Updated: Nov 8
Since qualifying as a yoga teacher and founding VetYogi in 2017, I have dedicated significant time to sharing the benefits of yoga and meditation primarily with fellow members of the veterinary profession, so it almost goes without saying just how passionate I am about using our mind-body-breath connection to improve our wellbeing.
Yoga started as a hobby and an intermittent practice for me, but became a way to balance my physical, mental and emotional health as I recognised just how much better I felt the more times I made an effort to get on my yoga mat. In fact, whilst working away as a locum in Australia and NZ, my yoga mat became my little island of refuge that I could take anywhere with me, and I now don’t often go travelling without one! Yoga gives me plenty of benefits personally, such as improved strength and flexibility, rehabilitation for an old back injury, a noticeable reduction with my proneness to insomnia, to name but a few, and meditation helps me to give my usually whirling mind some much-needed downtime and space. However, I can honestly also credit my regular yoga and meditation practice with helping me to be a better vet, as I take what I learn on the mat (patience, non-judgement, perspective, etc.) and apply them to daily life. It’s also fair to say that I am not sure I would still be working in clinical practice if I did not have these tools to help me to manage the fatigue, stress, and emotional challenges which seem to sadly come with the job.
"I can honestly also credit my regular yoga and meditation practice with helping me to be a better vet."
It can be pretty difficult to find the motivation for any form of exercise when one is tired and low on energy, as we can often be after long and busy shifts at the vets. I try to motivate myself by sometimes doing yoga at lunchtime (on those days where a lunch break actually happens!), or taking my mat out into the garden or the beach, as there’s something lovely about practicing yoga outdoors in the fresh air. Naturally this was much easier to do in Australia and NZ without having to worry about the rain so much, but I still often do yoga in my garden, even in winter. Scheduling my yoga practice in at a specific time even if I am just sequencing for myself can help me to make time for it, and I also love being able to switch off and attend classes taught by other teachers. It really helps me also to have a goal that I am working towards, though this can vary depending on how I am feeling. Sometimes I work towards improving or achieving a specific yoga pose, and other times my goal may simply be to get on my mat for 20 minutes three times in that week if I know I am especially busy. I feel quite lucky to have found a form of exercise that can enable me to restore or re-energise depending on what my body and mind most need.
As well as yoga I also really love hiking and horse riding, and will even lace up my trainers for an occasional run! At school and university I was really athletic and used to be in different sports teams so it was rare that I had a day where exercise was not involved in my daily routine, and one thing I do miss as a locum moving around a lot is being a member of a team sport that I used to play all the time, such as netball or hockey. It’s not just the sport I miss, but also the sense of team camaraderie and the social aspect (though I doubt my liver misses of the social aspect of vet school sports night!) I don’t think it is a coincidence that all of my favourite active things to do usually involve being outdoors either, as I really notice a decline in my mental health if I have prolonged periods of time being stuck indoors. Part of my love of travel is getting out and about on foot and exploring somewhere new, or feeling that sense of achievement from hiking up a steep climb to get a wonderful view of the place I’m visiting.
Like many of us, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic my movement and travel was severely restricted, and my yoga practice and exercise took on an even more important role with helping to keep me balanced. I’ve also had to adjust to teaching yoga and meditation online, which has been a great learning experience and something I am proud to offer to make my VetYogi services more accessible to my veterinary colleagues during these difficult times. As well as teaching regular free live yoga classes through the Vets: Stay, Go, Diversify! Facebook group online, I am also very excited to be hosting VetYogi’s first-ever virtual yoga and meditation retreat at the end of this month! “Surgery to Sanctuary @ Home” offers vets, nurses, students and anyone associated with the veterinary world, a chance to create their own yoga sanctuary at home alongside like-minded people, with access to live/recorded yoga classes, a meditation workshop, live cook-along demonstrations, and a fantastic “Vet Your Mindset” seminar with our wonderful guest speaker, Katie Ford. Happening LIVE on the 26th September 2020, each ticket also provides 2 hours of CPD, and access to the online content and classes for 3 months after the event, therefore if you can’t make that day it is still worthwhile getting involved! Tickets are available here.
For more information go to www.vetyogi.com or follow VetYogi on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Hope to see you all at some point on the mat!
All images copyright to Chloe Hannigan, Vetyogi.
If you would like to join the movement and share your own "active vet" story head over to our submission page here.