Tag Archives: health

Because You Can’t Make this Shit Up. #Customer #Service #humor #insurance

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I went to my gynecologist for her annual spelunking appointment and she wrote me a new prescription today to help with (men, you can come back in a paragraph if you want) my hormone-induced perimenopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, bloating which mimics the USS Dallas (as seen in “Hunt for the Red October”) spontaneous melodrama, night sweats, in-the-basement reason forgetfulness, brain fog, insomnia, inability to make sandwiches, and laundry neglect (that last one’s a gimme).

The medication is relatively new, so I’m relatively freaked out about it. There isn’t too much data on it. It’s a super low-dosage cousin of some rather storied and potent shit out there, so I’m not sure I’m dedicated to the cause yet. I mean, what’s (sorry men, I lied, come back in another paragraph) wrong with some really heavy cramps, ennui, intense bleeding, possible anemia (isn’t the harpie look in this year?), totally inconsistent period arrival and the occasional urge for solace by digging a hole to China under a crescent moon with my bite guard?

Other than Flonase and antibiotics for the occasional lapse of taking my Flonase, I don’t take many prescriptions. I like to go the herbal route. The supplement route. The what-the-fuck-is-in-this?, but-at-least-it’s-not-linked-to-inducing-suicidal-thoughts route. It might not always be efficacious, but I also believe in the placebo effect.

So today, because of this new script, I called my insurance company to learn the ropes about costs and copays and deductibles. Before I got too deep into the details, my very helpful Aetna rep told me I needed to call CVS / CareMark whose wizards would know the answers to all my prescription-based questions.

This is how that call went…

CareMark: Thank you for calling CareMark, may I have the member ID?

Me: Hi, this is Molly Field. I’m calling to find out cost and copay details for a new prescription. The ID number is  1234567.

CareMark: Who do you work for? >slurp<

Me: Uh, myself. My kids. I don’t have a job that provides insurance. I’m a … yoga teacher…?

CareMark:  Are you Daniel?

Me: No. I’m me. I’m his —

CareMark: Why are you calling about Daniel? Are you calling on his behalf?

Me: No. I’m calling on my behalf. My name —

CareMark: Why do I have Daniel’s information then? >clichslurk<

Me: You asked me for the account number.

CareMark: Who is this?

Me: I’m his wife. He’s my husband. I’m calling on my own behalf for me about … me.

CareMark: What is your name and date of birth?

Me: (relieved: now we are getting somewhere.) My name is Molly Field my date of birth is ___ ___ 1829.

CareMark: Ok. Why are you calling? >slurk<

Me: sigh. To get cost information on our policy and how much a new prescription will cost… When I dropped it —

CareMark: What is your account number?

Me: I just gave it to you and it seemed to confuse —

CareMark: Account number please. >skicch< I can’t look up anything without that… Do I have your consent…

Me: Yes. You have my consent. The account number will give you … it’s 1234567.

CareMark: Am I speaking to the spouse?

Me: Yes. On my own behalf about medication prescribed for me.

CareMark: How may I assist you?

Me: Ok. I’d like to know cost and copay information about a medication called STOPSHITTYSYMPTOMS.

CareMark: That’s the 7.5mg dosage, correct? >skicch.<

Me: (after memorizing the promotional crate it came home in, complete with two obscured magnets to keep it closed, what the what is this? a Michael Kors bag?? Now I know where the money is being spent by this pharma) Yes, 7.5.

CareMark: A 90-daysupplyis$97. Untilyoumeetyourdeductible. >skich.<

Me: What is the deductible?

CareMark: Thereareseveraldeductiblelevelsonyourplan. >slurp.< Oneis25anotheris35andthefamilyis65. Per year. >clitch<

Me: (what the fuck is that sound?) Ok. So what’s the copay?

CareMark: What are you talking about? What copay?  >shlink<

Me: (irked and confused and super curious about what’s in her mouth) Ok. You just said … if I’m following you, why would I pay the full $97 for the 90-day supply seeing as how I’d met at least one of the deductibles you mentioned? I mean, even at the 65, I’d only need to pay, what… $32 and so then, what would the copay be after that?

CareMark: You >sklurk< wouldn’t have met the deductible.

Me: But you said the deductible was three levels. You said “25 and 35 and 65.” Those are the figures you gave me. So if I pay $97 for a 90-day supply, I would have already met the deductible. Yes?

CareMark: >slurp< No. Nowhere near the deductible.

Me: (slamming face with desk, wondering about the need for this medication when all I think we need to do is rid ourselves of idiots at call centers) But … that’s close to $400. A three-refill 90-day script, which is what I was given, will cost … $388, way beyond the deductible you quoted me. You just said, “25, 35 and 65 are the deductible levels…”

CareMark: (audible groan) >querlk< HUNDRED. TWENTY FIVE HUNDRED, THIRTY FIVE HUNDRED. SIXTY FIVE HUNDRED.  (you freaking idiot.) That’s your deDUCTible levels.

