It’s important to put your proverbial oxygen mask on first before you can help others, which can include do things such as yoga.
Photo by Imani Khayyam.
Dear readers, you may recall that a while back, I took a restorative yoga class at Tara Yoga Studio. Turns out, it gave me an epiphany.
See, a number of years ago, I practiced some yoga. I went to a hot yoga studio in Nashville during law school and have occasionally attended a vinyasa class here and there or did a DVD, but I never really practiced it regularly. I suppose I just wasn't in a place where I felt it was something I needed, or maybe I just never found the right studio. I did tons of cardio, but I just couldn't make myself get into the whole yoga thing; I wanted intensity and to get sweaty.
Lately though, I've become more aware of the importance of working on certain aspects of myself—the importance of self-care, nurturing a mind-body connection and bringing mindfulness to one's life. In considering all that, I've realized how words spoken in passing can come back at you in profound ways, and this is one such instance: Probably a year ago, a dear friend remarked in the course of wine and conversation, "It's like (what) the flight attendant says: You have to put on your own oxygen mask before you help others with theirs." I've remembered that statement ever since, but only in the past few months has it become increasingly clear what she meant.
The thing is, I'm not someone who meditates or journals or does a daily devotional. Those things are fine for others, and I'm glad people practice those habits and find them nurturing and valuable exercises; they're just not for me. But lately, I've found myself in conversations with folks who consider a daily meditation very important, and I thought I'd try to incorporate something along those lines into my life.
So I went back to a yoga class, and I really liked it. I even committed to the purchase of a package of classes, started going several times a week and dug out an old DVD to do if I can't make it to a class. I like that each practice is different. Tara Blumenthal's studio offers a variety of classes, and each one, even when it's the same type, focuses on a different area of the body and thought for the day. That's nice, because I get bored with repetition. It also doesn't hurt that during practice, while holding a pose, the teachers remind you not only to breathe, but to smile. So it's a practice, and it's work, but it's also fun and not too serious.
While there is definitely physical work (after a recent class, my hips definitely felt some exciting stuff happening; Blumenthal remarked during the class that she feels that "(the) hips are the gateway to happiness"), the mental aspect of mindfulness and awareness of not only my body, but being present in the moment, really has a profound effect.
I carry that mindfulness with me when I leave class. In becoming more in tune with myself, I can be better attuned to others and their needs and feelings, to meet them where they are. In opening your hips, your lower back or whatever else you work on in a class, it seems a person really also opens the mind and heart. And those are all good things.
Turns out, yoga may be, for now at least, the way I've found to put my oxygen mask on. Taking the time for that self-care—self-work, really—helps me be present and care for those around me.
Speaking of being present with those around me, and tuning out outside noise and into the relationships with those around you, I have to mention one other small step you can take. The Manship Wood Fired Kitchen started a Tech-Free Tuesday promotion. By turning in your mobile device at the hostess stand when you arrive, you not only become focused on enjoying the experience at hand and the people you're with instead of posting to Facebook and texting others; you also earn a discount on your meal. Win-win! Naturally, when I shared this information with a friend—the very one who came up with the oxygen-mask wisdom—she immediately exclaimed that date night with her husband just changed to Tuesdays.
So whether you find a formal meditative practice or simply make a commitment to put down your phone once a week and be present, it's important to incorporate both self-care and mindfulness into your life. It makes things better for everyone.