Last week, we had the pleasure of hosting a group of special needs high school students for a yoga class at our facility in Stamford, CT.
I had been looking forward to the event all week. But to be honest, there was a tinge of trepidation for me about it. I wanted the kids to feel comfortable in our space. Welcoming new people into my business is, for me, like welcoming someone into my home.
So as the students arrived I found myself holding my breath, hyper focusing on details like the strength of the lights and the temperature in the room to ensure that the kids would feel at ease. The instructor who was leading the class, Mike Cawley, greeted them as if he had just hopped off the bus with him himself. That was when I knew it was time to step back and let him lead.
So I assumed my position in the corner, ready to take some photos, 100% unsure of what was about to unfold. I watched as some of the kids sat on the floor, while others clung to their mentors. A few sat alone tasked with the tedious task of removing their shoes and socks as they had been told.
But somehow, before I knew it, the students all formed a semi-circle around Mike. He had their attention. And mine. I found myself still holding my breath in anticipation. How was he going to make a concept like yoga relatable for this group?
And then he asked the magic question.
“Who likes cookies?” he inquired, greeted by hands raised and giggles and wiggles in place. He proceeded by guiding them to imagine that someone had just placed a tray of freshly baked cookies in front of them and now they were going to smell them.
And just like that, the entire room – adults and all – inhaled the most audible breath.
“And now,” he continued, “we’re going to pretend that we have a birthday cake in front of us and we’re going to blow out all the candles.”
And just like that, the entire room – adults and all – exhaled all the air in their lungs.
So it continued. For 45 minutes, prompted by the cues of “smell the cookies” and “blow out the candles” the group of students took the deepest breaths in tandem, moving their way through a version of yoga designed just for them.
But as I sat there, forgetting to take pictures, with tears in my eyes about what was unfolding around me, I realized that this wasn’t just about Mike meeting these students where they were.
It was about reminding us that regardless of our circumstances, we all hold some very near and dear things common. Things that in our current culture of debate and opinion, may seem insignificant, yet are anything but.
Because the fact that we all know and love what a freshly baked batch of cookies smells like means we share some common ground. A connection. Something that links us despite our differences. Something that joins us at our core.
So let’s remember that. That underneath all of our beliefs and experiences, we are a group of human beings whose hearts are warmed by the scent of freshly baked cookies.
And who blow out the candles each year in anticipation of what’s to come.