Me: (oh hell NO you didn’t…) HUNDRED?! As in Twenty-five hundred dollars for a deductible? Is THAT what you meant? (CareMark Mistress of the Dark is >sklerking< in the background…)

You said “twenty-five, thirty-five and sixty-five” and didn’t say “hundred” after any of those figures. So naturally, I thought you were talking about an entirely different denomination… >pausing to listen< Um, (with obvious bitter disgust) are you eating something? Because I can’t unders–

CareMark: >pause< No. I am not eating any — I am SUCKING on a COUGH DROP. I am SICK today. >SLERK SKECK CRUNCH<

Me: >pause.< Oh. I ask if you’re eating something because I’m having a hard time understanding you. You aren’t speaking clearly. And, that you left out of that deductible information by a factor of one-hundred.

So, then, yes, doing the math that I understand now, I would not meet the deductible. That’s fine. It is what it is.

Now, since CareMark has been our prescription program provider for several years, can you tell me what my family’s history was last year on what we paid for prescriptions so I can get a sense of whether or not we even came close to meeting those deductibles? You know, so I can get a ballpark on —

CareMark Viper from Hell: You want a WHAT? >sklerk< From WHEN?

Me: (fuck you; you work for me) I’d like to know if you can provide me with a … report, yes, a report of what we paid last year for prescriptions so that I can understand how that shaped up… I know some systems won’t give access to data so maybe you need to transfer me (please o please o please transfer me…), but I’m just looking for a snapshot, if you will, of how much we paid —

CareMark succubus: I don’t know what YOU’RE talking >slurk< about, but I can give >sklech< a COST REPORT (you moron) of your prescriptions from last year. I can send it to you …

Me: (incredulous) Mmmmmm Nnnnnooooo. That won’t be necessary; you don’t need to print it out and mail it to me, I’m just looking for a quick-and-dirty here (still trying to be niccccce….) so that I can .. can you just look at it and tell me?

(envisioning bats pipping and fluttering about her head; her face slack, with green from the reflecting the screen) Is there a screen you can click on? Do you have that (carefully choosing my words) ca-pa-bil-i-ty on your sys-tem that will show you that his-tor-ic in-for-ma-tion so you can just tell me the cost report from reading it on your screen? (SMILING a TOOTHY GRIN but with narrowed eyes.) 

CareMark demon: (likely hunched over one of those ancient monolithic IBM 8600 desktop computers we used to call “machines” back in the 90s) You didn’t meet it. >slerk< You didn’t reach your deductible last year.

Me: (oddly proud that we didn’t need that insurance but pissed we paid for coverage for it) Oh. Did we come close? I mean, would have this addition of this STOPSHITTYSYMPTOMS last year, hypothetically of course, would it achieved the deductible? (at this point, i’m not sure of why i’m asking about any of this; something about this woman made me want to pick at her though…)

CareMark: No. >sklerrrrk<

Me: Ok. Well, that’s that. (sincerely) Thank you. You’ve been very helpful.

CLICK.

Me: hello?

She hung up on me. Not a “Thank you for calling CareMark and giving me a job to do and keeping my wages coming in…” or “Is there anything else I can do for you today?” or, I don’t know, “Good bye.”

I think she needs the medicine more than I do.

So then I called Aetna and told them what happened to me. They took a full report.

You’re allowed to be sick. You’re allowed to sklerk on a lozenge. But you’re not allowed to be viperous. You’re just not.

Here’s the final thing: I’m a big girl, I’m healthy, I’m happy and living a very wonderful and stable life. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that this puff adder would somehow meet up on that phone line with someone who’s really in need. Maybe a mother of an infant with a blood infection; a father who’s son is in rehab, y’know: PEOPLE. I was concerned that she would affect a person who’s rattled, whose spouse just had a stroke, or who needs to know about his or her new health plan and that this agent would treat that rattled spouse or parent or patient so horribly that the day would be ruined. 

Truth be told, I thought of my father, who’s 84 now, and if he needed to call CareMark to ask about his prescription benefits. I thought about my mother-in-law, who’s 29, and considered her situation with that agent and I decided I couldn’t let it go. 

So I called CareMark later on and spoke with management. The manager I spoke with was mortified by Elvira’s behavior and grateful that I called back. 

