ibu Vero, Ibu Sri and Ibu Desak.  Every day they would greet her with hugs and kisses. Ibu Vero conversed with each one of them, meeting them where they were at and giving each her undivided and sincere attention. It was there that Olivia’s healthy eating habits and yoga practice were well established beyond home life with bountiful fresh fruits, coconut water and raw veggies, dips and rice wraps served at meal times.

Olivia's teachers in Bali
Olivia's teachers in Bali
Good bye hugs at the end of the day……
Good bye hugs at the end of the day……

Vero’s loving kindness was threaded in all her teachings: from being kind to Mother Earth to being kind to their bodies by what they ate, to how they treated each other while playing. Her soft, sweet and humble nature was an inspiration to the kids.

In California, Olivia is equally blessed to have Ms. Allison as her kindergarten teacher. At “Back to School Night”, her love for children and contagious passion for teaching spilled everywhere into the classroom and into the hearts of parents. Her mission to change the world through her natural ability to connect and impact the lives of five year olds was clearly recognized. Kindness was also an important theme in her charismatic and dynamic, hands-on approach.

Ms. Allison explains one of her many fun games………

Greater than mastering the alphabet or math tables was the importance around kindness towards one another. Her message was clear: You can be exceedingly smart and unkind and life won’t be as fulfilling. If she had to choose, she would “choose kindness over being the smartest” (amen). She, too, meets every child where they’re at and focuses solely on their individual uniqueness. She is a beaming example of living her dharma: pouring her heart into every child’s life so they feel special and loved. Every morning and afternoon she gives each one a hug, kiss, and tells them she loves them. How the world would be so different if every parent and teacher did the same.

Ms. Allison makes learning fun!

It’s refreshing to know that outside the home, Olivia is learning the most basic tenet of yoga, ahimsa (typically defined as non-violence, but I prefer to think of it as kindness). As one of the five yamas (codes of behavior in the world), it serves as the backbone for all other yamas: truthfulness, non-stealing, moderation of energy, and non-greed. And it is deeply tied in with the niyamas (internal observances): cleanliness (sauca), contentment (samtosa), discipline/patience/commitment (tapas), self-study (svadhyaya), and surrendering to pure Awareness or a Higher Power (ishwara pranidhanant).

Olivia’s martial arts teachers have also shaped her self awareness. In her “Graduation Night”, 3 important values that were displayed in her karate performance were focus and attention (pratyahara and dharana), and respect. In jiujitsu class, teacher Matt Becker threads fun into the teachings of the Gracie Jiujitsu philosophy which revolves around balance in body, mind and spirit: healthy eating and exercise to keep the body clean (sauca), honesty and respect towards self and others (ahimsa and satya), patience towards all (tapas), breathing and staying calm in the face of danger or confrontation.

Hmm, sounds a lot like yoga. Staying calm especially in the face of danger is an essential skill to cultivate. It requires a level of presence and steadiness that shapes choices you make in a moment of challenge. Olivia is learning how to become a little warrior!

These very principles lie at the crux of true yoga practice, a practice that extends well beyond the asana mat and into our lives within the context of relationship: with family, friends, community, the Earth, but more importantly ourselves. When we start from the inside, integrity arises and the righteous path unfolds. And our dharma becomes so clear. It is incumbent that we all find and follow our dharma to have the most meaningful and fulfilling lives. And better yet, if whatever our dharma is, we are teaching and practicing these very fundamental attitudes of kindness and respect that will uplift humanity and shape a super Consciousness.

Thank you to all of Olivia’s teachers and the teachers we can find in everyone we encounter.

Om shanti shanti shanti……..