Great Advice on Self-Care

I LOVE this post from Curvy Yoga’s founder, Anna Guest-Jelley.  I’ve been having the same problem with adding, or re-adding, some things into my routine.  I’m re-posting it with Anna’s permission.  Check out Curvy Yoga’s blogs for more good information.

Show Up, Slow Down and Settle Into Self-Care

FEBRUARY 27, 2014

Show Up, Slow Down and Settle Into Self-CareI’ve recently added a new dish to my self-care menu: Abhyanga, or the Ayurvedic practice of oil massage.The idea is that you spend some time each day (or most days), applying seasonally appropriate oil to your skin. The oil is said to pacify/nurture the body, and the massage is a practice of bodily connection as you lovingly move your hands over your body, taking the time to help the skin absorb the oil.Or, rather, that’s the intention.

Because here’s how I’ve been doing it: “Oh, crap. I forgot Abhyanga again and now I’m ready to go to bed. Well, here. Where’s that coconut oil?” I get a little in my hands and then here’s my application process: Slap it (almost literally) on my feet, legs torso, arms, chest and done.

Abhyanga done. Check and mate.

RUSHING VS. NOT

What often happens to me if I’m adding another element of self-care to my routine is that I either forget it or resist it. Or forgetting is my form of resistance. Or all of that on different days.

And then when I do, I make it another weapon with which to beat myself about the head (in this case not literally).

So rather than just accepting that – hey – I’m just not doing it today and that’s okay, I choose to do it the most haphazard and, honestly, punishing way possible. I WILL get this oil massage done, even though I don’t want to and I’m pissed and my inner critic is screaming at me. I will grit my teeth and put it on as fast as possible before moving right along.

This might be a wild leap here, but…I don’t think that’s the point.

CREATING A NEW ROUTINE

Adding self-care to your routine, whatever it may be, can be challenging. It’s just like starting any new thing: It takes some time for it to become consistent.

What I suggest (to me as much as you, if not more) is that we take kindness as step one. Without kindness, we get a rushed and angry massage – something that I’m pretty sure doesn’t sound appealing to too many people.

With kindness, though, we get a chance to try again. That could look like rethinking your plan for the day and making a little more time, or just acknowledging that starting a new thing is hard, you didn’t do it today, and tomorrow you’ll adjust accordingly to start fitting it in.

WHAT RESEARCH SHOWS US

Many people push back against this approach, deeming it lazy, undisciplined or just not enough to actually form a habit. But what’s interesting is that research is increasingly showing us the opposite.

People like Dr. Brené Brown and Dr. Kristin Neff are showing us the power of self-compassion and how when we’re not in a place of shame (like feeling like we’re terrible people because we forgot Abhyanga – again), that is the only way we can create sustainablechange.

Note the emphasis on sustainable, because that’s important. Yes, people can create temporary change with a more bullying/strict approach. But for most of us, we can only sustain that level of intensity for so long. And when we lose it, we often go right into shame, using it as evidence against ourselves for how we are the slackers we thought we were after all. And then the whole process repeats.

What creates change that lasts is change that is integrated with self-compassion – acknowledging that, yep, we’re human, and we’re not the only people on the face of the Earth who have figured out how to beat the “system” called human nature.

It’s when we approach our self-care with the realization that we’re people getting used to something new, and that takes time, and has ebbs and flows, that we build towards what we’re hoping to create – and enjoy the process a little more along the way, too.

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What’s Your Value?

Lately I’ve been coming across things about self-value.  A week or so ago this was shared on Peace Begins with Me (a small BIG Peace Project)’s Facebook page:
Value

This past Sunday, yoga instructor, Judith Hanson Lasater was interviewed by Eva Norlyk Smith, Ph.D.,Managing Editor for YogaUOnline.com.  The interview was part of Yoga U Online’s Free Sadhana Sunday Series.  The topic was “Alone by Myself: Developing a Home Practice in the Midst of a Busy Life.”  Here is an excerpt of the interview that was shared on The Huffington Post’s website:

Q: Why is it when we love yoga (as much as many of us do, at least) that it’s still a struggle for many people to get to their mats?

Judith Hanson Lasater: I’ve heard this sentence, as you can imagine, many hundreds of times: “I don’t have time for this.” But I think that that’s an excuse. I really don’t think that’s the issue. I think we’re looking in the wrong places for why we don’t practice. We need to look at our thoughts and our beliefs about ourselves.

It has to do with self-nurturing. It has to do with valuing yourself. I believe it’s related to refusing on some level and used in the broadest sense of the word to see our own divinity.

One of the mantras that I like a lot is — specially when things start getting busy or conflicted — what is the most important thing right now? It’s usually to remember myself and what I’m feeling. And that centers me.

That’s quite an answer!

