International Yoga Day for a global veterinary community

For International Yoga Day (21st June), locum vet and yoga teacher Chloe Hannigan shares how her yoga practice helps her through times of difficulty. Chloe founded VetYogi in 2017 with the goal of delivering the practices of yoga and meditation to busy veterinary professionals.

International Yoga Day

To say the last few months have been challenging across the globe is an understatement. We’ve seen people suffer in different ways through the far-reaching effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and in recent weeks take to the streets to protest against the systemic racism on both sides of the Atlantic endured by people of colour, sparked by the abhorrent murder of George Floyd.

Even within our relatively small vet world, the range of experiences of the past several weeks will be vast and varying for all of us, with additional difficulties encountered by our BAME colleagues, some of whom have shared their personal stories with us at a time when there is a lot of palpable tension and pain.

Knowing that my experiences are likely to be similar to some of you, yet different to many, all I can do is write directly from my own heart. Personally I have been working in one of my lovely regular locum practices throughout lockdown, doing mostly sole-charge 2-3 days per week, teaching yoga and meditation online whilst trying to get the new product side of VetYogi up and running, and participating in some of the wonderful lockdown initiatives the vet world has had to offer. Yoga and meditation have long been important practices to me, but never before have I relied on them quite so much for my wellbeing. At times when I have felt overwhelmed by what is happening outside (or within me), having my own little sanctuary as afforded by my yoga mat has made a huge difference to my own mental health. “Yoga” literally translates as “union”, and coming back to something as simple as the mind-body-breath connection, whilst feeling united with those of you I have been lucky enough to teach yoga live to, helps me more than I can say.

It has been intense at times to say the least, and if I’m honest I have been really up and down, constantly fighting in my own head between being grateful to have work, for the supportive team and practice owners, and feeling drained, disheartened and tired. There’s a real guilt which comes with feeling low when you know that others are suffering through far worse, yet if there’s one thing which yoga has taught me, it’s that it’s ok to sit with your thoughts and feelings and know they do not define you. It’s ok to be you; your emotions are valid, and sometimes when we don’t feel like ourselves we need to reach out for help.

Help may come from family, friends or colleagues, but the recent increase in calls and emails to Vetlife also shows how important these services are in supporting us through these turbulent times. This is one of the many reasons I wanted to give back in my own small way, by donating 20% of sales from my VY yoga-inspired home fragrance ‘Balance – Hatha’ range to Vetlife, and by teaching a free weekly live yoga class exclusively for the vet community via Vets: Stay, Go, Diversify! I then upload them to my VetYogi YouTube channel in order to make my classes more accessible to those who may wish to practice at a different time.

I am not saying that yoga has all the answers, but I can tell you that it has greatly benefited me in both my personal and professional lives, and as scientifically-minded people, should you wish to look, the evidence base is there! “International Yoga Day” may seem trivial to some, but at times like these I feel we should embrace any opportunity to connect with one another in a positive light with both arms, so I would encourage anyone to join in and give it a go. If all that happens is you feel even a little bit better afterwards, it’s worthwhile.