CareMark redeemed itself to me on that second phone call. It turns out it’s not a “deductible,” it’s a Maximum Allowable Benefit (MAB), which is the exact opposite of a deductible. A deductible is threshold you must meet by paying into it, and  it would eventually reduce your out-of-pocket expenses as you go forward. When you reach your deductible, your costs go down. The MAB is an already established account, with funds already in it, that when you buy your medication, that sum is deducted. When you run out of the MAB, you pay more. It’s like a bet the insurance is taking, that you will try to meet. 

I don’t know how that rep has stayed employed.

Why am I in the basement and what am I looking for down here? Geez, I hope it’s not for the laundry.

Thank you.

It’s Not About the Body, Oprah

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Dear Oprah,

I want to york.

I think I’m late to the session.

I just saw a Weight Watchers ad where you made some random, unsolicited confession that you’re not looking to get into a pair of jeans or you don’t have a red-carpet dress to fit into. You lost me at “honey chil’.”

You blathered on about how ‘you’ve been there,’ and how it’s important to “do this together.”

And that you want to “make 2016 the year of your best body.”

I’m so done with you.

You’re so lost. And people look

Up

To

You. 

It’s about accepting the body you’re in. It’s about the spirit. It’s about starting from there … But this approach — making it all about the body, is really what is going to keep people failing and coming back and making you richer. If you examine the root of all these issues, and keep the needle on the health & spirit instead of the body, then people would get better and likely stay that way… but now that you’re a Weight Watchers stakeholder… maybe that’s not so lucrative. Keep the people coming back. Again and again… right? Because nothing says healthy liver and kidney and thoracic system like yo-yo dieting and depression from not achieving.

The reason why you are still dealing with a weight issue is because you’ve made this all about the physical.

Since forever, you’ve made your weight ‘situation’ all about the exterior.

You’ve completely missed the point.

You’re setting the wrong stage.

Just like that time you were wearing your new jeans and you hauled a red wagon full of red meat on to stage, you’re still sending the message that the body is what matters most.

You don’t even talk about it being a “temple.”

Where are the affirmations? Where?!

By the way, what does “Join for free — Purchase Required” mean?

Gah. It all makes me want to scream.

Dearest darling, confused, frustrated, distracted and wanting everyone-to-love-you Oprah:

It’s not about the body. It’s about the health. It’s about the spirit

If you believe half the things you spew, the body dies, the spirit lives on. It’s about what’s inside… How many times have you preached that?! 

It’s not about the hips, it’s about the heart.

It’s not about the belly, it’s about the insulin.

It’s not about the bust line, it’s about the pulmonary system.

It’s not about “the points,” it’s about the diastolic and systolic readings.

It’s not about the body, it’s about the life.

Because you talk about “Super Soul Sunday”… I’ll stick with the invisible: the blood pressure, the stress reduction, the diabetes, the insomnia, the heart palpitations, the kidneys, the fears, the inadequacy, the bullying, the abuse, the anxiety, and more which  manifests as our stuffing food / clothes / drugs / booze / risk — whatever the hook — which slowly kills the soul. I think you know what I’m talking about.

When you address the health, when you start talking about drinking more water and eating –anything!– with awareness, and putting your hand over your heart to honor its work, and practicing gratitude, and looking for lessons in life, and transforming stumbling blocks into stepping stones, the health will happen.

It’s NOT ABOUT THE BODY.

When will you wake up and realize that this has teens and mothers and men starving themselves –and dying– for a perfect “body”?

When will you use your powers for good and not to cater to one of the seven deadly sins?

If all we are after is steeped in vanity, we will never succeed.

YOU, of all people, should get that — with the brain trust of philosophical and self-help and spirituality avatars and personalities you have on speed dial — Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra, Pema Chodron, Bréne Brown… these people have spouted consistently that it’s not on the outside what matters but what’s on the inside, that the body is a shell, a container of the soul… and here you go, talking about The Best Body.

I gave up watching you years before you stopped your show. I saw through it all and I couldn’t take it anymore.

Now that you own 10% of Weight Watchers, the jig is up. The stock jumped when you announced your purchase, but it has since dropped 24% — it’s now lower than it was almost a month before you bought. Its price jumped like a yoyo. Similar to the numbers on a scale of someone who isn’t clear or is confused about the reason and the goal of anything worth doing, including weight loss, the direction is lost.

If you want to know how to run this campaign, ask a child of a parent who’s struggling with health.

If you had kids, you’d know: all they care about is having a healthy and present parent. The kids don’t care if Mom looks like a runway model (and a lot of them are super unhealthy) or Jack Sprat’s wife (what was her name?). Kids just want a healthy parent. They want Dad to play catch or to give piggy-back rides. That health is far-reaching: emotional, mental, spiritual, physical — once that is addressed, things will start to dovetail.

It’s not about the body. It never was. It’s always been about the health. Don’t lose sight of that. Stay focused. It’s not about the body. Never was. That’s why people still struggle. It’s about the spirit. 

