Years ago, a good friend told me about a discipline strategy used by the teachers at her son's pre-school: when a child acted out, he or she spent quiet time sitting on the sedia rosa before they could return to play. I try to remember the sedia rossa when I behave poorly or get stuck in a negative thought or emotional pattern, and instead of adding shame, guilt, or denial to the mix thus worsening the situation, sometimes I remember to offer to the part of myself that needs attention quiet time to rest and take a break. Sometimes my response is as simple as imagining the sedia rossa and taking a couple of deep breaths; other times I need to get outside or take a shower or call a friend or read something that inspires me or play with the kids or make a cup of tea and sit still for a few minutes. In other words, the sedia rossa gives space to the part of us that needs attention so that we can discover and attend to the unmet need that lies beneath.
So I'm learning to give the part of me that wants to eat an entire chocolate bar at 9 pm some space, and rather than automatically give in to her demands, which was my habit for many years, when I catch myself reaching into the cupboard, sometimes I pause and ask myself "What am I really hungry for?" And usually, I find that the sweetness that I am craving can be met by being sweet to myself. Sometimes that means giving myself a massage (see the attached Guide to Abhyanga Massage) and soaking in the tub, other times it means having a real conversation with my husband, and often times, it means honoring the fact that I am deeply tired and going to bed. And yes, often I do eat the chocolate, but with an awareness that allows me to be satisfied with a couple of bites rather than a whole bar. This is a very different approach to discipline than I was accustomed to because it preferences self-care over self-denial by honoring all the parts of ourselves without judgement. This willingness to accept ourselves unconditionally is a central tenet of yoga. Seen from another perspective, it is the most basic way that we practice ahimsa or non-violence, the first of the yamas or ethical guidelines which comprise the firstof the eight limbs of classical yoga according to Patanjali. As we remember to be present with all the parts of ourselves, we are practicing a deep yoga that arises from and cultivates lovingkindness not just for ourselves, but for others as well.
When it comes to taking care of ourselves, usually the problem isn't that we don't know what to do, it's that, in spite of knowing what we need, we choose not to do it. Our reasons for self-sabatoge are varied, yet equally illegitimate: I don't have enough time/resources/support, I'll do it later when I'm on holiday/when my kids are grown/when I have enough time/resources/support, and probably the most insidious and common of all: I don't want to be selfish. This notion that taking care of ourselves is either something that we do only in case of emergency or is a luxury that we can't afford seems to me to stem from a belief (so painful that it's taken me years to finally admit to myself that yes, in fact, some part of me does think it's true) that I am undeserving, unworthy of self-love. This part of me is the little girl sitting in the sedia rossa. But there is another, far more wise and compassionate part of me that wholeheartedly loves that little girl no matter how much she whines or talks back or misbehaves while recognizing that beneath her cries is a call for real attention. I really appreciate the writer Parker Palmer's understanding that:
“Self-care is never a selfish act - it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others. Anytime we can listen to our true self and give the care it requires, we do it not only for ourselves, but for the many others whose lives we touch.”
His recognition that when we listen to and care for ourselves we are acting on the behalf of everyone we encounter reinforces the yogic perspective of our interconnectedness and reveals that self-care is neither an indulgence nor is it negotiable, it is a matter of discipline, of honoring the most basic commitment to myself to be the best version of myself that I can be so that I may be of benefit to everyone in my life.
I am delighted to share with you a number of upcoming opportunities to practice the good stewardship of self-care starting with a "Girls' Day Off" Yoga and Spa Day Retreat that I'll be hosting at the luxury, 5-star Swiss Diamond Hotel in Morcote on Saturday, March 28. Our amazing day begins with a revitalizing, all levels Hatha yoga practice in our private studio space overlooking the lake. A gourmet 3-course lunch served on the lake-side terrace offers ample time to delight in the spectacular scenery while chatting with new and old friends. In the afternoon, we'll relax completely with a restorative yoga session and then indulge in the Wellness Center’s lovely offerings: heated indoor pool, Turkish bath, hammam and solarium. You may choose to complete your day by taking advantage of our exclusive 50% discount off of all treatments at the full-service spa. You will emerge from the experience refreshed and reconnected, feeling like you’ve been on holiday without ever leaving Lugano! The cost is 100 francs. Please contact me directly to reserve your spot.
While it is wonderful (and totally essential once in a while) to devote an entire day to self-care, we often just have a couple of minutes which is why I am also beginning to offer short audio recordings of guided meditations and yoga sequences on my website. Click here to access the first one: Following Breath Meditation. Since I'm really new to this, I'd love to receive feedback if you have any suggestions either for improvements or specific practices that you'd like me to share.
Recognizing that, despite of your commitment to your wellbeing, it's difficult to commit to an 8-week course, I will be opening Yoga for Real Life to drop-ins starting this week. We meet at Studio Amrita in Breganzona from 9:15-10:45 and the drop-in rate is 30 francs. While you won't need to sign up for the whole course, I would appreciate knowing if you plan to come so please do send me an email to let me know.
One of the best ways that I know to reconnect with the best version of myself is to practice yoga with others and even better, to be outdoors. It's been awhile since we had a Ticino Yoga Kula practice, and as long as the sun is shining (or at least it's not raining!) I'll offer a karma class with Kat Walser, Kelly Griswold, and Nura Madzjoub on Saturday, March 14 at 15:00 at Parco Tassino. The practice is free and open to everyone. Please share the flyer with your friends, colleagues, and neighbors!
Finally, I'll be subbing for the lovely Keri Gonzato for the next 3 Mondays at 19:30 at Yoga Roof Centro: March 2, March 9, and March 16. I'm looking forward to seeing some familiar faces and meeting new friends, too. Hope to see some of you there!
Of course, I hope that you will join me for some of these offerings, and even more, I hope that you will truly, take good care of yourself. It's a gift to us all.