Updated: Sep 22, 2019
You would think that being a yoga teacher and owning a yoga studio is a dream job filled with zen-like mentality, lots of sleep, and plenty of "me" time. While it is, certainly, a dream job in many ways, it has the same demands that are placed on all other working professionals - building and maintaining relationships, continuing education by daily study, practice and lifestyle, class writing, endless emails and phone calls to make and return, and planning, planning, planning. It's far from the "handstands on the beach" image we so often associate with this life. If yoga teachers sometimes struggle to find equilibrium, what hope is there for the rest of the world?
And yes, there are so many supplements, workouts, rituals, and other fads that are out there that it can actually be quite confusing how to treat ourselves well. When we're feeling overwhelemed/sad/frustrated/burnt out should we hit the gym harder? Rest? Go into a dark hole and hide beneath the covers? Pump our bodies with smoothies, chock full of adaptogens, coconut water and raw *grass fed* meat or go completely raw-vegan or macrobiotic or paleo or the 100% Butter Diet? Scream in a dark room as we shake our butts to new-wave techno? I dunno. So much of the wellness scene today just seems so...marketed. Like a lot of people behind screens are making money on the fact that many of us are not doing well. Like they're making up these half-baked yet very beautifully packaged schemes to sell us on wellness when we're at our most hungry and vulnerable.
So here's the thing, there are things we can do to be well, and they will help you the very first day you begin. It's so simple that you don't need a doctor's note, more money, or different clothing. You need only to decide that your wellness is worth it. None of this is revolutionary, in fact, it's quite pragmatic and down to earth (which is probably why it is so often ignored in favor of the latest wellness trend). You need only to empower yourself to embrace that it's up to you, and only you, and that you are accountable for how you feel. Are you ready?
1. Eat well (and as author Michael Pollan says, "not too much.")
Everyone has an idea of what makes them feel good, nourished, and well. Eating well simply means tuning into what your body needs, learning to listen to its signals, and feeding it (not your emotions) what it truly desires. To be honest, it's probably not a whole chocolate cake. It's saying yes to a variety of fresh, in-season plant-based nutrition, meat and dairy that comes from respected, happy animals (if you choose), drinking a lot of water and more often than not preparing and cooking these things with your own hands. Eating well is fueling your body to thrive on sustainable energy.
2. Sleep - more than you think.
Every time I go to a meditation retreat I end up feeling exhausted for the first three days. When I asked my teacher about what I should do, he said, "sounds like you need to sleep." It's common to feel exhausted, but that doesn't mean it's healthy, good, or useful. There is no gold star for the martyr who only gets three hours of sleep. If the moment you walk into a yoga class or settle onto your mat to practice you can only muster the strength for Savasana, you're tired. Try sleeping an extra hour at night. If you can't sleep at night but your schedule allows daytime flexibility, try taking a nap. Turn off the phone, turn off the TV, turn off the computer. Sleep.
Our bodies are amazing. Really. Because we are embodied beings, we need to move them to feel good both physically and mentally. Your exercise might look different than mine - I practice yoga, walk, and go to Pilates. You might be into running, boxing, cycling, HIIT, circuit training, or dancing. Whether you're exercising for 15 minutes or 90 minutes you're doing great. If you can't find time for a workout encorporate movement into your life. Walk or bike to work. Take a walk at lunchtime. Make crazy dancing in the den to 80's music a family thing that you do together. Move your body. Every day.
It is no secret that I feel strongly about the positive impact of a meditation practice. This is because I know how much meditation has helped me. It helps us to see the full picture of who we are, how we love, and what we truly need. Meditation is the practice of seeing clearly - not just our own biases, faults, and neurosis, but also the vast amounts of good and love that reside in our hearts. By having a consistent meditation practice we are consistently turning inward to see how we can better care for ourselves in all situations. It's giving us the time to get to know who we are instead of the many masks we have learned to wear. Start with 5 minutes - I think body scanning is so wonderful and so accessible. Start with your toes and ask them to relax. See them relax or maybe even light up in response to your request. Then move to the bottoms of your feet. Then the tops of your feet. Ankles, shins, calves, etc. You get the idea. If you can't get past your toes, that's ok. Just keep starting over and you'll find that eventually you'll move on. You have the rest of your life. No need to rush.
A little bit. Every day.
These are all simple things, right? The challenge is encoporating them all into one day, every day, over a long period of time. Maybe you decide to get up early and exercise but that only leaves you with enough time to make breakfast and not enough to meditate. Maybe you stay up later to cook a nutritious dinner but that ends up cutting into your exercise time before you meditate and go to bed. These are not all-or-nothing practices, these are little adjustments you can make to bring more balance to your life. Start by preparing one more meal a week or day than you usually do. Add in a 15 minute walk after dinner. Get into bed 30 minutes earlier than usual. Spend 10 minutes of your lunch break noticing your breath. You can do it and I promise that you will thank yourself for your effort.