Is self-care the secret?
How are you?
With so much shift happening, I hope you are finding time to cultivate self-care and connection. In all transparency, I am reviving components of my own self-care practice. Between the challenge of the “longer” days, re-opening the studio, and a house full of young adults, it seems there is always something or someone who needs my attention. The problem is NOT that I have a long list of people and tasks counting on me. The problem is that I “forget” that my self-care has to come first if I am to be of value in their care. Do you ever forget to prioritize your self-care?
Self-care is quite the buzz word these days, and yet it’s not a new concept. Perhaps it’s our growing consciousness of suffering that has renewed our commitment or simply awakened our awareness. Whatever it is that has inspired the latest wellness campaign and specifically the emphasis on rest and restoration, I’m all for it.
The tricky part of self-care is that it looks different for different people, and even shifts with seasons and periods of our life. It takes time and effort to find what works. And even then, it might shift again. I admit, sometimes it feels like just as I get used to and comfortable with a self-care routine, life throws me a curve ball and I have to adapt again. My best advice, keep exploring options and stay fluid in the definition of what is self-care and your expectations.
Years ago I found an article, written by a researcher who was exploring the strategies of wellness, specifically the practices credited for helping real people live lives of joy and inspiration. No surprise that my attention was captured! The article proposed TEN practices with lots of room for adaptation and personalization. I instantly loved the idea. A list, both a road map and a task list. What’s NOT to love!?!
I immediately started using the list to build a strategy for my daily efforts while simultaneously checking off tasks as I did the practice. I was already doing a number of the research suggestions, but with new confidence I re-committed to those practices and expanded, slowly over the next few months, to include the others.
I have adapted and tweaked the basics and have found so many variations of how to integrate yoga and the practices of happiness and joy. Here are FOUR of my favorite:
- Movement: aka personal yoga practice
- Healthy Touch
- Learn something new
What’s your favorite self-care practice?
As a yogi and a teacher, the first thing I shifted was my practice. I committed to a daily personal yoga practice. Note, this commitment to self-care meant the practice was for me. It was in addition to the public classes I attended each week and the classes I was teaching. I’m sure it’s not a surprise to you that I advocate a daily yoga practice. In fact, you might be disappointed when I share that I’m not just talking about the asanas (postures and poses). I’m talking about the mindset of yoga. I’m talking about Breathe. Move. Rest. It’s a commitment to carve out time to breathe deeply, move freely, and rest fully. Whatever practices (daily habits) help you do these things, those are the things you want to make priority. After all #itsallYoga! If this idea of a personal yoga practice is a new concept for you, or one you have yet to implement, then join the Yoga Living program.
Over the years this simple strategy or Breathe. Move. Rest. integrated with the 10 practices I’d discovered for living a life of happiness and joy. At this point, I’ve lost count how MANY students and clients have been introduced to this strategy and found amazing shifts as a result. It has become a key part of the Inspired Living Strategy and the Yoga Living program. In fact, I teach some component of these 10 practices and “tricks” for implementation in almost every class I teach. I call them tricks NOT because they are hidden secrets but rather, because they are strategies to high-jack our own self-sabotaging tendencies before they kick in! The TEN practices are the actions of the Breathe. Move. Rest. Strategy.
Even with all the hub-bub and hype about self-care, it can be a hard concept to pin down and really understand. In a nutshell, I like to think of self-care as ANY THING that helps us live well. Self-care includes the mindset of enough-ness and allowing for imperfection, the actions of recovery, healing and rest as well as the intentional, pro-active practices to avoid harm, burn-out and disconnect.
For me everything comes back to INTENTION, ATTENTION and ACTION. I’m a bit of a broken record when it comes to Transparent Alignment, the philosophy of living a life of inspiration and joy through the practices of yoga. I’m so convinced of it’s power to improve lives it has become my life’s work to teach and equip others to implement it’s strategies and concepts. If you, or someone you know (i.e. asking for a friend 😊) needs assistance in the arena of living intimately with inspiration or cultivating joy, Yoga Living might just be The Thing you’re looking for.
