What exactly is a FLY Teaching Immersion?
I found FLY Yoga Arts in 2013 on a sign outside Go Yoga and the words Yoga + Creative Arts + (Kids) flew right at me. I had just moved back to NYC and amidst all of my odd jobs, I was in need of something MORE: a creative outlet, maybe, but mostly meaningful work to give my daily life a greater sense of purpose, a drive, a perspective outside of my own self-filled tunnel vision.
I had been teaching and working with kids for a long time but wasn’t quite sure how to break back into it in this gigantic city. I reached out to Haley right away and she invited me to my first FLY Teacher Immersion in a community space in the Lower East Side, filled with Teaching Artists, Educators, Parents, Psychologists, Dancers, Artists, Yogis– many of whom were looking to further their professional success: add a skill set, understand a new methodology, integrate some new principles. Some were current FLY Teaching Artists and I was blown away by their radiance in sharing this work with the world…really, radiance. When people seem to glow with purpose. I wanted to be someone who exuded such joy!
As Haley led us through the training, I could see how she perfectly embodied FLY: intelligent and grounded in developmental science and theory, born from the spiritual principles and philosophy of yoga so that there is greater purpose in everything we do, all spun with the spirit of play and a childlike sense of wonder.
After a few hours of FLY, through meditative exercises, creative expression, reflection, asana, dance, music and straight up silliness, we had all successfully re-discovered our childhood selves. As we played around the room we stripped down all pretenses, judgements and rigidity and found that “inner child” who can laugh, express and move freely through our physical bodies as well as our cognitive, emotional and subtle selves. Haley opened up the space to investigate the world of yoga and the magical world of kids, and how when done with the heart of a child, the integration of the two can be life-changing (literally).
We played the Freeze game throughout, periodically stopping to hold whatever position we were in at that moment in time, noticing what feelings or thoughts had been shuffling without awareness, or whatever came up in the stillness, then journaling. Everything in between holding a full body laugh in suspension or suppressing yoga-induced frustration (you know it) materialized into awareness. It was so enlightening and empowering to give my inner-world this kind of attention – practices that in my early NYC-hustle days had become less and less frequent. I felt so connected to my true self, my inner nature and my long lost artistic inclinations (had they been here all along?!). The best part is that’s what FLY is all about: encouraging this discovery in each child through such exploration. I couldn’t believe that these tools for emotional regulation and self-empowerment were being given to kids, and in a way that felt like an all out blast. So simple, yet so profound!
In between the fun and games, we talked about Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and his literature on the Psychology of Flow. According to his research, when you reach this balanced state of being, you are completely present, engaged and lit up by the task at hand. He describes it as “the holistic experience that people feel when they act with total involvement”. This isn’t just zoning out in front of the TV or in a video game, but entering that “zone” where time loses it’s hold on you, maybe it slows down or speeds up or swallows you whole because all aspects of your being are working together to move you through this task.
As Educators, Parents, and Mentors, it is our responsibility to create challenges that set children up for this human optimal experience: the child’s skill level must be proportionate to the challenge at hand in order to find that exciting space between anxiety and boredom, it must be physically and mentally engaging and they must feel some sort of ownership over it. What do you get lost in, what is your flow? Letting your body find rhythm to music, mixing ingredients to invent a new recipe, taking apart numbers in a difficult math equation? Whatever the activity, it is these moments that bring our worlds to life, that inspire us to jump out of bed in the morning. By the end of my Day of Play with FLY, I was totally Flowing. I couldn’t wait to encourage students to find this space where they feel so light yet powerful, in their true selves and proud of it, where they can really fly.
Laura, Taylor, Katherine and Danielle exploring moving mandalas at FLY Teaching Immersion, 2013
I have a distinct memory of walking out of this training with my new group of amazing FLY friends, and the pace of the world around me was not just under my feet but around and within me: the footsteps of the pedestrians, the changing of the lights, the bustling of the taxi cabs, the breeze– I was connected to it all in a new way that felt like I had just found a new way of looking at the world. This was my FLOW- being immersed in the world of childhood joy, creativity, compassion, play, love, growth. Since then, I was ‘hooked on the feeling’ (yup) and continued to dive deeper and deeper (or, I should say fly higher and higher) and I now teach full-time with FLY. I can say wholeheartedly that I found that sense of purpose I was looking for that Fall day lost and wandering in this big city, and I am reminded of it every single day in every one of my students.
Whether you are looking to bring The FLY Way to your existing classes, sessions, therapeutic practice, yoga practice, art or home, or you’d like go on to be a FLY Teaching Artist yourself as I did, one Day of Play with Haley will leave you feeling lighter, yet stronger, more connected to the world within you and the world around you, all by turning yourself around and looking through the magical eyes of a child. And that’s what it’s all about. Here’s where you do the Hokey Pokey 🙂
FLY Teaching Artist, NYC