The first girl off the bus strides through the Boys and Girls Club
excited to get to yoga class
until another student stops her to say
Ms. G won't be teaching, Ms. D will.
The girl slumps, all the energy draining from her body.
I run to catch her and apologize that Ms. G is not here,
and I promise to keep it light and easy, no pressure to participate.
Everyone is disappointed that we aren't going to finish watching the Happy movie,
groaning as they roll out their mats.
"What's a rebel?" I ask.
"Someone who doesn't do what she's told," says a girl, lounging by her backpack.
So, if we want to be rebels, we have to learn how to stand tall,
to be at ease in the face of conflict.
We practice mountain pose.
We shift our weight and notice the reactions in the muscles.
We try to find our center, where we are tall and most relaxed.
Then we practice lifting the arms without raising the shoulders.
A boy in the back yells, "Contest!"
I am immediately game, confident of a win.
But as the minutes wear on, I realize there is no possible way for me to win.
Feeling my shoulders starting to cramp, I give in,
and we continue with class, though nearly half choose to chat instead.
Finally in corpse pose, everyone is silent, even the three who are left standing,
arms held high for nearly 40 minutes now,
their faces twisting with pain and determination.
The bell rings and the three walk to the bus, arms up
their friends helping with coats and backpacks.
The girl who had been so disappointed
comes to me to say she's been under a lot of stress
trying to figure out what's the best college for her.
Only on the bike ride home
do I think of what I wish I would have told her:
It's not where you go that matters, but what you do once you get there.
The irony of having fallen so quickly to competition
in a class that practices non-competition
doesn't occur to me until after dinner.