Probably the most powerful practice of self-care, after my daily yoga, was the daily discipline of Gratitude. The research is overwhelming. Joy is most correlated to practicing gratitude.
Most days it’s easy for me to practice gratitude, I have a lot to be thankful for and I was raised to appreciate blessings and opportunities. Yet, this past year, I have appreciated the daily discipline of gratitude even more. Honestly, some days were extremely challenging to find ANYTHING to be grateful for. On those days, I re-read earlier entries in my journal to find reminders and inspiration. On more than one occasion, my gratitude journal included entries like:
• I am grateful for this breath.
• I am grateful that this too shall pass.
• I am grateful that nothing is permanent.
Starting this month (May), the Joy Jar has returned to the studio! It’s simply a jar in which we deposit slips of paper on which we’ve written a word, phrase or image of something that we are grateful for, appreciative of, or want to cultivate gratitude toward. As the studio re-opens for in-persona attendance, I hope you’ll add your gratitudes and blessings to our growing abundance of gratitude and joy by depositing your own joys or start your own Joy Jar at home. #cultivategratitude
But as we cultivate gratitude in our practice… What is self-care? What does it LOOK like?
The third practice I want to share is one that is best shared with another 😊. TOUCH. Although self touch is good, and can suffice for a limited time, receiving, regular, consistent touch “work” is critical to our well-being. Whether its massage, Thai yoga body work, reflexology or reiki, other wellness modalities, or even really good hugs, receiving loving, safe touch is essential to our humanity.
Furthermore, investing in supported self-care is an important part of building community and practicing authenticity! When we ask for support, when we ask for what we need, we learn how to speak our will and learn how to be authentically seen. Yes, it can be vulnerable to show a need or a weakness, AND yet it’s only through this kind of authentic vulnerability that we cultivate authentic connection.
I’ve been lucky enough to find a team of gifted therapists and practitioners, who support my self-care by sharing their talents and services. It wasn’t easy, and it took some trial and error along the way. Building these kinds of networks of support are TOTALLY worth the effort. Find what works and make it a consistent part of your care.
4. Learn something new
This brings me to my final share regarding self-care for exploration and discussion. This one is probably my favorite. Learn something new. Maybe it’s my favorite because it’s “natural” for me or maybe because I have a lot of experience (I have a lot to learn!). Both I’m sure contribute. I enjoy the adventure of discovering the question and the possible answers and resolutions. In all my years of training and teaching, I’ve learned that it is the most versatile practice and yet out-of-practice or out-of-reach for many people. I’m too old to learn. It’s too late to learn it now. I’m not good at learning. I don’t have access….
If the pandemic has taught me anything, its that there’s always a way, it just sometimes requires a bit of creativity and willingness to experiment (sounds like yoga, to me!)
Learning doesn’t have to be boring, formal or still. Learning and (its real purpose: transformational growth) can happen through heart-felt genuine conversation (with yourself or others!). It can happen while re-reading your favorite authors and sharing insights or inspirations with others. In learning a skill, technique or discipline, (like yoga!) which might require more structure (for safety or incremental progress), find yourself a GREAT TEACHER. Look for someone who BOTH challenges and encourages you, someone who provides clear guidance and allows room for self-directed inquiry. A great teacher is a great gift (to the student and the teacher!). Until you find that someone, tap into a variety of teachers and writers to find the style that works for your preferred way of learning. Sometimes our teachers guide us only for a season or a specific skill, sometimes they are with us for the entirety of our journey. The truth is we are all teachers to someone at some time. May you find your teachers! May your students find you.
Whether you learn on your own or with a group, sharing your insights and questions is part of the process. Connection alone is a great reason to engage in community learning. Join a Coaching Circle, enroll in a training program or register for a workshop. Find something that has the potential to capture your attention and dive in! Need a learning adventure? Explore our Learning Library for self-study options, group experiences or deep immersions into Yoga.
How are you living your yoga and practicing self-care? May you breathe deeply, move freely, labor lovingly and live vibrantly.