“An empty lantern provides no light. Self-care is the fuel that allows your light to burn brightly”
Wanting to take better care of ourselves physically and emotionally is one reason why people start yoga. This term “self-care” can be defined as anything that helps you to cope with life’s challenges better – including watching films, having long baths, taking a social media break or even playing computer games such as Fortnite! Such a flexible definition can lead us to feel that self-care is either not having the need to challenge ourselves or perhaps an indulgence or luxury that we don’t have time for.
However self care originally started out in the medical profession as a way of helping patients take responsibility for their own health through developing health habits, both physically and mentally. It was further developed as a radical political act during the civil rights and feminist movements, with women and people of colour taking control of their own health when their medical needs were often ignored by the mainstream patriarchal healthcare system.
So self care has radical, political roots that we can reclaim and yoga is well placed to do this as a method of self care. In the limbs or stages of yoga, the first stage is to consider how you treat other people and then to consider how you treat yourself. So the purpose of self-care is not necessarily just to make yourself feel better but to feel what your purpose currently is – whether that is caring for children or elderly relatives, or needing energy for your job. Perhaps you need time to reflect or change what you are currently engaged in.
Through this space for reflection on what our intentions and goals are, our noticing of our bodies and breaths, our aversions and attractions as we move through the yoga practice – we are caring for ourselves in the greatest sense. As we practice yoga we start to learn what our bodies need to stay healthy, when we might need space to rest or when we need to fire ourselves up for activity. When we need to practice acceptance and when to protest.
So this January is going to be my January of self-care so that that I can be more at ease with myself and therefore bring more well directed energy and purpose out into the world. We will be exploring how physical yoga practice, together with mindfulness, breathing and meditation practices can help us to take more responsibility for our own well being.
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