Self-care is a term that I’ve seen and heard a lot over the last few years. It seems like in the wake of the healthcare debate there’s been a movement of people actively seeking ways to take care of themselves. Not just through annual doctor visits, but through actions in their everyday lives: the food they consume, the products they put on their body, exercise, mental health and more. Self-care is trending. So why am I still struggling with it and what does it really mean to me?
Yoga has been a gateway for me to start practicing real self-care. I grew up a competitive gymnast and was taught to work through pain. Some people may frown at this concept, but any serious athlete can probably relate. Pain is just a part of the process. With this mentality deeply engrained in me, I tend not to listen to my body when pain occurs. More often than not, my ego creeps up and tells me to work though it, push past the pain and keep going. In competitive sports, pain and injuries are sometimes seen as a badge of honor for an athlete- comparing injuries and seeing who’s the toughest. This is obviously not a healthy mentality. Yoga has helped me break out of this way of thinking by allowing me to recognize pain in a different light and treat myself with kindness and compassion. Our bodies are not infallible- when pain occurs, we should listen.
Pushing my ego aside, I took some pretty big steps in self-care this week. For years I’ve had pain from old nagging injuries that I had just learned to accept and live with. The thing about injuries though is if they’re left unattended to, they tend to get worse. I’ve had neck pain for the past 4 years after an accident where I was rear-ended and the person who hit me decided to drive off instead of stopping. I’d had whiplash before from a nasty gymnastics fall so I thought I could handle it. I didn’t have insurance at the time, so I didn’t see a doctor. Truth be told, even if I had insurance at the time I probably wouldn’t have seen anyone. My ego told me I could push through it and I would be fine. I’m sure you can guess what happened next. The pain progressively became worse and spread to other areas of my body.
“Our bodies are our gardens to which our wills are gardeners”
– William Shakespeare
How we treat ourselves is so important. If we treat ourselves with care, we have a higher capacity of care to give to those around us. I know this and yet for the last 4 years I’ve found every way I can to ignore or “deal with” the pain. In teacher training, the idea of being kind to ourselves comes up pretty frequently. As humans, we tend to be really hard on ourselves when we should be patient and loving. This past week after not being able to sleep due to the level of discomfort in the right side of my body, I made a promise to myself to seek care. The next morning I spent the necessary time calling my insurance and finding a doctor to finally get a referral to see a specialist for my injury. As I walked into the doctor’s office I was filled with dread and couldn’t help feeling like it was a waste of time- hi again, Ego! However, I am happy to report that I saw a doctor and got that much needed referral. Just like my yoga practice is a journey, so is the practice of self-care. I’m glad to have taken some steps on the path this week.