January’s Gift: Self-Care
At the start of a new year, many of us appreciate the opportunity to start fresh. We often start January with a plan to transform ourselves and our lives in some kind of significant way. It is common experience for us to find that maybe even before January ends, we have lost track of our plan and find ourselves back where we started at the end of last year. Often these plans don’t work because they are based on our being NOT something instead of our finding ways to be more authentically ourselves. Unlike my past resolutions, my plan as 2020 begins is not to become a more perfect yoga practitioner or a more perfect yoga teacher or a more perfect anyone. This year my plan is to bring more awareness to the gifts that gentle yoga brings to my life and to share that awareness with others. In the next twelve months I will use the WiseWomen VT blog to share what I consider to be Twelve Essential Gifts of Gentle Yoga.
Ten simple words: “Nothing to prove. No one to impress. Everything to share.”
I bring to the blog this first month of 2020 an important lesson that I learned from a dear friend and colleague. This simple quote has gotten me through some rough spots when I have felt anxious about teaching a new class, taking on a new workshop, or facing a challenge in a relationship. These ten simple words can change the way I approach a situation by really helping me check in with what is important. I love this quote because it allows me to let go of the need to get everything perfect. It reminds me that my experience doesn’t need to impress anyone. It also reminds me that often simply sharing my experience and knowledge is all I really need to do to make a difference. In that spirit I begin this process of sharing my experience of gentle yoga’s gifts. If you are a reader of this blog, I hope you will find these gifts useful in your own yoga practice and in your daily life off the mat. Take from them what you need and use them in the way that works best for you.
Yoga presents us with many gifts and helps us develop these gifts in ourselves and share them with others.
Gentle yoga, specifically, allows us to take time for ourselves, breathe, stretch, increase awareness of our bodies, and relax. In addition to all these benefits, gentle yoga can deepen our ability to develop and practice many positive attitudes and ways of being in the world. It helps us get more in touch with these ways of being inside ourselves. As our own awareness of the attitude increases, this positive way of being can feel like quite a gift. And as the way of being becomes more fully ours it can become a gift that gets shared with others. We all know people who beautifully personify positive attitudes and ways of being and when such a person enters our lives, it indeed feels like a gift. And then in the best kind of situation that gift gets passed on to us and we are able to share it from ourselves to others.
January's gift is the gift of SELF-CARE
To begin the new year, I chose as the first essential gift, SELF-CARE.
Self-care is quite popular in our culture today. Covers of women’s magazines, popular blogs and the titles of self-help books shout to us that we need to take better care of ourselves, so that we can better take care of others: our children, our parents, our spouses, our friends, our work colleagues and our customers. This is similar to when you hear the flight attendant say “Put on your own oxygen mask before you try to help someone else put on her mask.” Makes sense, right? So we are told we need to take time for ourselves, get a massage, say “no” more often, get ourselves to yoga/pilates/barre/the gym/the nutritionist. In other words, the message is that we need to be more perfect in the way we take care of ourselves so that we don’t mess up and not be fully able to take care of others. So, we work at it. We try to urgently press ourselves to “take better care of ourselves.” We try to be “more this” and “less that” and we try to get it right. And we have to remember to do all this self-care without feeling guilty or stressed about it. In other words, self-care becomes one more thing we need to worry about.
The yoga pose, shavasana, practiced as final relaxation at the end of a yoga class may be the ultimate self-care.
Shavasana is an opportunity to let go of thoughts and physical holding and find ease and comfort and quiet inside. In gentle yoga, we have several opportunities to practice self-care as simply letting go and figuring out what our body needs when we need it. We can practice stopping, breathing, relaxing, going inside, feeling what we are feeling, observing, and allowing ourselves to be where we are. Practicing yoga, we go inside where we can find pieces of ourselves that are gifts we want to bring forward into our awareness. Instead of resolving NOT to be a certain way, we can spend energy finding some “ways of being ourselves” and deciding to allow ourselves to really be that way. And maybe we can find ways to bring these gifts of ourselves more fully forward into our daily lives and interactions with others. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t get a massage, take a bubble bath, take a nap, or take a walk. But it does mean that we can take time to check in quietly with ourselves and figure out what it is we really need to feel better and to be more fully ourselves. As we explore these new ways of being more deeply ourselves, perhaps we will find new personal gifts and qualities that can make our lives richer, more meaningful, and maybe even more manageable.