What exactly is “self-care”?  And how does it show up (or not) in your life?

Suffering is optional

I’m writing this blog article to address a yoga-related topic that might be overlooked or over-ridden. I am recouping from a double bunionectomy in my feet and had metal implants inserted in each big toe to overcome daily pain of severe arthritis in the joints of my toes and loss of cartilage.  For as long as I can remember, I had been struggling with pain; walking, hiking, practicing yoga, constantly finding creative ways to modify the poses during yoga class to minimize suffering.

I had three back surgeries many years ago and became completely resistant in my own mind dealing with any new health issues. Thinking I was done with all this, and ignoring any new problems, I avoided doctor visits and became a master at dealing with pain. I studied Eastern philosophy and medicine and totally embraced it (and still do), but more or less ignored Western medicine. (which was very fear based)

I focused on my students, teaching them how important self-care was. It’s a subject I fully believe, in but had difficulty applying it to myself, let alone acknowledging that I needed it most of all. I became masterful at ignoring pain, learning to deal with it, delaying even looking at my own health issues.

At the beginning of the new year of 2016, a switch flipped on for me. I dove head first into my own health care, starting with a complete physical, and leaving no stone unturned. I lost a good amount of weight, lowered my cholesterol 70 points, and lowered my blood pressure within 4 months to a very healthy number. I felt so much better, more energy and was totally on board with staying healthy. I had a benign tumor removed from my neck, something I avoided for over 13 years.

This last Tuesday, coincidentally the first day of summer, a day of total fresh starts and renewal, I had surgery on my feet. It was something I dealt with for over 15 years. It was time. It was a bit tougher than I thought, but the doctor did a wonderful job. (If you want his name I’m happy to pass his information along) For 2 weeks, I’m in walking surgical sandals. They are black, so they goes with almost everything! And I wear these cool plastic boot sleeves to shower in (they look like waders). All a new experience.

I decided to relay the story because I have heard comments from students in class tell me they too have avoided doctors or surgery and have been riding it out. You have most likely heard me in class telling stories about how I pride myself in being “the queen of modifications”. The injuries have definitely helped me tremendously on my teaching path. I feel that injuries give insight to something deeper and try to pass that experience along in a positive way to the students. So, although bittersweet, injuries are gifts depending on how you view the overall experience.

I’m relieved the surgery is past. I faced my fears and decided to use self-care, something I dish out freely in class, but not so much to myself, until now. I encourage everyone to practice “ahimsa,” a sanskrit word that translates to non-harming. It refers to non-harming to others and mostly to yourself. It’s one of the most important moral codes yoga practitioners use and live by. Help yourself first so you can help others. Making the decision to turn a corner with my own healthcare feels 100% in alignment with what nature intended. It is being authentic to my higher Self. It’s easier to meditate now because everything is clearer. I look forward to walking, standing on my own two feet literally and figuratively and having more freedom in yoga class. I hope the article inspires you in some way to be kinder to yourself and take charge of your healthcare.

Namaste, Kathy

Always go a little further into the water than you are comfortable with, go a little further out of your depth, when you feel your feet are not quite touching the bottom you are just about in the right spot to start to do something exciting.

David Bowie

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