"Change a young person's life today, and they may change the world tomorrow."
Last week I had the incredible privilege of working with The Really NEET Project in Barnsley. Founded in 2011, this social enterprise provides a safe learning environment for young people aged 16-24 who are not in Employment, Education or Training, including those who are homeless, young mums, care leavers, on probation, or are fed up with main stream education.
As the lads wandered into the sports hall in their jeans and caps they promptly informed me that they had no intention of doing yoga: "Yoga is for girls", "it's like ballet dancing." Tough crowd. We saved the detailed discussion on the origins of yoga and instead reflected on how if it's good enough for Ryan Giggs and the New Zealand All Blacks it can't be that girly, can it? They had the good grace to admit that might be true and even agreed to give it a go.
There's something pretty amazing about a room of 16-18 year old lads sitting in absolute silence. The self-concious shuffling momentarily stopped as they focussed completely on their breath. Then again, later in the class, watching their realisation that "actually, I can do this", and their genuine smiles as each one of them managed to hold a balance, try something new, take a risk. The entire atmosphere of the room shifted, you could feel their concentration. It might have only been for a minute or so, but it was incredible.
Our current education system requires our children and young people to sit still and concentrate for hours on end, and yet whilst I remember there being a lot of long division and Pythagoras' theorem, a lot of "sit still, calm down, concentrate!", I never once remember being told HOW to sit still, HOW to calm down, HOW to concentrate. After seeing how this group responded, especially considering their initial reactions, I'm tempted to say that yoga - in one form or another - could be what our classrooms are missing.
You can read more about The Really NEET project here
P.S. if you're still not convinced that yoga and teenage boys are a good mix, check out these pictures from our class over at Holy Trinity School's Alternative Curriculum Day - amazing!