Remember back in school, there would be that ONE person who would obviously be favoured by the teacher? Maybe s/he was the prettier looking kid in class or they knew the answers to EVERYTHING [stupid smart-ass-know-it-all kids. I wonder where they are and what they’re doing].
In fact, it’s no different in Bikram Yoga. More often than not, the teachers’ favourite student is the one with a great, focussed practice. I will admit, it is easier to teach the focussed students than those drama-ing at the back “Oh it’s soooo hot” [No shit Sherlock, you just entered Bikram HOT Yoga], and “Ohh my back hurts” [Are you kidding me? I just said your back is GOING TO HURT LIKE HELL!].
Until one day he stepped into my class.
For privacy’s sake, let’s call him A. A was here to take class with an entourage – his mum, cousin and maid in tow. The night before, Jakob texted me that A will be coming and to “give him some space and do whatever he likes”.
You see, A is not just a ‘first-timer’. He was a special first-timer. He was a special needs child from Indonesia who came to Kuala Lumpur for some form of therapy.
Coupled with the fact that A does not speak English but Bahasa Indonesia [Indonesian language] and that my dialogue is in English [my Indonesian is at best, rusty] , I was fearful. I was a new teacher, I possibly can’t have distractions coming in and out at me! What if I forgot my dialogue and started muttering nonsense up on stage? How would I control the class? How would I control A? What would he do during class?
Turns out I had nothing to fear at all. A was good, calm and he did the best he could. Sure because he was special needs he giggled or talked or made sounds during class, but then again, I have had worse drama queens in class 😉 [And he is SPECIAL needs, and you are NOT!]
In the beginning, like all students, he had to acclimitise to the heat. Of course he didn’t know what was going on – why was it hot? He moaned and wiped furiously at his sweat but I told him “Jangan lap. Nanti lagi panas ye!” [Don’t wipe! You’ll feel more hot!]. He looked at me woefully with his big doe eyes and I prayed to God he wouldn’t bawl. He looked back to the mirror and refocussed on his practice.
His dedication to the practice AMAZED and HUMBLED me. His mum would come out after class telling me, “A tu mintak nak buat exercise hot. Jadi, kita bawaklah dia. Tiap tiap hari pun mintak!” [A was asking to do the ‘Hot Exercise’, that’s why we brought him here. He asks for it EVERY day!”.
I smiled. I really didn’t know what to say.
His family soon became a regulars at the studio. A’s mum said “Walaupun panas dan susah, tapi A tu suka!” [Even though it’s hot and difficult, A loves it!]. One day I asked his mum, What benefits have you seen with A and the yoga? I have always wondered how the benefits would accrue with someone with special needs.
“Ohhh, banyak! Skarang tu lebih mudah untuk dia nafas. Dan skarang pun dia tu lebih sabar sikit. Boleh komunikasi“. [Ohhh, lots! It’s easier for him to breathe now, and he’s more patient when communicating].
And here I was worrying whether he could get 100% benefits even though he couldn’t understand me 😉 But, like Bikram said, try the right way and you’ll still get the benefits!
“Tu, bagi salam kat kak. Cakap bye dengan dia” [Say bye to Kak (Big Sister)].
“BUKAN. Dia tu KAK! Bukan Auntie! Muda lagi la Cikgu Mei!” [NO! She’s not an Auntie! Teacher Mei is still young!] his mother said in chagrin. I waved it off and said that I am old enough to be called “Auntie” already. A’s mum said they’ll be going back to Indonesia for a while, but will see me after a month. That was in August.
That was the last I saw of them. I haven’t seen them since the Muslim new year, and with the eruptions and natural disasters going on in Indonesia, I hope they’re ok.
I still miss A every day. His happy smiling face, his smile as he does Half Moon pose, his mum as she tries to lock her knee, him going up to the mirrors to wipe it and say hello to his reflection during class.
A, you inspire me with your patience and dedication and love for the yoga. May our paths cross again, eventually, in the future.