What does it mean to “see our own divinity?”  Yoga philosophy teaches that we are all inherently good. We may lose sight of, or contact with that inherent goodness due to life experiences.  But underneath these layers of experience, the goodness is still there. This inherent goodness exists not because of anything we have done, but just because we exist.  We are, as described by yoga teacher and author, Erich Schiffman, “made of God Substance, Consciousness, Love . .  . creative energy, Spirit, a unique expression of God’s infinite Self-Expression.” If this is confusing or you just want to know more, check out Chapter 2 of Schiffman’s book, Moving Into Stillness here.  It’s one of the best explanations I’ve read on the topic.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Westerners in particular have trouble with this concept.  I’m sure that’s due to a combination of factors from the theology of original sin to our “what have you done for me lately” culture to, as Schiffman describes, the fact that we spend very little time with ourselves in stillness.  The result is that our self-identity comes from our external world instead of our internal one.

But what if we truly took to heart the idea of our inherent goodness? Our divinity?  How would that change our actions towards ourselves?  Actions that we take for ourselves? This is something I’ve been mulling over since hearing the interview.  I’ve come a long way in valuing myself.  I no longer struggle with feelings of being unlovable or unworthy.  I am better at doing what I need to do to take care of me, rather than doing what I feel obligated by others to do.  But, I can’t say I’m living in a way that fully recognizes my divinity. And if I’m not fully recognizing my divinity, then I’m not fully valuing myself.

I’m not talking about becoming a diva.  Well, at least not the “obnoxious, self-absorbed, I am better than you” type of diva that comes to mind when people hear that word.  I prefer the queenly, goddess sort of diva that goes back to the word’s origin (from the Merriam-Webster online dictionary), which is:

Italian, literally, goddess, from Latin, feminine of divus divine, god

I’m talking about making life choices that affirm my divinity and full value.  Choices with what I do with my time, what I put in my body, what I put into my mind.  The traditional medicine and alternative/complementary health options I undertake.  Would it make the difficult choices/actions easier?  And the easy path more difficult to take?

One of my favorite mantras is “om namaha shivaya” (discovered it reading Eat, Pray, Love — book wayyyy better than the movie).  A simple translation is “I honor the divine within myself.”  I’ve used this many times in both my yoga and meditation practice and it played a role in healing from emotional abuse.  I thought I knew what it meant for me.  But, as I sit here typing, I realize there are depths to its meaning I haven’t fully realized.

This, my friends, is my new area of self-study and exploration.  I invite you to join me by exploring what recognizing and fully engaging in your own divinity means for your life.

Namaste,
Deb

 

Making Time for Practice

A few weeks ago this picture was shared by one of the pages I follow on Facebook:

make room-1

It spoke to me immediately.  Not as a yoga teacher, but as one who practices yoga.

I have a confession to make.  I sometimes skip my daily practice.  This is difficult to admit.  As a teacher, I constantly encourage students to develop a daily practice.  I am often heard saying, “Just 5 minutes a day is better than no yoga at all.  You can do 5 minutes, right?”  And now, here I am admitting that I don’t always follow my own advice.

I would be less concerned if my pattern were to skip practice on days when I’m not feeling well.  That somehow seems more acceptable. But, I have come to realize that when I’m not feeling well is exactly the time I need my practice most.  So, even if I’m not up to an asana practice, I make time to do breath work and meditate.

No, I miss practice most when I’m feeling my best.  I don’t set out to miss it — what’s that saying about intentions and the road to hell? The scenario usually goes something like this:

  • I feel great this morning.  I should go to Target or the grocery store or do some other errand before the lunch crowd gets there/while I have energy/before it gets too hot or too cold out/etc..
  • I run my errands only to find I’m hungry when I get home.  “Well, I’ll practice later this afternoon.”
  • Later in the day I either get distracted or find that I have, in fact, run out of energy and need a nap.
  • Now its time for dinner and I can’t practice on a full stomach. “I’ll do a wind-down practice sometime before bed.”
  • Then (fill in the blank) happens and before I know it, I’m in bed thinking, “Damn, I never practiced today.”

This would be fine if it was a one-time event.  Life happens and practice should never become a chore.  The problem arises when one missed day rolls into another and then another — when missing practice becomes the habit and not the exception.

You won’t be surprised to know that the more I skip my practice, the worse I feel — physically and mentally.  I’m more fatigued, there is more pain, muscles tighten up. Heck, my emotions tighten up.  When I haven’t been practicing, it is more difficult to work wisely with limitations.  I start to wish for the “old me,” the one before the ms. These are the times when living with chronic health challenges seems most overwhelming.  I am sure my teaching is less inspiring during these times.

Eventually, I come back to my practice.  And when I do I think “Why have I not been doing this?”  Because the moment I step onto my mat (or sit in my practice chair), every time I get comfortable for pranayam (breath work) or meditation, my soul begins to sing.  Yoga is a gateway to what nourishes, inspires and sustains me — physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  It is a gift.

It is through this amazing practice that we can explore why we repeat or hold onto unhelpful habits and patterns. It is what allows us to become aware that we are in the midst of an old pattern.  And hopefully, over time, this awareness occurs earlier and earlier, allowing us to begin the process of untangling ourselves from whatever web we are in. This practice allows us to become friends with both our light and our shadow.  And it is this practice that I will return to again and again, knowing that with effort (tapas) it will become as regular as breath itself.

Now, if you will excuse me, I need to go hop on my mat.

Namaste,
Deb