Honor the Transitions

Recently in a new yoga class, I heard the teacher say, ‘Honor the transitions.’  She went on to say how important it is to be mindful  of how one moves from one pose to the next.  This is a time for your body to ‘reset’ itself after intense stretching or working of muscles on one side before you move to the other. The transition is important for preventing injury and gaining maximum benefit from the poses both before and after it.

That short sentence, Honor the Transitions,  got me thinking about transitions beyond the yoga mat, mainly because they are all around me right now.  My own child, a junior in college, is transitioning to another country for studying abroad this semester.  A close friend just sent her firstborn off to college. Another friend’s child has changed schools.  My students and I are moving from summer to fall,  from holidays to school days.

As I think about transitions,  I remember a coupIe of years ago I had a young teacher completing her internship experience with me.  Her university sent a supervisor out to observe her on a few occasions.  She was a natural in the classroom and had a well-prepared lesson, so about the only critique he had for her after the first observation was this:  Work on your transitions.   He went on to explain, and I agreed with him completely, that this is the hardest part of classroom management for an inexperienced teacher. Nothing in the textbooks can teach you how to do this; you must get in front of the students and practice.  You learn how to do the transitions in the classroom with the students.    New teachers have the tendency to either move too quickly through them, not anticipating the time the students need to shift from one activity to the next,  or they fail to give specific directions opening the door for chaos to erupt.

Here the classroom and the yoga mat are reflecting life back to me.  Transitions should be approached with time, space, and intent, recognizing what was before and what is to come.  They are also messy –  in and out of the classroom. Even with the best of plans, the transitions sometimes yield up confusion and turmoil,  at least temporarily.The place where we most feel the loss of control is in the transition points. Only the oldest, wisest among us are really good at them and that’s because they’ve learned from  experiences – many of those difficult ones.

If you’ve walked a child into kindergarten or moved one into a dorm room, you know the conflicting emotions of grieving an ending and celebrating a beginning at the same time. If you have bought car insurance for a sixteen-year-old or a corsage for a prom date, you know the feeling of ‘first time’ and ‘end of an era’ at the same time.   Those rites of passage are worth attention, not just for the pictures to post to social media; but to pause in gratitude, awe, and humility at what has gone before and to prepare for what is to come.

Both as mother and teacher, I’ve barreled through many transitions without time for myself or those around me to segue from one thing to the next and I’ve entered ‘the next thing’ too often without reflecting upon what I left behind. My lesson this week from my classroom and my yoga mat:  Honor the transitions.