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Lessons for a Movement Teacher in Isolation

At this point the studio where I teach has been closed for over a month and we’re about a month into a Stay Home order. My initial panic drove me to get my teaching set up online via Zoom, move the sofa bed into the garage to create a home studio space in our 1000 square foot house, and to dive deep into social media and technology to get my classes marketed, and get registration and the overall class experience streamlined. I spent countless hours on zoom meetings and texts with colleagues around the world to help them also get up and running with online sessions and new booking and payment systems (see my post Zooming to Get Up and Running with Online Teaching). Did I mention I’m not really a “tech person”? It’s amazing what a little bit of sheer panic can push one to do.

And then a week and a half ago I crashed. I was teaching two to five hours or GYROKINESIS® classes every day, seven days a week, working long hours on the computer, and homeschooling my ten year old son. I’d been having a burst of blogging productivity, since so many colleagues were asking the same questions and it seemed the most efficient way to communicate more broadly. Through all of this I was making a good effort at keeping up with my own workouts and doing a ballet barre every day. I was hit by an overwhelming fatigue, having dizzy spells, losing my voice, and feeling really down. I’ve been through bouts of fatigue before (see my post The Sneaky Epidemic Effecting Mind Body Fitness Trainers), but this one caught me off guard because I wasn’t even leaving my house, except to run or go for a walk in the woods, so I hadn’t expected to be so tired.

While I didn’t want to cancel any of my scheduled classes, in part because I’d committed to offering regular classes every day to create a feeling of consistency for my students in a time of so much upheaval, but also because I really need the income, what I did do is to take a couple of days at the weekend when I just taught my one class each day, and then didn’t pressure myself to do my ballet barre, workout, or really do anything at all productive. This was easy enough because I was too exhausted to do much but lie on the couch and read. The hard part was putting the brakes on my computer time. I’d worked up a whirlwind of social media and tech projects that felt really, really important and urgent, and I found I had to consciously disengage from all of that. After a weekend of letting myself slack off I felt a lot better, refreshed, and ready to get back into the groove for the next however-long-this-takes.

Stepping back for even just a short while let me reflect a bit about this new, temporary normal. Here’s what I found.

Weekends are still necessary. Even though we don’t leave the house and it seems like we must be relaxing because we’re at home, there still needs to be a defined weekend. While I’m still teaching one class a day on Saturdays and Sundays, I’ve limited it to that. We stay in bed late those mornings and make a fun weekend breakfast, like pancakes or waffles, before I teach. Then after my 11am class the rest of the day is chill out time. We might go for a hike, but I take time off of my workouts, don’t try to take on computer projects, and let my incoming messages and texts sit for a bit so I can take some of the pressure off.

This is no time to burn ourselves out. When we do go back to working in-person there’s still going to be a high risk of transmission of the virus. If we drag our sorry, adrenal fatigued, worn out butts back into the studio our compromised immune systems won’t be doing us or our clients any favors.

I can figure it out. I’ve been extremely stressed over all the technical aspects of this new way of working. I’ve never been the “tech savvy” type, never one to just “play around with it”until I figure out how something works. But so far in over the past five weeks I’ve figured out how to:

  • Teach classes on Zoom

  • Integrate my booking and payment systems with Zoom for a seamless, automated process that requires little admin time

  • Record my online classes without recording participants

  • Download those classes and edit them in iMovie

  • Upload them to Gumroad without allowing them to be seen publicly and then link them to a password protected page on my website so that clients can pay to stream the classes (okay, so the last part my software engineer partner had to help with, but I at least got that far and knew what I needed to ask to get the rest done)

And I also figured out what “stories” actually are on Facebook and Instagram, which may seem silly, but gives you some context for my previous level of online skills.

So now I know that I can figure this stuff out. Now I can use these tools that I might have found a bit intimidating before I was so desperate that I was forced to just dive in.

We’re all facing some heavy emotions right now. I’ve been meeting with colleagues from around North America and Europe online a couple of times a week to work through some of the issues we’re facing in the industry, as well as just connecting with friends and colleague individually. What’s become apparent is that people are dealing with levels of deep sadness or even grief right now, even if they personally haven’t lost a loved one to COVID-19. Friends have told me of being overwhelmed by sudden feelings of loss of loved ones that happened a year or more ago. Some just feel, well, really, really sad.

My dad is a retired therapist and I often think of something he told me once, that “every loss is all loss”. Meaning, when we experience a loss we don’t just feel the emotion of that particular loss, but also the emotions and grief of all of our past losses come back to us as well. All of us are experiencing some type of loss now. Whether the literal loss of a loved one, the looming fear of loss of someone close to us who may be an essential worker, the loss of our job, income, studio, daily routine, sense of security, or whatever it is that touches us each personally. No one I know is untouched by this. So by acknowledging the greater emotions that flood in when we find our lives rocked by this level of turmoil we can hopefully cut ourselves some slack.

There are lots of silver linings when we take the time to look and appreciate them. I’ve found a few nice surprises through this experience.

  • First, I found that I love teaching online GYROKINESIS® classes. I have students from all over the world in my classes, some I worked with years ago and who live far away but can now join my classes nearly every day. I love the continuity of teaching GYROKINESIS® every day. In “real life” I only get to teach one class a week. I’m limited in what I can do, because once a week isn’t really frequent enough to make the changes and develop the concepts needed to progress as deep as I’d like to take people into the work. When people are coming several times a week I can pull threads through over the days, get more and more creative, and present more variety, since I’m not always having to focus on the basics.

  • I’m getting lots of family time. Which, with three of us all trying to work or do school in a very small house may not sound like such a great thing, but really it is. We’re all home for dinner together. we get lots of long walks. Sometimes we all just cozy up by the fire and work on our own projects. I’m hoping after all of this is over we can keep some of those nice moments in our daily routine.

  • Our community is amazing. The support and kindness I’ve seen amongst my colleagues is heartening and uplifting. There are so many smart, talented people I’m so fortunate to know. And realizing that I’m not having to solve all the problems I’m facing on my own, but that there’re all these goodhearted, capable people and that we’ve all got each other’s backs right now is a really good feeling.

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