I've been having a lot of conversations lately with members of the Prana Yoga community about the topic of self-care. As you know, since the studio is fertility, prenatal, and postnatal focused our students are mostly women. We are diverse in ages, cultural and socio-economic backgrounds and we each have a unique set of experiences and circumstances. But yet what I am seeing and hearing from many of the women who walk through our doors, has a distinctly common thread. It seems the majority of us are struggling with prioritizing our self-care and clearly communicating our needs to others.
I'm challenged by this too. As women, it is our nature to nurture and it is important to us to care for our loved ones. And there is beauty and power in that. Nurturing is one of the qualities of the divine feminine and it is something we should embrace with a full heart. But somewhere along the way, this ideal is getting twisted and we are receiving a message to be sacrificial lambs and neglect our own needs.
It's time to tell yourself a different story and become assertive and unapologetic about your self-care.
What's been working for me lately, is to be intentional and deliberate in the scheduling of "me time." It has helped to enter a recurring appointment in my calendar for one yoga classes per week and a monthly massage. I treat those time slots as if they were an rsvp yes to my best friend's wedding. I build everything else around them and if someone asks me if I am available at those times I decline. Making these times non-negotiable have helped me in being consistent with the practices that I need to be happy and healthy.
If you are partnered, an honest conversation in the spirit of collaboration is essential. Be calm, clear and unafraid to state your needs and boundaries. Some of us have never been taught a language around communication of our needs. It's time to take those first brave steps and speak our truth. Another strategy might be to recruit the support of your friends to hold you accountable. Making a date to meet up for a workout or a movie can help motivate us to follow through.
Making time for self-care can seem extra challenging when we have young children but remember it is precisely then that your well-being is most critical. You cannot pour from an empty cup and when you are able to replenish your energy you will have more to give and more to keep. Also don't forget that now more than ever, we need to be mindful of what we are modeling for our sons and daughters if we are ever to break free of these patriarchal constructs that we are growing increasingly dissatisfied with. Being the sacrificial lamb just doesn't work anymore if we hope to influence the next generation
There's a moment of single-pointed concentration that is required in this pose where the gaze has to turn from looking at the left big toe to the right fingers. It has to be done slowly and methodically in order to maintain balance on the standing leg. In that moment, thinking about the past and the future must briefly fall away so that the mind can concentrate on the breath, the relationship of the body to the sky and the earth, and how to be strong and soft at the same time. It requires the willingness and desire to be fully present.
In that small moment where the body and mind fully unite, is what we call yoga.
Find that on the mat, and you'll apply it to your life. Free your mind, the rest will follow.
#yoga #yogaeverydamnday #practiceandalliscoming #findingfreedom #yogalife #yogaeverywhere #dharmajunkie
I've had a consistent meditation and yoga practice for the last five years. I'm committed to the principles of Buddhism as well as Shamanic healing practices. One of the biggest reasons I chose to immerse myself in this way of life is because it works. I was finally able to rid myself of the anxiety and depression I had been feeling for years in a way that partying and a myriad of prescription drugs could never quite fix.
It's interesting how we settle into new norms. Feeling reasonably happy and peaceful became the new baseline the last few years. For a second there, I forgot what acute anxiety was like. Until recently, when my eighteen year old son was injured in a car accident. He's on the mend now, but the night that it happened, I had one of the most profound shocks of my life. I've been through a lot, and I've seen some pretty crazy medical things, especially with my late-husband's two-year battle with leukemia. Nothing is worse than seeing your child injured. That hits a deep primal chord. The image of my son with blood all over his face and the broken glass strewn all over the street at the scene of the accident disturbed my equilibrium in a way I could not have expected.
For a good couple of weeks post-accident, my mind took me for a ride on the crazy train. The strong manifestations of anxiety that had faded from my memory came back in full force. The jittery feeling in the stomach and the sweaty palms. The constant worry. The sleeplessness. The irrational thoughts about the safety of loved ones. The inconsolable crying. Anxiety attacked.
This time around, my resources were in place. I quickly reached out to some dear friends, trusted teachers and skilled practitioners and received strong and generous support. I came back to my practices. I wrote long gratitude lists. I doubled up on my meditation and went out of my way to do good deeds for other people. I put my heart even more fully into teaching. I listened to dharma talks. Now, three weeks later, my mind is on the mend too.
Here's the bottom line. We need to practice when times are good in order to prepare us for when the shit hits the fan. Because you can count on the fact that the shit will always hit the fan again.... so don't get too comfortable. One of my favorite dharma teachers says that we are either in the middle of a disaster or in between disasters. There is no other state of being. I came into my practice years ago in the middle of a major disaster. It's a perfect place to start and helps you to more fully enjoy the lulls in between the downs in life.
I know many of you are experiencing the symptoms of depression and anxiety right now. I believe it is especially widespread due to current events and the political atmosphere in our country. The first step is recognizing your mind is on the crazy train. The next step is learning or refining practices that can help you develop a relationship to your own mind and a better understanding of the present moment. The irrational thoughts begin to shrink, as soon as we shine the light of awareness upon them.
If you are ready to take steps towards re-training your mind I have some offerings coming up.
It's been hard to be a yoga and meditation teacher these last few weeks and months. I feel that the world as I know it, has devolved into complete chaos and ugliness with this year's presidential election. As I have written before, I try my best to uphold the ethics of the yoga and Buddhism and I practice regularly. I have to say that finding compassion for all and applying teachings of equanimity have taken me to the outer edges of my personal limits these days. Simply said, I am pissed as hell and it's been difficult for me to feel peace of mind and be yogic about some of the things I have been seeing and hearing.
