Finding space to laugh can be difficult, especially in the middle of a pandemic, and even more so when the back-to-school panic starts to set in. It’s not that going back to school in the pre-COVID world was easy. There was anxiety there as well, but it was tampered by the fact that (at least by now) I could remind myself that “You’ve done this every year. You’ve got this.” And I would feel a little better.
I can’t say that this year. None of us can.
Just like the end of the school year was like nothing we had ever seen before, we are now going into this new school year and it is like nothing we have ever seen before. In a way we’re ALL first year teachers this year and that’s scary.
I suppose that one thing we veteran teachers have going for us is that we tend to have a better understanding of how important self-care is for us to thrive (usually). Just like all of our anxieties may be ramped up to 11, we must now ramp up self-care to an 11 in order to match it. After all, it seems like no one else is going to look out for us teachers. We’re going to have to look out for ourselves the best we can. Check in on each other, sure, but also it’s important to check in with yourself.
There are a number of ways to go about this and one method that has proven effective for me is yoga — when I can be consistent about it anyway. Earlier this summer I decided to do just that.
My go-to yogi is Adriene. She has a channel on Youtube, so it’s easy to unroll my mat in the middle of my living room and find the video that is just right for me in terms of length (usually 15 minutes) and intensity (usually pretty light) on a given day. Her voice is soothing to me, calm and compassionate, as she asks me to “find what feels good.” But perhaps the aspect of her channel I like the most is the fact that often she is doing yoga with her dog, Benji, nestled nearby.
My own yoga practice is not too different. As I start to move with my breath I can already feel myself relax. As I progress, stretching my arms overhead, a sense of calm washes over me because I am not thinking about anything but breathing and movement. Just as I am starting to find my “zen” in child’s pose, my dog, Cooper, decides to join me.
“Why is my human sprawled on the floor like that,” his big, brown eyes seem to ask. Cooper always seems to want to investigate when I’ve made it to the floor, sprawled out and twisted. Perhaps it is curiosity or maybe concern. I can’t explain to him that I am just in the moment with my enjoyment of the supine spinal twist stretch — trying to maintain my moment of zen.
Let me tell you, it is difficult to be “zen” when your dog decides to start licking your extended and open palm.
The first time he did this, I got annoyed. I try to ignore him, maintain my breathing and sense of zen. However, he is persistent and keeps licking at my hand. Before too long I find myself giggling and wiggling my fingers at him — unsure myself if I am trying to scratch his chin affectionately or making a futile and pathetic attempt at shooing him away. “Knock it off dog! I’m trying to be calm!”
Which, that phrase alone probably tells you my calm is already gone. You just can’t be zen with a dog licking your hand and giving you kisses. It may not be zen, but there is something inside me that releases when I just embrace the ridiculousness of the situation and let the laughter spill out. I am lying sprawled out on my living room floor, my dog is lapping at my hand, and I cannot help but to laugh.
It is a good feeling, perhaps even better than the zen I was trying to maintain. My burst of laughter startles Cooper and he finally hops away, tail wagging, and eventually returning to his own self-care practice: taking a nap.
Was it a relaxing yoga session? No. Was it self-care? Most definitely.