One of the most important things I’ve ever done is become a pet owner. I rescued Dakota when she was six. That was eight years ago.
You know intellectually that dogs get older and will eventually die. In practice it fucking sucks. Dakota has been struggling and while it seems that she’s not going to die tomorrow, I’ve got to start thinking about those hard decisions pet owners must think about.
When is the right time to put her to sleep? Will I be able to tell? What if it’s too soon? Or worse what if I prolong her suffering.
Surprisingly (or not), my yoga practice has been a great comfort and useful. I’ve been more open than I usually am about my feelings of sadness and grief. I’ve talked about how I feel so bad for my dog losing control of her bladder and frustrated at cleaning up what seems to be an endless amount of pee. But by sharing I’ve had an outpouring of support, love and practical suggestions that have helped make both our lives more comfortable.
My asana practice has been a place that I allow myself to both let it all hang out and nurture my spirit (Special shout out to Angela Rauscher and Kaity Shanks for being my rocks the other day).
Daily sits have been challenging and relaxing depending upon how I slept. Mostly though, I’m in the moment. Dakota may not be able to understand how much her companionship means to me but she will be given so much love (endless treats and cheeseburgers) until it’s time for her to transition. It’s the best I can do and in my heart I know it’s enough.
This post is for the pet owners out there.
I made myself a snowball
As perfect as can be.
I thought I’d keep it as a pet,
And let it sleep with me.
I made it some pajamas
And a pillow for it’s head.
Then last night it ran away,
But first – It wet the bed.
– Shel Silverstein
Happiness is an inside job.
– William Arthur Ward
Teaching is a strenuous activity. There’s a tangible and intangible exchange of energy. With a group of teenagers I have to corral the energy and work on creating a sense of stillness and peace. Teaching a class at 6:45 on a Thursday evening with people who are ready for Friday is another story entirely, but it still requires an expenditure of energy to keep the room creative, productive and safe. In corporate classes I’m looking to maintain a sense of balance and energy and with my private clients it’s a combination of customized needs. Lastly with trauma sensitive classes it’s cultivating a sense of spirituality and creating a space for self-healing.
To do this work it requires a strong commitment to my own well-being. If I am not passionately dedicated to my own wellness, how can I be an authentic teacher? Defining what self-care means has evolved over the years. In a society that respects the notion of working oneself literally to death, thinking about self-care as an act of liberation rather than selfishness is a new concept. The World Health Organization has been redefining the definition since 2005. In a working meeting in 2013 they came up with:
‘Self-Care is the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, and maintain health and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a health-care provider.’
-World Health Organization
And while I think this is a great definition I like what The UK Department of Health has to say.
‘Self care is a part of daily living. It is the care taken by individuals towards their own health and well-being, and includes the care extended to their children, family, friends and others in neighbourhoods and local communities. Self-Care includes the actions individuals and carers take for themselves, their children, their families and others to stay fit and maintain good physical and mental health; meet social and psychological needs; prevent illness or accidents; care for minor ailments and long-term conditions; and maintain health and wellbeing after acute illness or discharge from hospital.’
-UK Department of Health
Though it’s clear as a global community we are working toward a common definition one thing is clear, taking care of ourselves is an inside job. My self-care regime starts with the idea of awareness and listening. Doing therapeutic poses as preventive measure against stress is vital. Even the simple act of supported child’s pose and some gentle self-massage keeps me balanced. Also, I try to stay in the moment and notice when I am feeling edgy, tired or the beginnings of fatigue. Instead of waiting until it’s full-blown I make time to pause. As a teacher, I think it’s my responsibility to nuture my mind body and spirit.
But hey, I’m not perfect. Consistently seeing Brian, my chiropractor and getting massages has not been a priority. I need to change that.
When I am at my best- my students get me at my best.
May all beings everywhere be peaceful and free.
Now that I’m teaching and have a daily asana practice, I’ve noticed that my muscles get sore from time to time. It’s perfectly normal. However, rather than blow it off as I would have in times past, I pause and investigate. This is to prevent major injury.
Aside from it being practical (c’mon who want to take a class with a teacher who is hurt?), it’s important to honor and respect your body.
Oh- and if you’re hurt you can’t teach- so there’s that. And since you use money to buy food and stuff- it’s kind of important.
Just about any problem can be solved by a hot bath. I have always loved a hot bath, but now it’s a part of my routine as preventive medicine. Lately, my hamstrings have been little tight, okay they’ve been drum tight, there I’ve said it. Enter epsom salt and my tub.
*Marvin Gaye voice* ‘Ooooh child things are gonna get easier….
Baths are a magical happy place. And epsom salts work.
Don’t tell my mother, but she told me about using epsom salts years ago, but I blew it off because like so many I tend to ignore my mother’s advice. A few years back out of desperation I tried them. Miraculously, my muscle aches disappeared. I soak once a week at least and more if I’m feeling extra achy.
Mom, you were right! Hmm, makes me wonder about all the other bits of information that have be bestowed upon me over the years. Seriously- please don’t tell her.
not content to leave well enough alone slightly skeptical, I had to do further research on this whole epsom salt thing. I mean, why isn’t everyone aware of the miracle of epsom salts, or have I just been living in an epsom salt free world oblivious to the joy on the other side?
Fact: Truth is stranger than fiction.
I found an article that discusses this very topic ad nauseam. Seriously, Paul Ingraham spends over 8,000 words delving into epsom salts, wives tale or really medicinal? (I know it’s 8000 words because it states the word count in the summary. This should have served as a warning)
In my fantasy world you care as much about this as I do and we discuss how crazy this guy must be for writing such an extensive article on epsom salt.
I hear your exasperated tone, ‘Epsom salts do they work or not, Oneika? Get to it, we have got things to do.’
According to the Epsom Salt Council (there is a lobby for everything, c’mon who else is going to make sure the voice of epsom salt is heard in DC *eye roll*)
They work. The magnesium from the salts gets absorbed in the body, in as little as 12 minutes.
So give yourself a soak.
This is yoga, submerged.