SAMOHI — Far away from the Los Angeles Coliseum and the confetti, there was a dimly lit classroom in Santa Monica that played home to a very different kind of Lakers celebration on Wednesday.
This one involved meditation and a pair of scissors.
Victoria Rosner, a volunteer yoga instructor at Santa Monica High School, followed through on a promise she made to her students at the start of the school year. When the Lakers won the championship, she’d told them — using the word “when” and not “if” — she would cut off most of her hair and donate it to charity.
“I keep pretending it’s not really happening but here it is,” she said before her haircut, walking into her classroom in purple and gold sandals that sported the Lakers’ logo.
Her flowing black hair, which extended past the middle of her back, was tied up into six separate ponytails that would soon be shorn away and donated to Locks of Love, a charity that provides wigs to underprivileged children stricken with cancer or alopecia.
“It’s really just to inspire them to do good,” she said. “They’re about to be let off for the summer and maybe this shows them that they can go out and do something positive. Or, if nothing else, it at least maybe plants that seed.”
At around the same time that the Lakers mounted their double-decker busses, class began, 40 kids lining themselves up onto yoga mats for a meditation ceremony. To soothing sounds and scented candles, they lied on their backs and closed their eyes as Rosner’s yoga partner, Hilary Kern, guided them through a relaxation process. The “Zen Master,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson, would have felt right at home.
“The theme of today’s class is service,” Kern told the room between breathing exercises. “Some of you may know what your service is. Some of you have no idea, and that’s OK. … If you have an image of your service, wiggle your toes so I know you’re still with me.”
Toes wiggled. One student became a little too relaxed, and snored.
At 11:40 a.m., while the Lakers were making their way down Figueroa Street toward the 95,000 fans awaiting them at the Coliseum, these students gathered into a circle and the scissors came out.
“Raise your hand if you’re nervous,” Rosner said, and most of the girls’ hands shot up.
“I see you sweating — you’re nervous,” one of them shouted back.
Rosner smiled and explained the importance of giving. Then, a girl named Neda Naimi volunteered to be the first student to cut off a strand. She’d been with the yoga program since it began two years ago, when 30 kids signed up for Rosner’s first yoga class. More than 200 have already signed up for next fall’s.
Naimi explained her service — that she planned on volunteering at a local shelter this summer — and then began. As the scissors grinded, jaws dropped and smiles spread across the room. One girl cupped a hand over her mouth.
Five more students followed, each of them naming a service that they intended for the summer — a boy wanting to teach art to children, a girl simply promising to cut down on her long showers in order to conserve water — before chopping off another ponytail.
In the end, a pile of Rosner’s hair — six chunks, each measuring 12 inches long — rested on a yoga mat and was then placed into a plastic bag. A professional hairdresser from Locks of Love will soon cut off two more inches and then style it into a fashionable wig.
“It looks cute!” one girl said of Rosner’s new do, which now extended only to her neck. “I love it!” said another.
And then one more approached, asking to borrow a ruler. She wanted to measure off 12 inches of her own hair to see how it might look if she did the same.
“Not to sound arrogant, but I always got compliments from people saying ‘I wish I had your hair,’” Rosner said. “That’s what gave me the idea to do this. I wanted to do something positive with that hair. I’m very blessed with my life and I have everything I could want. But you can’t keep it unless you give it away.”
When asked about her beloved Lakers, Rosner beamed: “I love winners; I love people that set a goal, that say ‘We’re going to go do it.’ And that’s how I live my life, by trying to lead by example, and I don’t ask of others what I don’t ask for myself. And one of my mantras with the kids this year was ‘You can’t think your way into better living; you have to act your way into better thinking.’ I repeated that to them.”
And as the Lakers celebrated in the Coliseum, Rosner — called Miss V by her students — took one last picture with her entire fifth-period class before sending the kids off for summer vacation.
“Enjoy your summer. Sleep in,” said Miss V, whose first name, of course, means victory.