Thank you.

 

How To Be a Better, Smarter, more Balanced You

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2016 is looming: it’s an olympic year, a national election year, and a leap year. because everyone else out there is telling you how to be a stronger, fitter, faster, taller and more beautiful you, i’ve decided to focus our work on the inside.

these tips won’t make you slimmer, but they will help you unload crap that isn’t yours in the first place and then maybe you can start to see your real value and you’ll feel lighter on your feet and in your heart.

let shit go: will what’s bugging you matter in 6 minutes, 6 hours, 6 days, 6 weeks, 6 months or 6 years. as a bazillion philosophers have stated, often what’s bugging us is not the situation but our attachment to the situation: expectations, narratives, and old stories which shape our appreciation of the situation. once you can name the hook, you’re released, it’s crazy awesome. apparently socrates said, “the secret to change is not to focus on fighting the old, but on building the new.” try it.

can’t let shit go? try EFT tapping: http://www.emofree.com/eft-tutorial/tapping-basics/how-to-do-eft.html — i recently had a situation that really bugged me, someone called me negative and it hurt a lot because i’ve worked very hard to overcome lots of that. thanks to the resulting introspection (always seek a silver lining) i relearned: 1) that what i was called was a projection of the person who said it; 2) that courting bad feelings is as powerful as a drug*; 3) that running a moral inventory of the good i have done and the people who admire me is the best proof there is of my value in the world; and 4) we are all a little messed up. “those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter.”

*Despite their differences, pride, shame, and guilt all activate similar neural circuits, including the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, amygdala, insula, and the nucleus accumbens. Interestingly, pride is the most powerful of these emotions at triggering activity in these regions — except in the nucleus accumbens, where guilt and shame win out. This explains why it can be so appealing to heap guilt and shame on ourselves — they’re activating the brain’s reward center. source http://time.com/4042834/neuroscience-happy-rituals/

stay off social media if it makes you feel like crap. the actual, rainy, sunny, snowy, arid, warm, cool, hilly, flat, leafy, barren world is always more beautiful than the screen version. getting out is good for your heart (physical and metaphorical). bring garden gloves and an empty trash bag on your next walk, and clean up as you go along. you’d be surprised how much trash is out there. (as for that last sentence, the same can be said of social media.)

you can’t please everyone, so don’t try. work on you and your life will unfold before you.

practice gratitude: it’s everywhere. it’s proven. taking stock of and being grateful for all that has happened in your life will help you see how far you’ve come. and believe me: you’ve come far.

don’t do for others the things they can (and need to learn) do for themselves: sure, i’m better at it, i’m faster and i’ve got more experience, so yes, i can drive my 17-yo son everywhere, but if i do that, he doesn’t learn to drive, does he? and then i get stuck taking him everywhere.  you’ll see this theme repeat itself elsewhere through this post. the best teacher is encouraging and allowing others do their own thing — remember toddlers: ain’t nobody gonna help them with their pants until they ask for help.

organic interaction / engagement: if all of a sudden you find yourself hot under the collar about something someone else told you about, chances are you weren’t supposed to know about it in the first place. TEST: if you have to be told something to get wrapped around the axle about, consider this: you’re hearing about it from someone else’s perspective and it’s quite likely you’re not getting all the facts, nor the other sides of the story. and trust me: there are ALWAYS other sides to a story. especially stories which don’t concern you. one word: YIKES. if you like that drama, you’ve got other problems. (i speak with experience, see immediately below.)

more:

fight your own battles: filters filters filters. man, if i had $100 for every stupid thing i got involved in which had nothing to do with me, i’d have about $12,000 and I’d be writing this on a beach somewhere. but the fact is that i’m on my couch at home and my getting involved in dynamics that had nothing to do with me did me absolutely NO favors whatsoever. it stretched my ego, it inflated a false sense i had of myself, and it set off recurrent shoulder pain.

more:

check the mirror: when you point at someone else you have three fingers pointing back at yourself (try it, i’ll wait). you can’t accuse someone of something you aren’t already experienced with already. in other words: you can’t project what you do not have. you think someone is stubborn? you are too, otherwise you’d just let it go. think someone else is negative? you are too, otherwise you’d just let it go. accusing someone of talking about you behind your back? don’t look now, but you just won a hypocrisy sundae. think someone else is mean? you are too, otherwise you’d just let it go. that said, it’s ok — we all do it. learn to be cool with that discerning side of yourself, the one you would rather not talk about at cocktail parties. why? because it has helped you avoid potentially irksome experiences, but never go on someone else’s opinion of anything. i’d never have eaten a Reuben if i went on my friend’s advice.

