*Written in January 2018 as part of Treetop's New Year-New You Challenge
I recently learned a tough lesson on self-care. As a yoga
teacher, I constantly preached from the front of the class about self-care because I knew in my heart it was true. However, I secretly continued to put myself last again and again. Every time I would talk about self-care, I would get a pit in my stomach because I knew I wasn’t living that way. The priorities I put in front of myself were really, really important like my children, my family, my household, my students, and, of course, Treetop Yoga Studio, so I would always justify not taking the time for me.
It wasn't until somebody that I loved more deeply than I even knew was possible needed me the most, my child. That is when I truly learned the lesson of self-care. Without going into details, my child needed healing and needed me at my best. It ended up being my mom guilt, which in the past held me back from truly embracing self-care, that propelled me into a routine to help me commit to taking care of me first. Let me tell you, it wasn't all about bubble baths and spa days (although that is wonderful!) Self-care is making big and little decisions all day in the name of self-love. Taking care of me was at times hard and something I really didn't want to do in the moment. Yet, it could also be a life line that I looked forward to each day. These little choices though became habits and rituals. They increased the quality of my life and gave me the patience and presence that I needed to live during a time of hardship.
My new mantra was:
"At any moment, you have a choice, that either leads you closer to your spirit or further away from it.” ― Thich Nhat Hanh
For me, it meant:
Yoga asana or exercise - This was non-negotiable. It didn't always have to be the perfect setting or super strenuous. Sometimes, I even needed to get up a the crack of dawn to fit it in. Or, I had to commit at the end of the day when I was exhausted knowing I would be a better person in the morning. I learned though that I needed to move my body and breath deeply every day in order be my best self.
Meditation - I tried to sit even for a few minutes every day. Again, it didn't have to be perfect. Oftentimes this happened locked in the bathroom to steal a few moments of calm. (For those of you that don't know me, I have a 3yo, 5yo and an 85lb dog.)
Practicing gratitude - It's a conscious PRACTICE especially needed when things are hard. I am all for making the time and space to process my feelings and acknowledging my dark places. Sometimes during hard times though, living in negativity and darkness can almost seem easier and become a habit. I had to choose not to live there. My child needed my light. The world needs light. This practice works.
Eating a healthy diet and restricting alcohol - After a long, exhausting day, the one thing I wanted was a glass or two of wine to wind down and maybe even some ice cream. I soon realized that was leaving me feeling empty, tired and impatient when I woke up the next day.
Healing Practices - I instilled daily and weekly healing rituals. For me, it was reiki, acupuncture, chiropractic work, essential oils, Ayurvedic practices, and, of course, yoga practices.
Getting enough sleep - I LOVE to get lost in a Netflix show to escape just as much as the next person, but I had to set a boundary. Lights out before 10 at the latest.
Spending time in nature - There is a reason why she is called Mother Earth. She will nurture and heal you and give you what you need through her elements. I just need to spend time with her.
Letting go of toxic relationships - If I felt physically, emotional and spiritually depleted from somebody, I had to set clear boundaries. That didn't mean that I was unkind or stopped loving them, it just meant that I needed to put myself and my energy first. I believe that surrounding myself with supportive, loving people is one of the greatest gifts that I can give myself.
I am happy to say that we are all doing well now, but I still try to ingrain these rituals into my daily life. I will never forget my lesson on self-care. The lesson is simple: we cannot authentically give our light and love from a place of depletion.
How to establish a self-care routine?
The above is not an outline on the self-care of everybody. It was what I needed to do at that time in my life. At the end of the day though, you know you best.
An exercise that I find super helpful was first given to me by one of my first yoga and meditation teachers, David Magone, during my 200 hr. teacher training. During a lesson, he told our group to make 2 columns on a piece of paper. In the first column, he said to write down everything that made us feel connected to our spirits or our highest selves (habits, foods, thoughts, etc.). In the second column, he told us to write down the things that made us move away from that place of connection. Then he simply said, "Do more of the first list and less of the second list." I invite you to give it a try.
Happy New Year! I wish you peace, joy, love, light and connection.