30 Days of Yoga with Adriene: Kindness

Adriene started her newest 30 days of Yoga journey—Dedicate—two days ago. I’ve chosen to dedicate myself to this round of yoga while she’s putting them out there. Although I have started to pay more attention to my body by acknowledging the things I eat and the way I move, I’m not interested in yoga for the physical movement alone. I’m in it for the mental and emotional and yes—spiritual—benefits.

Kenoza Lake, Haverhill, Ma.

During the final few days of last semester, I found myself following 10 or 20-minute yoga videos after grading a slew of difficult essays, and while wandering whether my students had learned anything at all—and whether I’d been an awful teacher or a good one. My shoulders tensed up, I’d get really angry, and I’d suddenly be pulling off my socks and finding Adriene online for some much-needed relaxation.

When I started getting back into yoga last year, my goal was to learn how to have more fun, and then it was just to relax, but this year I have a new goal: Kindness. If my students didn’t learn enough last semester, it could be due to my frustration that they were struggling. Sure, some of it was through no fault of my own—tardiness, absences, turning assignments in late, or not at all—but some of it wasn’t their fault either, due to the gas explosions at the start of the semester, which left some of my students without power or a house, and caused massive traffic throughout Lawrence. I was patient at first, but as the semester wore on, and students became hostile, I realized there was a problem, and I didn’t know how to reset. It seemed like everything I tried—engagement, empathy, no-excuses discipline—made things worse.

Teaching can be stressful, and sometimes even teachers need a break.

I love Adriene’s positivity and optimism: If this hurts, then try this posture. If that doesn’t work for you, then do what you can. She calls her viewers beautiful and strong and committed. Granted, she never has to meet us and put up with our bullshit or negativity in person, but still, I admire her for that unending fountain of happiness and often wish I could absorb some into my bloodstream.

I have a friend who is a great writer and editor, and on my essays she is always saying, “Save these froggies for another essay,” or “This is great! But how’d we get here?” And every thought that she leaves is positive and useful, preventing me from feeling attacked. I try to do this on student papers, but sometimes I get it into my head (and sometimes it’s true) that they didn’t read the directions, or threw it together the night before, and this shows. I have a hard time pulling back my irritation that they didn’t follow my advice to start early and revise. And then I start taking it personally.

With Yoga I hope to center myself in kindness, because so long as I treat my students with respect and empathy, it’s possible they will do the same. But even if they don’t, I can’t respond in the way that they do: I need to continue to follow kindness, and if students choose to drop their work or duck out of class, then that becomes their problem and not mine. This is a difficult, yet poignant fact: the kindest thing to do, in the instance of a community college class, is to pour my focus on those who continue to show up.

If you want to practice Adriene’s 30 days with me and people around the world, you can check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AFrWtw7YNlA

What do you do to stay relaxed or patient? What are some of your goals this year?

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