I feel self-conscious at times when I express myself. As if being a yoga teacher is supposed to make me someone who is never angry. I wonder sometimes, when I post on social media, if there are those who judge me for speaking out at what I see is unjust.
I've spent some time thinking carefully about this. The news a week ago today that came out allowing all of us hear obscene sexually predatory comments made by a presidential candidate of our beloved country was way too much to bear. In my experience as a girl and woman I have had to fend off unwanted sexual advances by the dozen. I have had to stay quiet in the streets of NYC and endured lewd remarks because I was afraid of being raped. I witnessed the sexual abuse of a thirteen year old girl by a friend of my parents. I've had men expose themselves to me on public transportation. I have been intimidated in places where I have worked. I have shared these experiences this past week with my husband and my sons. I have had the opportunity to connect with women on this too. Every single one I spoke to had her war stories.
Whether I am a yoga teacher or not, I really believe that this is a time where it is inappropriate to spiritually bypass my anger, and speak about peace and love, rainbows and butterflies. I will get back to that as soon as I process through what is happening and what is changing. Or maybe I won't. As a teacher, I can promise my students that I am dedicated to my practices. But just like them, I am simply human.
Perhaps our society is going through a prolonged death of sorts. Death can be ugly and it's our job to witness it. I'm doing my best to be patient and stay rooted in the hope that after the destruction is over, we can be reborn into something much greater and kinder. Perhaps this a a unique opportunity for women of the world to be heard.
Until then, I am channeling my energy into two projects. On Friday Oct 28 I will be hosting a Women's Circle Meditation and Discussion about our feelings as women during this time.
On Sunday Nov 13 I will be co-leading a day-retreat with Petrina Plecko where we will explore the tools of silence, yoga and meditation in order to initiate a post-election healing process.
More info here
My life hit a crisis point in 2012 as I mourned loss, managed a scary health issue in my family, unexpectedly lost my job and struggled with severe depression. I've written quite a bit about that time period on my blog, especially how the practices of yoga and meditation saved my life.
When I began the journey of inner transformation that these practices inspire, I began to think of myself differently. The internal changes became profound, especially once I started to follow the strict ethical codes of the yamas and niyamas from the yoga system. Living an ethical life was a big part of how I went from being a miserable bitch to engaging the world in a way that I was proud of.
I did two external things that marked these changes that were happening inside me. I cut my hair short and started using my nickname instead of the name on my birth certificate. Changing my name was not a planned decision. A few people over the years had called me Dee, but not many. The day I walked into the first session of yoga teacher training, I looked around at the faces that surrounded me and spontaneously decided to say "Hi, my name is Dee," when it was my turn to introduce myself. In that very moment, something huge shifted.
Introducing myself differently was both exciting and powerfully symbolic. It marked the beginning of a new life, and what eventually turned out to be a new career. It was the first large group of people who'd never known me as anything but Dee... or ever known me as anything but ethical, and spiritual.
Looking back I realize that in order to grow, I needed to become someone else. And my first name needed to change as well. A lot of people in my life found this shift very hard to swallow and, years later, I'm still met with quite a bit of resistance from some. That's okay. Witnessing real change is difficult for people. And it is normal that when you decide to transform, even the most well-intentioned people will push back. It's up to you to insist that you be given respect and space to evolve into the person you want to be.
My intention in sharing this, is to inspire those of you who have aspects of your life that aren't working for you. Know this. Change is possible as well as hard work. Whether it's your level of patience, your job, your relationships, or your given name, it doesn't matter. If you don't like it, you have the power to transform. You are not stuck. Obstacles will present themselves and some in your life won't like it. Too bad. You owe it to yourself to live your best life. You owe it to yourself to find a path of peace and fulfillment.
In the last 4 days I’ve received not one, but two 90 min massages and I’m not apologizing about it. If you think that is extravagant or selfish I’m going to let you sit with those thoughts while I congratulate myself for taking this action that is in support of my family’s well-being.
When it comes to taking care of myself, like many women, I’m usually my own worst enemy. My mind seems to be trained into thinking that my personal needs are at cross-purposes with my parenting. If it’s a form of self-care that needs to be purchased, I tell myself I shouldn’t spend the money when there are other family priorities. If I feel like a quiet walk or a longer meditation would be nice, my thoughts often stray to what I should be doing instead. I tell myself I should be making dinner for the boys or running an errand. It’s almost as if I’m subconsciously asking myself, what would June Cleaver do? Then I tell myself I should do that.
The word “should” of course, is inherently judgmental. And for me, it can create guilt that is so powerful, I occasionally fool myself into thinking that the time I would spend doing something just for me, isn’t worth it. Many times I make the mistake of neglecting myself in order to get to the next item on the to-do-for-everybody-else list.
As I’ve become more immersed my yoga studio's community of mostly women, self-care has become a topic that we talk a lot about. I've been encouraging we practice the skill of mindfully rejecting the societal bullshit that tells us that women should put everyone’s needs above their own. We’ve been programmed into thinking that we ought to come last and moms, it’s time to realize that the June Cleaver’s archetype is a thing of the past.
I enjoy being a nurturer. But I’m wise enough to know that a healthy body and a peaceful mind will make me much better equipped to serve those who need me. Think of it like you're on an airplane, and they tell you to slip the oxygen mask over your own face first. It’s time we divorce ourselves from the idea that self-care is selfish and remember that your time on the yoga mat or getting lost for a few hours getting a pedicure is for the benefit of everyone in your life. You are doing it for them. And Enjoy!