Sometimes all it takes is a single comment to change your perspective.
As I was recently recovering from a vicious flu that had me in bed for 9 days, I had a conversation with my wise friend, yoga colleague and Accountability Partner, Yael Flusberg, who told me I was on Forced Rest. Her sage viewpoint is always enlightening, but somehow this particular phrase – Forced Rest – really struck a chord and helped me relax and allow my healing to continue without feeling that I was missing out on things. There would be plenty of time to get back to work and teaching.
My schedule is normally quite relentless and I recognize that I push myself hard. I needed the Forced Rest more than I realized and not only because I was battling the flu. Now that I’ve recovered, I’m more aware of pacing myself, as well as being more compassionate to myself about feeling tired. And naturally, this has morphed into my teaching and the care I have for my students.
So recently, when three of my most dedicated students sustained injuries as a result of their own self-care, I really wondered why. These are three emotionally and intellectually intelligent, caring women who are deep practitioners of yoga and life.
How did this happen to them?
Gretel is a mom that works full time; goes to the gym regularly, swims weekly, and studies yoga privately. She’s also committed to bi-weekly massages to address tension and past injuries. If you asked me, she’s a wonder woman. So at the end of a long week, a soothing hot bath seemed like a great idea. Fully relaxed she drained the water but also fell asleep right there in the tub. However long that snooze was, it was too long. She woke up with a bruised and compressed hip that took a couple of weeks to resolve.
Helen is a working mom and grandmother who spends a lot of quality time with her grandchildren. She’s a regular yoga practitioner, as well as an avid gardener and a runner. Recently, when traveling to visit her family out of town, the winter weather delayed her at the airport, so she thought a chair yoga massage would be a good way to kill time and de-stress. Helen knows to be cautious in her own practice with her left shoulder, but unfortunately the massage person didn’t and ended up going too deep and hard on her arm muscles, which left her sore and very tender for a few weeks.
Liz works full time and is also a yoga teacher. One evening after work, she went to a Restorative Yoga class. (How could that possibly be bad?) Yet in the class, it seemed that she overstretched while working to open her hips. This set off a bout of sciatica that lasted several painful weeks.
So why do three knowledgeable, intelligent and well-intentioned women get injured while taking care of themselves?
Some possible reasons for what happened during these attempts at self-care:
* We are generally exhausted to the brink.
* We often allow others to determine what’s right for us.
* We want to be as perfect as we can be.
My first anatomy teacher, Irene Dowd, would say:
“We may not ever know a precise cause of why we get injured and there’s always more than one cause.”
Still, we know that Self-Care is important. As the old sage Hillel said,
“If I am not for myself, who will be for me?”
Self-Care doesn’t have to be a separate, special part of life that we do for ourselves after a long week but rather how we care for ourselves on a daily basis. It’s about treating ourselves with enough sleep and rest, eating properly and nutritiously, moving our bodies, enjoying nature, and even helping others.
These are some of my Self-Care practices:
Drinking: Trying to stay well hydrated throughout the day can be challenging so I start each day with a large glass of lemon water in the morning.
Reading: I read many books about yoga, psychology, and anatomy but these days I’ve put novels back into my reading rotation and my appreciation for stories and books has never been greater.
Writing: In the past I was dedicated to keeping a journal. Aside from writing essays, I take the time to write lots of thank you cards and notes (many of which I also love to illustrate and decorate) as part of my gratitude practice.
Taking Baths: Nothing relaxes or warms me up better than a bath. I love it really hot, too hot to get in right away, with some of my favorite Kniepp’s Herbal Bath Oils.
Ayurvedic Face & Body Oil: Instead of standard moisturizers, I use Ayurvedic oil because it has fewer and all natural ingredients. My absolute favorite oil is Tranquility, one of the organic Cured Sesame Oils by Skin Dharma. Don’t worry, it doesn’t smell at all like the sesame oil used in the kitchen.
Other Rituals: Things that I do either daily or frequently: Yoga, Meditation, Emotional Freedom Technique (aka Tapping), and the MIR Method. (Message me for more info on any of these practices.)
Hobbies: There’s nothing better to keep the mind and body engaged than a good hobby. I have several: Singing (with the Brooklyn Community Chorus), Tap dancing – it’s rhythm, sound and movement all at once, and doing Jigsaw puzzles, which I find soothing and satisfying when putting the pieces together.
Volunteering: Helping others is not only a good, charitable thing, but it also reduces my stress. I’ve been visiting an elderly blind friend (who I met through Visiting Neighbors) for over 25 years. Here we are celebrating her birthday together.
Connecting with Other People: This is the true way to Self-Care. When I’m tired, I often don’t feel that I have the energy to reach out. But, this might be the time when we need it the most.
One of my 17-year-old daughter’s same-aged friends showed me her list of Self-Care practices. One of the entries on her list is Crying, which I thought was smart and very cool.
So, I’m curious. What are you favorite Self-Care rituals?
Let me know by clicking here.