I have a 4-month-old baby. Sweet little guy, but good lord if he doesn’t require a lot of care. Now, imagine that when he got tired I just said to him “Hey buddy, I know you’re tired, but we’ve got to push through it this time because there is just too much to do to sleep now!” And if when he got hungry I said–“not now, but you can eat when we get out of this meeting”, and then hastily shoved a burrito in his mouth while driving the car so I could be ready to take the next conference call on the headset. Imagine if when his diaper was full I just let it go for hours on end because I was in the middle of a project that required a lot of concentration. What if he hadn’t been outside all day long, but I decided there was no time to go for a walk because we had to respond to some e-mails. Â At the end of this long day he might want to cuddle,laugh or play, but what if I just said “We’ll try to make a couple of hours for that this weekend, but I don’t have it left in me right now, so just sit on this sofa and watch Netflix”.
I think you can guess where this is going. I would never treat my baby this way, because I love him and want him to not only survive, but to thrive. Yet I have treated myself this way on many occasions, and I’m guessing I’m not the only one. If you have intense responsibilities, whether you are a parent,an employee with a demanding job, an entrepreneur who has to be available around the clock, or maybe all of these things at once, you know what it is to make yourself the LAST priority. In fact, even before I had kids I willingly stacked my schedule up with commitments to everybody but myself. When I think of my standards for caring for my children, the lesson becomes clear: Self-care is not optional. It is not Extra Credit. Self-care is one of the key components to enjoying any of the rest of this stuff that we are loading up our plates with. I care for my children today in good faith that they will one day learn to care for themselves, but how can they do that if I can’t model it for them?
So where do we start? For me, yoga is a huge part of the solution. Whether its carving out time for the luxury of going to a full-length class, or just finding 5 minutes to pop into child’s pose and notice my breath before I get into bed at night, just stepping onto my mat floods my body and nervous system with the memory of all of the times that this mat was a vessel of self care. That memory revives my intention to live in a way that is respectful to my own needs.
This yoga mat magic is part of the reason why I teach Mama Baby Yoga. It is admittedly challenging to provide a completely satisfying practice in the busy and chaotic room full of adorable (and sometimes noisy) babies. But when your life is full of responsibilities that you literally can’t put down, sometimes you have to take them with you onto the mat. It becomes necessary to surrender any ideas of the perfect practice, or the perfect anything. Leonard Cohen put it beautifully when he sang:”Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” We must learn to let our self-care burst like shafts of light through the cracks of our daily schedule. A glass of water here. Five minutes on the yoga mat there. Eating our lunch while quietly watching the trees swaying in the wind, rather than checking Facebook.
Here are some of the top practices I’ve been implementing lately to reinforce self-love rather than self-abandonment.
1. Hydrate. Did you just pass a drinking fountain? Stop and drink! Are you in the middle of unloading your dishwasher and thinking of what is next on your to-do list? Take that glass that is in your hand on the way to the cupboard and fill it up. Keep at least one water bottle in your car at all times. Seriously, it takes about 30 seconds of each hour to stay hydrated.
2. When you gotta go, you gotta go. How many times have you noticed that you need a bathroom break, but then somewhere along the path you get derailed by an interaction with a colleague, a phone call, a text, or a demanding toddler? And then you find yourself two hours later feeling uncomfortable and urgent and suddenly you remember–right! I had to pee! Our body is brilliant and putting elimination on hold so that we can jump into action, but we are not built to be in that fight or flight response at all times, and there is a price to pay for it. Just PEE. It takes about one minute out of each hour to check in and make sure you are not neglecting your internal organs.
3. Notice when you are in a sticky web. Have you ever found yourself trying to leave the house/office, only to have your spouse/kid/co-worker cast a sticky web at you with a last minute request, urgent need or loaded question? As the mother of two young children, I can tell you my kids and husband would cast webs at me all day long if I let them. There is always another tear to dry, another hungry belly, another scheduling challenge to discuss. As a people-pleaser and a caregiver it is all too easy for me to feel that I can’t leave until everything is tidied up behind me, but I’ve come to realize that will never happen. I just have to beat my way through the webs and get out the front door, and guess what? Everything is always just fine when I return. Avoiding getting caught in the web is key to not rushing off to my next engagement in a stressed out hurry.
4. Eat well, eat often. Just go ahead and spend the extra few dollars each week to load up on convenient and healthy foods. I pack my purse with single servings of overpriced organic almond butter, and when I see them at the store I think: “Really? I have an entire jar at home that costs less than a handful of these packets.” But fast forward 3 hours and I am stuck in traffic, having a blood sugar crash (or even worse, in the car with a toddler having a blood sugar crash), and suddenly I realize that if somebody was selling single servings of almond butter on the side of the road I would easily pay $5 for one right now. Not only does my preparedness save me in that moment, but it also makes me feel SO organized and reinforces to my subconscious that I made myself a priority.
5. Do ONE yoga pose. Don’t have 90 minutes for a yoga class? Do a 30-minute practice. Don’t have 30 minutes? Then just do one pose. One minute is all it takes to get back to a place of self-love rather than self-abandoning. It is this shift in intention that makes all the difference to establishing habits of self-care. For me, taking the time to do one pose unlocks a hidden door, which swings open and reveals to me how hungry I am to connect with myself. It is easy to make a priority of whatever is right in front of you. So get in front of yourself!
If you are a new Mama like me, consider joining our next Mama Baby Yoga Series and get some yoga mat magic happening in your week!Here is the link to register, or for more info.
If you have time to come to a yoga class even once a week, make that commitment to yourself bypurchasing our Root Membership. For just $39.95/month you could be forming a habit of self-care that will be invaluable to your health and sense of well-being.
Do you have any sneaky self-care tips to share? Tell us about it in the comments section!