Long hours hunched over notebooks, reading often illegible handwriting in poorly lit and sometimes poorly ventilated staffrooms, arm raised for minutes at a time writing on the blackboard, shoulders slumped with the weight of two score and more books…and we have not even started on the psychological stresses of school work! Contrary to popular opinion, a teacher’s workday is not exactly a cakewalk, as readers of Teacher Plus are well aware. There are slow, steady physical stresses that can eat away at a person’s physical well-being, and by the time the forties hit, many of us are feeling the consequences of bad posture, chalk dust allergies, strained eyes, etc.
Every job has its own set of physical demands, and teaching is no different. Even within the teaching profession, there are a multitude of contexts and each school, in fact every classroom, might offer its own unique set of demands! A nursery school teacher might have to pick up and carry children more often, while a high school teacher might have to spend more time hunched over complex projects. A middle school teacher might spend a large part of her day straining her arm writing equations on the board, while a special education teacher may end up organising and reorganising classroom materials.
How then does one stay fit and fresh through all this? We may not be able to do much about the stresses that come from the specific nature of the job – difficult or disruptive students, staffroom and school politics, parent expectations and work load – but we can to some extent take care of our bodies and keep ourselves in shape so we are better able to deal with our physical environments and the demands they place on us. While a general fitness regime is a good idea no matter what kind of work one does, it may be useful to think about the specific ways in which you need to exert yourself, and compensate for that through exercise or relaxation techniques that address those specific c parts of the body.
Those who sit for long hours at the computer are advised to take a regular fl ex-ex break every two hours or so, to relieve the stresses that build up in the shoulders, upper arms, back and wrists. Gardeners and others who hunch or squat need to stretch periodically to release the cramps that may occur in their upper thighs, shoulders and abdomen. Teachers too can pay attention to those parts of their bodies, and specific muscles where tension builds up, and do a combination of quick exercises to relieve short-term stress and regular daily exercise to build muscles strength and fitness in the long term.
The articles that follow describe two such approaches to staying physically fit. The first offers a few quick tips to keep you going through the day, while the second discusses yoga, and its advantages. Ideally, it is a combination of both that will keep you fit overall, and help you deal with your day – day after day.