Yoga Teachers, this one’s for you!
It’s no secret, the word is out, taking care of yourself is essential to a happy life and good relationships. But what does that really mean?
I thought I had it all figured out. After all, I promote wellness and self-care as my profession, so I must know how to do it myself right? Well sure, I eat a clean and healthy diet, exercise daily, meditate daily, and try to make some time most days to do some spiritual reading and/or writing. But whether or not I really know how to take care of myself has been put to the ultimate test recently: cohabitating with the man I love.
There’s a tendency to think that life as a yoga teacher is all about OMing, stretching, breathing, and feeling good. No doubt it is a blessed existence and there’s nothing else I would rather be doing with myself, but we are still business people and have to deal with all the stresses that go along with making a business work. On top of that, we must be fully present with our students and private clients. Therefore, there is a lot of giving energy, a lot of focus and care outward. Some teachers really struggle just with finding time for their own practice. Not to mention the continuous, ongoing training that we are always embarking on. So, even as a yoga teacher, taking care of yourself can be a challenge. Add on top of that the hyper-perfectionist motivational super drive of our modern existence, plus the demands of life at home, and you may find yourself sapped, grumpy, aching, and on the brink of meltdown.
What I have learned recently is that self-care is not about adding more items to your to-do list (take a bath, go to a restorative class, schedule a massage, say your prayers). While all those things are lovely, if we don’t have the space for them then feeling that you must do them all will only add to the pressure. The key is boundaries and understanding your limits as a human being. The key is also loving your imperfections, doing your best everyday, and forgiving yourself when you don’t get to it all this very minute. This becomes especially necessary when you combine your life with someone you love. If you are like me and tend toward the role of caretaker (which, I believe, many yoga teachers, not to mention women!, do), it’s easy to forget that you can’t do everything as you strive to take care of that special person, or people, in your life. When you try to do it all, it can leave you feeling overwhelmed and perhaps even resentful that “they” are taking up so much of your time and energy.
Yes, you must make time for yourself, but the only way to do that is to be explicit about what you are able to contribute outward and knowing when you need to turn inward. It is also up to the people in your life to be clear and explicit about what they are able to contribute and what they need from you. Too often when we are feeling overwhelmed we start making demands, or getting angry when our efforts are not reciprocated. Why would they be when we are so willing to bend over backward to ensure the smooth functioning of the household?
Ultimately, step one of taking care of yourself is to establish your boundaries: figure out what you want to do, what you are able to do, and ideally what you need as support from your partner/friends/family. If our minds and hearts are clear about that, and we make it known, then there is no guilt in saying no, or recognizing that you simply don’t have the time or capacity to do it all. Boundaries are not about rigid rules, they are simply about knowing yourself well enough to understand the best uses of your energy. Only then can you be fully present for all that life demands and all you wish to accomplish.
Take good care!