This time of year at work is particularly tough. Not anything big so that you can point to one instance, but everybody’s just tired. The students are tired, the teachers are tired, and we all sorely need the mental break that comes with the beginning of the spring semester. It’s like a reset button; suddenly, it’s like you’ve zoomed forward and now you’re only staring down a semester until summer vacation. In reality, you’ve been working your ass off for months and you’ve still got five to go, but that mental shift is important, and I’m ready for it. I’m ready to start teaching Hamlet, though I do love the book we’ve just finished (The Perks of Being a Wallflower). And I’m ready for that day – it happens every spring – where my students shift from asking questions like “how do I start?” or “I don’t know what to write” to just checking that their thought makes sense. I love that day. That day makes me so happy, because I can see their confidence in the skills they’ve built. I love walking over to them, listening to this long, thorough thought process, and then simply saying “yes.” It is the best day.
But a close second was yesterday. As you know, I’ve been doing Wanderlust’s 21 Day Yoga Challenge with Bird and the brother. I’m doing this because even though I’ve been doing yoga for a long time, I tend to stick with the “Beginner 2” level on Down Dog. Partly because I’m scared to try new poses without an instructor – and rightly so, because you can really fuck yourself up if you’re doing it wrong – and partly because I wasn’t really concerned with growing my yoga practice; I just wanted to manage anxiety. But as I’ve gotten into a regular routine and figured out how often I need to do it for my mental health, I’ve started thinking about how to challenge myself more.
I started working on Crow Pose(above) about five months ago, and it’s a bitch. I just could not get it. I was so terrified of falling over on my face that I never even tried to lift my feet off the floor. I kept thinking that it was all about arm strength, so I’d try it, not be able to do it, and wait a month until I had conditioned my muscles some more. I read how to do it on like a million yoga sites, and still couldn’t get it.
Last weekend, I had the brilliant idea to watch some youtube tutorials on it, and it was like a whole new world. Every single one I watched made sure to point out that it was not actually about strength, but about balance. I also learned how to modify the pose so that it’s easier to get my feet off the floor, and where to look so that it was easier to stay steady. These are the kinds of tips that I don’t get when I’m not going to a class, and the main reason why I’m doing the yoga challenge. I didn’t get up, but I’ve kept trying every day this week, and yesterday, I held it for a breath. That doesn’t seem like much, but that is a huge achievement. It is the most difficult pose I’ve ever tried (well, except for like the three new ones the app threw at me yesterday, because I’VE BEEN DOING THE INTERMEDIATE LEVEL!!) and I’m super proud of myself. Now that I know I can do it, I’m looking forward to being able to hold it for a few seconds.
I’m trying to bring this into my classroom and into my self-talk. It’s important to me to tell both my students and myself that it’s possible. It takes work, it might be frustrating, and you might feel lost, but one day it will click, and it will feel amazing. I’m going to add to my anxiety check list to read this post when I’m feeling overwhelmed or like I can’t do whatever it is I need to do. It might not help, but part of the struggle with managing anxiety is remembering that it’s about the long game, not instant gratification(though that’s nice too). It’s about slowly building up your resilience and resources and reservoirs. It’s about finding a strategy that you can commit to for the rest of your life, because that’s what we’re talking about. The rest of your life. And a little encouragement from myself has proven to be really powerful: in the same way that I know what to say to convince myself that the worst will happen, I also know how to talk to myself when I’m having a hard time. I just have to remember to use my powers for good. Anxiety Girl! I fight crime! (JK guys.)