altruism gives to the giver too: everyone has a talent. serve others only for the sake of serving them and seek nothing in return. volunteer once a month for at least four hours somewhere, but ONLY in a place where you can do your highest good. are you skilled at accounting? see if there’s a shelter that could use your help. do you like public relations? find an organization struggling with outreach. are you an amateur carpenter? check out a local church. they are always building amazing things for other people. i can bake, but i prefer to write. so i volunteer to help others to love writing, i’d rather do that than make lasagnes for people. (even though my lasagnes are awesome.) i love to give the gift of yoga too.

no pedestals: don’t put people on pedestals. here’s why: 1) you’re equal to them in many ways or else you wouldn’t idolize them, so own it; 2) they will screw up and disappoint you and when that happens they will need a soft place to fall, so be that for them; and 3) it’s really unfair to them and you’re just hiding in their shadow.

consider the source: are you hearing things third-hand and getting all hot and bothered about it? are you being insulted? is someone saying something in a back-handed way to you? “consider the source,” is what my mother used to say to me.  again: “those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter.”

speak authentically with others: let it all hang out. everyone pees and poops; everyone has fears (trust me). if you can’t be who you are, and if you have guards up to protect yourself, your relationship will be set upon those parameters: mistrust. own your weaknesses and your strengths and be cool with it or else it all just end up in your face. it happens. that said, know when to flush the toilet and move on. if people can’t handle your sincerity, it’s them.

keep an open mind: nothing inspires growth more than being confronted by and working with an uncomfortable truth, for truth is the greatest teacher. it’s the hanging on to old beliefs and inflexibilities which causes the most trouble. if you like to blame other people for all your problems, guess what? the problems will still happen because you’re giving the other people who cause all your problems all the power. grab the keys and unlock the doors.

more:

end the victimhood, it’s just really sad: do you want pity or support? ian mckewn, author of Atonement once said that he dislikes speaking about his older books when promoting a current one. his answer was brilliant: he’s moved on and doing so makes him “an employee” of his former self. that struck me. when we keep telling our old narratives: traffic at the airport, a horrible boss, a tough childhood, or a traumatic experience without noting the blessings we’ve been given to live days without those experiences, we are totally missing the point. i’ve done all of that and i wish i hadn’t (see, i’m doing it now).

more:

get to the essence of what’s really the point: you’re not mad at what you’re mad at. i’ve written about this a lot. short and sweet: if you’re bothered by something or someone else, it’s likely NOT the other person / event, but a deep feeling inside you triggered by the situation (going back to that socrates quote). for example: if you’re cut off in traffic, it’s not the cutting off, but the possibility that you feel invisible and diminished. (that’s deep. so work with it…) this stuff is insidious, so it’s important for you to address these things because they will be triggers for subconscious and really random behaviors.

don’t enlist others to fight on your behalf: while at times it does “take a village,” don’t set your own hut on fire to get people to help you put out the fire. another aspect of this is economical: no one else can make the points you need to make, nor can anyone else stick to the points you need to make. only you know your story. strength in numbers, sure, but let people have their own perspectives, even if they don’t align with yours.

ok, but what if you’re a rescuer?: if you do get involved, chances are you might agree with the person you’re defending, but stick to what makes the most sense for you. also, beware of people who like to stir up stuff just to be the hero who shows up in the nick of time to fix it? do you know someone like that…?

sprinkle all experiences with a sense of kindness and optimism: no one likes the DMV, or Verizon customer service, but it’s a part of modern life. if you’re at the DMV, maybe remember the truth that your being there keeps someone employed and that person’s employment is bringing home money for a family.

time is a human construct: everything unfolds and happens as it should. consider this: the sun doesn’t rise and set, it’s the earth which turns away. the people you meet, the situations you encounter, they were all meant to be so you can step onto your true path… humans are the only species who’ve wrapped their arms around space and time. do you see dogs wearing watches? only that rabbit in Alice in Wonderland wore a watch and we all know what happened then… everything else acts on a boundless continuum. stop wondering if things are flowing: they are. trust it. it might not be sunshine and roses, but everything we experience: “good” or “bad” (also human constructs) present an opportunity for growth. those who exist in the past and make decisions based on judgement and comparing, they are the ones who are stuck in a rut. they are the ones who can’t move on. the universe flows without them…   Thomas Merton wrote, “You need not know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need, is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment and to embrace them with courage, faith, and hope.”

