Life under lockdown has certainly been a challenge. But it's also provided an opportunity to take a step back, reflect and think differently.
Life Before Lockdown
I'm an Inclusive Dance and Zumba instructor and I was teaching classes in Maidenhead and High Wycombe prior to lockdown. My classes welcome those with disabilities, long-term health conditions and mental health issues, who all enjoy the benefits of dancing alongside those without any health conditions. We would dance, laugh, sing and share our ups and downs with each other every week. Teaching also provides me with a welcome physical and mental break from my day job working within the NHS Mental Health Service.
Being Active During Lockdown
Lockdown has been an interesting experience for me. I live with ulcerative colitis, which is a life-long autoimmune condition and one of the main forms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease. I take medication which supresses my immune system but it helps to control the symptoms of the disease. I was advised to shield and as such, I've been working from home and I haven't been leaving my house except to receive essential medical treatment.
So where did this leave me in terms of being able to stay physically active as well as manage my mental health?
I think we can all agree that we've had to get to grips with different forms of technology during lockdown. After experimenting with various platforms and setups, I moved my Inclusive Dance and Zumba classes online. This has been brilliant! It's allowed us to keep moving together, have fun and reconnect with each other. We chat at the beginning of the class and share how our week has been – the good and the bad, whilst troubleshooting the challenges of living in a global pandemic. I teach in the garden when the weather is good which I love. Moving to virtual classes has also made them more accessible to people from all around the country and the world. I've had students joining from America, Argentina, Austria and Switzerland, including people with health conditions who would otherwise never have had the opportunity to dance in my classes. Dancing together has given us all a sense of connection and normality, even though it's slightly different to what we were previously used to.
I've also been part of the 'We Are Undefeatable' Dance Team. All the members of the dance team are living with disabilities or long-term health conditions and we've been having weekly virtual dance sessions with a dance teacher. I've loved meeting new people, connecting with them through dance and also being a dance student again instead of the teacher! We've been dancing different styles, like contemporary and jazz, which are very different to the Latin and world rhythms that I'm used to dancing to. I've been learning to connect with my body in a different way and I've absolutely loved every session we've had.
As well as dance, I've also taken time to reflect on what other activities I enjoy doing. I love walking, particularly during the spring and summer months but as I couldn't leave the house, I had to find another way. So I began walking laps around the garden. I don't have a large garden but it's enough that by literally walking in circles, I could rack up 10,000 steps in a day. One day, I was busy walking round the garden whilst talking on the phone to a friend, and before I knew it, I'd done 17,000 steps. Not bad for not being able to leave the house!
I've also used the time in lockdown to pick up my hockey stick again. I was an avid hockey player from when I was very young but stopped playing some years ago due to my health. My dad still plays (although this stopped during lockdown) so we took the opportunity to bond over playing some hockey in the back garden. It was as much about the reconnection with family as it was about the physical activity.
What Does the future Hold?
I'm continuing to teach my dance classes virtually. Many of my students, particularly those with health conditions, want to continue dancing virtually as it's not only convenient for them but also helps them (and me) to feel safe whilst being active. Virtual classes aren't affected by what's happening with the coronavirus so it gives all of us a feeling of consistency and stability, which is much-needed in these times.
I've also dusted off the spin bike, which has been used as a clothes horse for many years! I've been experimenting with using it as part of my overall activity. As we approach the colder months, I know I'll find it more difficult to get outside, so I wanted to have another activity ready to replace my walking that I could do when it's cold, dark and rainy. I put on my favourite tunes or a podcast and get those wheels turning!
The most important lesson I've learnt throughout lockdown is that we can still be active, connect with others and gain the mental as well as physical benefits from it. Some days are harder than others and that's ok. We might just have to think a bit differently or outside of the box, but we can do it.
If you'd like to join Anisha's virtual dance classes, please email her on email@example.com
You can follow Anisha on social media: Instagram, Twitter and Facebook: @zumbawithanisha