As a native Philadelphian, I should have known “Gonna Fly Now” coming on shuffle was a special omen for the day as we approached Pacca school in Izcuchacha, just 45 minutes outside of Cusco. Our day with the Pacca chicas started out normal as we taught our regular morning English classes; but when we made our way into the dining room to eat lunch, Cusco’s infamous clouds opened up wide and liquid sunshine started to make it’s way down. Ultimate Frisbee in the wind and rain? Maybe not the best idea.
While eating lunch in the dining hall, we started to talk with the teachers about alternatives to playing outside. Rosa looked at us at said, “Can you teach the girls cheerleading?”
Kaitlyn and I sat there for a moment, awkwardly. I suggested yoga and Kaitlyn’s optimism spilled out with an enthusiastic, “Maybe we can put a cheer together, something like, ‘si se puede’ stomp-stomp-clap-clap-stomp-
For those of you reading this blog who do not know us personally, Kaitlyn and I may dress up nicely on occasion now that we are in our early and late twenties, but we are straight up true tomboys at heart, always have been and always will be, without a doubt. We both share a great respect for the acrobatics of cheerleading, but if we actually had to teach cheerleading, these tomboy #chicasdinámicas would fail miserably every time.
After we spoke with Rosa, Kaitlyn and I quickly brainstormed all of the indoor teambuilding games that we could come up with. Lunch came to a close and we made our way into the aula (classroom) and settled the girls down for yoga. As a yoga instructor, I prefer to start all classes by chanting the mantra ‘OM’, as it is a special way to unite the group. Judging by the giggles during meditation and unsure how the girls would respond, I opted out of the chant.
Teaching yoga to children and teenagers is a whole different story than teaching adults, and by whole different story, I mean a lot more challenging and it requires a LOT of patience. To keep the girls engaged, in the fierce pose of Virabhadrasana II, I had them imagine they were shooting a bow and arrow; in Vrikshasana, I challenged the girls to close their eyes; I even threw in a fun figure four balance pose and challenged the girls to attempt the first stage of Astavakrasana by having them stuff their shoulder under their knee and straighten the top leg.
As the liquid sunshine continued to patter down on the aula’s roof that afternoon, what we initially planned to be a 20 minute yoga class quickly turned into nearly a full hour. Walking around the room, assisting the girls in the asanas, Kaitlyn and I were overwhelmed and energized by their enthusiasm and excitement to learn yoga. The girls proudly shouted out with big smiles on their faces, “Así Profe? Así?” (Like this Teacher? Like this?)”
After the asanas, I settled the girls down for a restful Savasana, and when they woke anew and came back to a seated meditation, I decided to give the mantra ‘OM’ a chance. Despite the giggles and a few pairs of opened eyes, I chanted out one ‘OM’ as an example. I invited the girls to join me on the next round, and as I led them through a preparatory exhalation, I began to hear coughs throughout the room, and on the inhale girls were still clearing their throats. I opened my mouth and what started as one lone voice in that aula was quickly joined by 45 other chicas dinámicas. It was hands down, the most unifying and magical ‘OMs’ that I have ever been a part of.
After yoga, Kaitlyn organized the girls into various #communication and #teamwork activities such as the human knot, lining up in age order without speaking and finding their shoes after we mixed them up in a pile in the shortest time possible. The time was flying and with ten minutes left we brought the girls together in a big circle. To match the weather outside, Kaitlyn led is in creating rain and thunderstorm sounds in the classroom. The girls followed cautiously at first, slowly joining in by rubbing their hands and snapping their fingers. But then like magic, before we knew it, we had everyone dancing around the room in a circle, stomping, clapping and singing like free birds dancing in the rain. All hesitation, caution and shyness were thrown to the wind.
There in that classroom, huddled around in a circle, arms over each other’s shoulders, each and every one of us experienced and felt deep down in our core what it means to be a chica dinámica. We are fierce like warriors, grounded like trees, strong enough to dance around the edges of gravity, fearless to try the ‘impossible’ and united forever as one. We ended the class together with a loud rendition of the barra and as Kaitlyn and I left the aula we were buzzing from the girls’ energy and enthusiasm. Making our way back to Cusco, hailing a mototaxi like a New Yorker on the side of the road in Izcuchaka, I thought back to the Rocky song and what being a #chicadinámica does for these girls in Cusco.
“Getting strong now, won’t be long now, getting strong now – Gonna fly now, flying high now, gonna fly, fly, fly.”