the lessons will continue until you master them. while the road to hell is paved with good intentions, do you wonder why the same things keep happening to you? do you keep having the same arguments? do you still befriend chaos? are you throwing glass on your path? do you get in arguments which aren’t yours? do you step into situations, thinking you’re advocating when in reality you’re holding back the real people who desperately need to step into their own power? how much of that “helping” is your ego? and then you wonder why it all feels so yucky and familiar? this is the Universe telling you to MYOB. leave it to the professionals. remember what happened to Dorothy in Wizard of Oz? she spoke up for everyone but herself and she got zip out of that black bag AND she was deserted. Just. Like. That. talk about road to hell. don’t be Dorothy: know what is yours and what’s not. Dorothy got swept up because of her own resistance to be accountable for her actions and boundaries: she wouldn’t curb Toto (don’t get me started on terriers)… then she got all upset and ran away. pick your own battles and you will indeed find there’s no place like home.

people do all sorts of things for all sorts of reasons. who knows why you did what you did, who knows why percival did what percival did. you have to take care of yourself. it’s that air mask on the plane analogy we know is true yet we might consider passé. the more you concentrate on percival, the less you’re taking care of yourself. you can’t save percival, change percival or persuade percival. this is well-documented: 95% of all our behaviors are subconscious based on experiences we were exposed to during our first five years of life. until we realize that, and until we understand that we’re already preprogrammed / conditioned to behave a certain way, there will never be change.

letting go is the same as letting in: clenched fists can’t make way or hold onto changes which are definitely coming our way. do you want to keep your fists and fight off the changes or do you want your hands ready to grasp the opportunities which have been trying to come your way…? if you’re slipping off a mountain shear, having your hands ready to take hold of a new anchor is the only thing which can save you.

It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live. –Marcus Aurelius

Happy New Year! It’s happening!

Thank you.

Missives from the Mat 16 — 10 Pointers (Lessons Learned) for #Teaching #Kids “How” to #Yoga

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Teaching yoga to children was my early passion as a yoga instructor. I began as a volunteer in 2007 at my kids’ elementary school. The PTA was in need of a teacher to take over one of the classes for its “Sixth Grade Electives” program which was a parent-run (and possibly exclusive to our school) endeavor. The concept was simple: give the 6th graders a choice of what to do with 50 minutes of one day a week for eight weeks in the second semester of their final year in elementary school.

The more memorable choices ranged from “journalism” where they would work on stories of interest, to “cake decorating.” Other classes included “fashion design” and “personal finance.” These classes are taught by actual people with businesses, degrees and certifications in the offerings. Yoga was offered after a couple kids aged out of the school and so did their parents and the PTA president at the time knew I was a practitioner with several years’ experience and that I had kids of my own, so natch, I was a fit.

I hemmed and hawed. I wasn’t sure. I was terrified.

Comedian John Mulaney has a great line about why 13-year-olds still terrify him, mostly because they will be able to make fun of you and be extremely accurate. So, that was me; I wasn’t terribly ready to face up to ten 12-year olds.

But my friend the PTA president persisted and I stepped up.

Fast forward several years, more encouragement from my PTA president friend, more volunteering, more experience and here I am: a certified yoga instructor with a bonus specialization in teaching kids.

I’ve been at it, as a paid professional, for almost three years now, and recently got picked up by the local parks department to teach two after-school classes at two different schools.

While I don’t have a degree in education, or teaching certificate, I am a communications professional and I make clear communication — regardless of the age of the participants — an absolute foundation of everything in which I engage.

Other than the absolute requirement that you have a sense of humor and the ability to be mentally flexible, here’s a list of what I’ve gleaned from teaching yoga to kids as a kid’s yoga teacher. It’s meant to help parents and teachers engage with all yoga kids:

