There were several moments in my that I knew I needed to take care of myself. But just as many of you I resisted the idea, it sounded selfish and not really important as long as I was able to push through everything, everyone else was happy and there was no conflicts, I thought it was all good. This idea just led to more frustration and pain.
I never fully understood how to take care of myself, until I went through one of the toughest times of my life. I felt a lot of pain and suffering, which I plainly didn’t want to feel anymore. During this painful, busy and stressful time I learned the importance of self care. I had so much going on inside my body, that I needed to do something to heal myself. That is when I started my yoga practice. I started yoga as distraction from the pain that I felt, without realizing, how much yoga would teach me about self-care.
Here is how and what yoga taught me about self-care.
1. Start with self-compassion.
When I started going to yoga classes, something felt different. For the first time I was not in a classroom environment, in which the teacher demanded us to do work, to tough it out, to push through. Yoga didn’t have the typical mantra of “no pain no gain” like most fitness classes. This is exactly how we treat ourselves, beating ourselves down and expecting to get up really quickly, to push through no matter how exhausted we may feel, to ignore our body. This is not teaching us self-care or inviting us to get to know ourselves, but rather pushing us away from knowing ourselves and finding self compassion.
In yoga, all that the yoga teacher [she] was doing, was guiding us to move our bodies, as an open invitation, not something that was required. She constantly reminded us throughout class, that if you ever need a break to “listen to your body and take a child's pose.” She invited us to come back and join the class whenever we were ready. I thought to myself “What? I get to choose when to rest during class? You are not going to judge me for slowing down and not keeping up with the class?” Can you relate?
During those moments yoga teacher taught us to invite self-compassion, to take care of ourselves in the moment. She was teaching us to let go of the judgment as she was letting go of the judgment about her students, if they needed to take a break.
2. Listen to your body.
In the middle of the class I would see those around me from time to time take a child’s pose whenever they needed it, and when ready, they would simply resumed back to the flow of the class. So I began to do the same for myself. I started to take child’s pose when I felt I needed to catch my breath. I started to let go of the judgments of “look at you, you can’t keep up,” and just allowing myself to be. Little did I know that this were the first steps to giving myself permission to listen to what my body needed and learn to honor it by resting.
3. Let go of what other may think.
If you have ever been to a Yoga To The People’s class you’re probably familiar with their very audible breaths. The teacher would invite us to take audible and long breaths with hhhhaaass or Mmmmhhhmss. I was shocked that many people were willing to take these audible breaths without caring what others thought of them or about their very loud breaths. Again after a couple of yoga classes listening to those around me just letting go, I started to give myself permission to do the same. I had no idea how amazingly liberating that would feel.
4. Let go of comparing yourself.
Meet yourself where you are at.
I remember a teacher stating during one balancing pose “this is not a competition, it does not matter if the person next to you is doing an advance pose, no one getting a medal or a trophy for holding this pose more,” everybody giggled in the pose and there was more lightness in the room. She continued to say, “so listen to your body and meet it where is at today, not what it was yesterday or a month ago, but today.”
The minute you try to do what the person next to you is doing, you lose the connection with yourself, with how are you feeling, breathing. We miss out on our own experiences, and lose your balance altogether on the pose ;).
5. Learn to be with yourself.
Throughout class, the teacher would gently begin to dim the lights to bring the focus more within. We would end class in savasana pose in the dark. The teacher invited us to linger in savasana for as long as our bodies wanted to and reminded us this is the most important part of class. How can this be? I thought to myself. We are all taught to derive value by how much you do and accomplish. Instead of valuing ourselves for who we are, learning to love and accept ourselves, so that we can enjoy our own company. Trust me, I was the kind of girl that would jump from one thing to the next. I would worry I would be missing out in life if I sat down for a moment, rather worse if I just laid down. So being still was really hard. But the longer I let myself be in savasana, the longer I was able to be with myself. On these moments I found so much peace and the recognition of the importance of being. As we are human beings not human doing.
The biggest lesson was:
Unknowingly, the practice of yoga was nurturing me in a way I never experienced before. I didn't know there could be a way to be tender, gentle and loving towards myself and still continue to grow and evolve. The yoga studio and practice created a safe space to get to know myself better. Yoga taught me to take care of my entirety being; not only my body.
I realized the better I know myself
and the better I am able to take care of myself,
the better friend, wife, counselor, and/or teacher I can become!
The more compassionate I can be with myself,
the more compassionate and understanding I can be with others.
So I can be of true service to others.
So let go of the myth that self-care is a selfish act and start practicing compassionate self-care ;)