Caring for Our Self
While in grad school, (almost) every Wednesday from 5:45 pm - 7:15 pm I went to yoga class. Every Wednesday for 90 minutes my colleagues knew I would not be available for meetings, my boyfriend (who is now my husband) did not expect me at home, and my friends and family knew they would not hear from me. Every Wednesday, for 6 months, I dedicated myself to this time and space during the most grueling year of my academic career.
One frosty winter Wednesday evening, after a good snow (for the south) had come and gone, my boyfriend dropped me off in front of the yoga studio and I dragged myself to the door. Knowing that I had made it through another week, my steps became lighter as I approached. At last, I would get nourishment that I oh so badly needed. Breath flowing through. Then... I saw the message scrawled on a piece of lined paper taped to the inside of the door. "Classes cancelled today due to inclement weather." Complete and total devastation. I felt a piece of me, the last piece propping up my wellbeing, collapse inside. Tears streaming down my face, I returned to the car and crumpled into the front seat in defeat.
I have since developed a much more balanced life (as compared to the 12 hour work days that come with being a doctoral candidate), as well as a much healthier and regular self-care practice. But at the time, it really felt this catastrophic.
Within the drama of this moment, was the sweet acknowledgement of how important the regular practice of yoga had become. That weekly ritual had crept into my bones and laid to rest in my heart. Without me even knowing, my connection with my soul had become dependent on that weekly check-in. My Wednesday yoga class and connecting with my self, whether I liked it or not, was essential for me to function as the person I wanted to be.
And I did like it. My weekly yoga class soon became a bi-weekly commitment, as I added a Saturday morning class to my routine. On sunny mornings, I would walk the mile to class on my own, sometimes even leisurely, and meet a friend for tea afterward. Soon I was taking a periodic evening bath, just because I felt like it. When I got my first massage that was not related to an injury then I knew the tide had turned. My self-care was becoming integrated into my daily life and I was happier, more patient, and less overwhelmed because of it (a cancelled yoga class is no longer as catastrophe it once was).
Western medicine has begun to recognize the effect of self-care on general health (for example) and refers to the importance of regular "stress management" in terms of preventative care (i.e. reducing the risk of hypertension, diabetes, etc). I have recognized that my self-care goes deeper. That I am actually caring for and connecting with the very essence of my self. To take a step away from the forward motion of my day and remember what is the most important thing in the moment, in this lifetime. Today, with two young children in a two career household, I am not even getting to a weekly yoga class. But I set the intention again and again to find the moments to refill my cup.
I find my self in listening to the song my daughter is making up in the moment and in the smile broadening across my chest. I reconnect by feeling my feet in the grass when we are outside. My husband helps me find time to take that evening bath and even steal 10 minutes on my mat at home, because even though he doesn't now remember that moment outside the yoga studio, he knows how important these rituals are for me. My reaction to that "closed" sign opened up a whole new door into the consistent practice of caring for my self. Even if that is just a deep breath in this moment...