  1. Truth. Active children will always be active children; putting them in a yoga class will not impel them to be less active, it will teach them (hopefully, if they are developmentally ready) to learn how to recognize what they are doing. So it’s all a matter of drawing attention to what isn’t “known.” I have adults in my classes who tell me, “I hear you in my head now, ‘belly button gently pulled toward the spine, shoulders back and reaching down toward the hips… release the jaw…’ and I never knew I wasn’t doing that until I heard you tell me to do it…”
  2. Habits. With particularly active kids, it will take time, consistency and patience to have the children understand how to recognize their urges to move, their inability to sit still, and their tendency to act on impulse. One 8-week session of yoga will not do it.
  3. Expectations. Don’t expect yoga to turn your kiddo into a Tibetan Monk. Just as you have your ups and downs, your good days and bad days, so do kids. Sometimes we as parents don’t really see our kids for who they really are. Sometimes we are the stressed-out ones, and they are just being  … kids. Remember children are supposed to be active and curious and lively and spontaneous. Maybe it’s the parent who needs the yoga, to look inward and give himself or herself some mindful breathing and relaxation, maybe the child is just being his or her normal. It’s all relative.
  4. Breath. Metaphors and visualization are CRITICAL to helping children understand the concept of mindful breath, which is the root of yoga. Always with the palms touching (that joins the two halves of the brain from a sensorial / neural standpoint) we begin our conscious breathing. Getting them to close their eyes is NOT important. They are children, remember. Their eyes are part of their experience. They are all about data collection. It’s good — as long as they’re still and aware, it’s all good. For some kids, closing their eyes means they press them together super hard and that creates tension in the face, then the jaw, then the neck… They look so uncomfortable. that’s NOT what we’re going for. I give all the little hints, “lightly touch the tip of your tongue behind your front teeth” but if I told you, an adult to do that, can you be reasonably assured you’re “doing it right”? So much bliss gets lost in details and our need to “do it right.” For kids, I’d rather have them look around or at a fixed spot on the floor and do their breaths than “struggle to meditate.” For some kids, sitting composed, as if about to levitate, and silently in “criss-cross applesauce with namaste hands” comes super naturally.  For those kids in my yoga classes, I use “Smell the flowers” (not “sniff,” because sniffs are short, like bunny breaths) and say “blow the bubbles” (the kinds of bubbles from a bubble wand, not “motor boat” bubbles in a pool). Before we begin, I remind them by asking, “What happens if we blow too hard through the bubble wand?” Invariably, the kids say, “THEY WILL BURST!” and they’re right. So we go with that. As they are blowing their bubbles, as repetitions increase, I ask them to count the number of bubbles forming from the wand… And then I ask them to blow out just one more bubble. … Maybe two more bubbles? Watch them float away as you smell the flowers to blow more bubbles. I’ve begun with a couple new ones too, “smell the warm cookie fresh from the oven … … cool the warm cookie fresh from the oven…” Either way, we’ve got lots of brain activity going on. After about the fifth round of “yoga breaths” I talk about “that floaty, dreamy feeling in the body… Do you feel like a feather drifting in the air? Like a bubble? Do you feel like you’re safe and so calm?” That’s the feeling we are going for, that’s the bliss I’m trying to impart to them. “And by doing your yoga breaths, no matter where you are — if you’re afraid or sad or surprised or mad or even super happy, mindfully using your yoga breaths will help you feel floaty like a feather…” I say this a lot, during class, but most of all during “savasana” which is our “yoga rest” time.  Using that word that we see so much of these days: “mindfully,” is critical in helping all of us make the link between a sensation (state of mind) and breath (the body doing something it does anyway but now doing it consciously). Getting any of us to slow down our breathing and notice that floaty feeling is the magic of yoga and mindfulness.
  5. Boundaries. Lots of kids in all my classes talk about their stresses. STRESS? FOR A KID?! Man, as adults in this world, we have got to get our stuff together. No child should even KNOW that the word “STRESS” exists. Are we foisting our stuff on to them? We need to save our stories about being backstabbed by a friend, or tales of woe from the office, or the latest headlines for our peer groups. We would all do better to be more mindful of keeping the flow of information from the kids up to us. Goodness knows we don’t want to know everything President Obama knows, do we? No. Say no to that. So let the kids be kids. Answer their questions in a simple way. I have a band-aid on my face from recent Mohs surgery to remove a basal cell from my cheek. All the kids asked about it, and I said as simply as I could: “I have a cut on my face that a doctor gave me to take a boo-boo off my face. So the doctor fixed everything and I’m ok.” Inevitably the next question was, “How did you get the boo-boo?” So I said, “I believe I got it because I didn’t wear sunscreen. So when your Mommy or Daddy wants you to wear sunscreen, you need to let them put it on you.” And then lots of conversations started about sunscreen, relatives who are doctors, going to the pool, swimsuits, beach towels, which beach they love, seeing dolphins, then then I steered that into doing dolphin pose and we were somehow back on plan.
