Lesson 5: The Practice of Self-Care

Yoga as self care? Maybe obvious--but I want to go deeper. Self care means something different to everyone---and it can change over time. If you had asked me years ago what it meant to me, I would have said the usual: “bubble baths, going for a massage, taking it easy, time alone, etc.” Yoga might have made the list—but as a treat rather than a practice. 

I still think all of those things and more can be self care, but they are also just scratching the surface. My practice on the mat, as it has evolved over the years, has taught me the value of CARING for myself. To be able to “hang out” with myself just like I would with another person and just be ok with who they are. I can see myself as real human being and not just a DIY project—and because of that I can notice my energy levels, whether I’m in a good space or not and I can ask, “what is needed here?” and to me THAT is self care. It’s noticing and doing what is needed because I value myself just as I’d value another human being: the difference being, I can take responsibility for myself FAR more than I am meant to of another. 

Self care on the mat practiced in THIS way can look like lightening up a bit on my drive to improve. It might look like NOT practicing poses on the mat that day but sitting and meditating instead. It might look like trying something new: a new class, a new yoga video, or a new way of moving (yeah—yoga can be a dance!) because I need inspiration. It might also look like challenging myself and sweating harder than normal because I really need to get out of my head. It might look like letting myself fall and fail doing something I’ve not tried before because I need to remember I am most alive when growing. All of that and more is self care---because from the perspective of the mat---self care is placing high value on what would nourish, support and energize me most at that moment. That is the OPPOSITE of indulgently selfish. In fact, being able to just be with myself patiently, to notice with curiosity what’s going on and to offer wisely what would be best in that moment—I’m strengthening the muscle to be able to do that with other people. What does it feel like to you to have a safe space where you can be yourself, to have someone in your corner who has your back no matter what and who seems to know just what to say or do? To me that’s priceless love and acceptance. When I have this from another human being, it inspires me to spread my wings with enthusiasm. I wonder what would happen if we could also offer this to ourselves? I wonder what would change if we could then offer this to others? 

To me—THAT’S a lesson from the mat.