  6. Sharing. One day after playing a particularly arduous game of “rainbow tunnel” I asked the kids to sit on a line in the gym and slow down their breathing by counting the bubbles we were blowing. When they were calm, I asked if anyone had any questions. One asked, “Why do we do yoga?” And I was about to answer, but I paused and let a kiddo answer. It was amazing. The responder said, “because it’s good for us, to learn about ourselves.” Yeah. I couldn’t have answered it that way. I would’ve said “for flexibility” or “for balance”  (which were amongst some of the children’s answers) but I was really not at all prepared for that answer. So sharing time in the yoga circle is really important because it builds empathy, peer recognition and mirroring. One of them answered, “for stress” and then the sharing really began. Some kids talk about: their bigger siblings heading off to college; hearing parents talking about money; parents traveling and the kids feeling like they are having too much put upon them by the babysitter when the parents do travel. (One actually said, “I get scared too when my parents leave, I want the babysitter to take care of me, not just ask me to help out.” I encouraged that child to talk to his parents before they travel.) Some speak about their siblings’ lack of boundaries and physical altercations with their siblings or school mates and how doing their “yoga breaths”(flowers and bubbles) helps them so much. Other kids talk about classmates, even in the yoga classes, who are domineering, interruptive, and make them feel small. Other kids talk about going up to their rooms and doing yoga breathing when their baby sibling is throwing a tantrum.
  7. Feelings. Let the kids talk about their feelings — so often we want the kids to “relax,””get over it,” and “move on.” As an adult, you take a pause for a second with me, breathe in, and relate: How annoyed and condescended to do YOU feel when someone tells you to move on or to get over it? Do you feel rushed, unheard, dismissed, insignificant? So might your kid. The point is, we all have feelings and feelings are just sensations. Sensations are fleeting. Sometimes we get stuck in a rut, but even those can pass. The sooner we can acknowledge and safely allow anyone’s feelings, the sooner we can process them. I’ve had situations in my classes where one child feels diminished or put-upon by another child. I stop things almost as soon as I can, I actually get down to their eye level and say “namaste” to the child and we talk about it. There is real healing going on during those moments: the perceived brusque child is NOT chastised, but rather has a moment to step back and explain herself and the offended child has a moment to hear and feel heard. Sometimes we just bump into each other during a rousing game of “musical mats” (The. Best. Game. Ever.). We always end a quick chat with a namaste to the group and go back to what we were doing. The namaste to me, is like the wave of thanks in traffic when someone lets you in a lane or you let someone in ahead of you. It’s just a kindness — a pause, a moment to simply acknowledge each other. Too much of that, our seeing of one another, is missing these days.
  8. Engage. Just like you like to be asked about your day and you like to hear about your kid’s day, asking about something specific, like yoga is no different. Ask open-ended questions and I get it that some parents might not know what to ask. So here are some ideas: Q: Did you play any games today? Q: Can you show me how to do “downward dog”? Q: How do you do a yoga breath? Q: What does “namaste” mean? (I tell the kids that it means “I am good and I see that you are good too.”) Q: Did you read a story in yoga? What was it about?  If you have a kiddo in a class I teach, ask about: “Teddy Dog” or “musical mats” or “the cricket during yoga nap” or the “thumb piano” or “Jacob’s ladder” or the “balancing birds” or the “sneezing giraffe toy” or what about when we play “super kids” and the things we rescue when we put on our scarves. Ask them what we do during “cat” and “cow” pose (it’s not quiet). Have them show you how to sit in “namaste” or ask them to teach you how to “smell the flowers and blow the bubbles…”
  9. Presence. Give yourself a gift and really listen to him when he answers you. Give her your full attention, even if it’s for five minutes. Let him teach you. Let her show you. Do the pose with your child. If you want to meditate with your child or have her sit with you in a few minutes of quiet, I recommend you light a candle and have her focus on the flame with you. There’s something about the animation of the flame, the unpredictability of it all that keeps everyone entranced. I am not permitted to light a candle during my in-school classes for obvious reasons. I’m repeating because it’s worthy: So when you ask, make sure you’re really able to listen without interrupting; sometimes these concepts are hard for a child to impart to an adult.
  10. Affirm. Back to point number 1: You Must See Your Child Exactly As  Your Child Is. If she really doesn’t like yoga, I’m not insulted. Put her in Tae Kwon Do, or dance. I know I’m bringing my A Game each time we meet. I’m naturally very observant, and as a mother, I know I have to be ready to shift gears in a microsecond. As a teacher, I do shift gears because all it takes is one kiddo to divert the “plan” of class: Say one kiddo is acting like a bumble bee and no one else is, but that one bee won’t stop buzzing. In a traditional classroom, that bee is neutralized, told to sit down and stop buzzing. Good luck with that. In yoga, that bee is “followed”: we will all start buzzing and it’s great. After a minute or two, when I see some kids slow down, we stop buzzing and put our hands on our hearts and feel our lungs eventually slow down from all their amazing work of making us busy bees. Affirming someone’s higher energy gets all the “willies” out and we have a great time. I’ve started classes with two minutes of full-on laughing or 30 “mountain climbers” (which are now being requested, so we’ve got some budding Cross-Fitters out there…) or being “washing machines” (seated in criss-cross applesauce with cactus arms up and twisting side to side very quickly with the breath) to wash our hoodies. If the kids are still active, we put the hoodies in the “dryer” and we tumble our arms as we bow up and down and then we check the dryer to put on our nice warm dry hoodie.

By no means is this an exhaustive list. It’s just my top 10; many other ways are helpful for creating presence with your little yogi. I love to teach kids, they are the best teachers: they show me that even a “grown” woman is a big kid at times… and that it’s nice to not have all the answers.

Thank you and namaste. Especially to that PTA president and those first kids (who are now sophomores in college!) all those years ago…