My daughter Sarina’s traumatic birth not only changed everything I thought my life was going to be, but it also turned the relationship I had with myself upside down.
I didn’t know who I was anymore as the mother of a special needs child.
It was Spring of 1994, and we lived in Cincinnati, Ohio. My parents came to visit from Germany to support me and love up on their grandchild. My daughter Sarina was three years old. Born a micro-preemie, she lived the first six months of her life in the hospital and later went from one life-threatening pneumonia, and one hospital stay to the next. Now she had started to walk and speak her first words.
The arrival of my parents despite my moms Parkinson was the biggest gift they could have ever given to me.
I felt a battle raging inside myself between hope and fear. I didn’t want to be a victim of these hidden feelings. I wanted to raise my daughter and care for my marriage, and I wanted to teach Yoga again. A slice of normal is what I craved. But would my girl thrive? Unknown challenges loomed in front of me. What did I need to learn?
A profound disconnect happens between our body, mind, soul, and spirit when our lives dramatically change. Most often, without warning.
Giving birth to a special child who’ll need life-long support, or care-taking for a loved one, or any other tragedy can rob us of our sense of self. Dreams fall apart. Can we create new ones? The dark shadow of worry moves into our life and weighs heavy on our bodies and souls. Self-care and self-love need solitude and time. As our heart breaks, so does our body.
In any circumstance, we have to learn to say me first. In the sense of not burning up our energies because we put ourselves last. Soulful Self-care has one quality at its core we must cultivate. It’s called r e c e i v e . The opposite of giving. Special parents and all caretakers tip off the scale towards 24/7 giving. It’s a dangerous place to be. Who will care for our loved one if we fall or break? We must find ways to receive. It’s our birthright.
We have nothing to give if we run empty. Self-care is the sister to self-love.
In my wolrd as a Yogi, It begins by befriending your body. Your body has been with you since you were born, is here with you now and will be with you for the rest of this journey. Learn to pay attention to your bodies voice and make it your best friend!
💡Let me cheer you on:
It takes less time than you think. But it needs a fierce commitment to putting yourself first and practice.
With my parent’s arrival, a bit of joy and ease moved back in. Loneliness in times of defeat is a hungry ghost. I got to know it well. I sat at the kitchen table watching my mom prepare dinner as I flipped through Yoga Journal. I missed my Yoga community. I stopped reading… eying an ad:
Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy – A Bridge from Body to Soul. *
I’d never heard of it before. It drew me in, and the next sentence stirred my soul:
“The most profound pilgrimage I can ever make is within my own body.” – Sahara
A pilgrimage in my body? I heard myself whisper. My body? How was my body, other than tired? A sadness took residence as I continued to read.
This workshop was happening in Denver only a week away. My family agreed to handle three days without me. I signed up.
The weekend reconnected me with my body in a way no other training ever did.
I went on the most profound pilgrimage I could ever make.
I reclaimed the love for my body as a powerful tool for transformation. And found my unique path to healing, which I’m still on. I felt the answer to my question: “What am I here for?” in my body. I discovered my why.
I was here to support my daughter as all other parents do, but not to break by the extraordinary challenge. Who else was I besides being a mother? I had a gift to share, a profession I loved. It was resting inside of me, waiting to come out! I knew I couldn’t hide from this calling. I needed to make room for teaching to live up to my dream as much as I needed to guide my daughter to find hers. This truth, this deep understanding of my why supports me every day to not give up the dream my daughter and I share – I want to have an Empty Nester; she wants to fly.
The battle I fought inside between these two forces, had me swinging from the high of hope to the low of fear. The mother needed to learn from the teacher. The teacher from the mother. To be content with the little time I had, the teacher had to learn a lot.
I still live with this challenge, but now I quickly notice if my scale tips toward too much giving. My body has a clear language: pain, which quickly leads to exhaustion. And an important ingredient in my life goes missing – JOY.
I flip the switch, I surrender and add more time for being versus doing in my day. Sometimes a few deep breaths and a visit in nature put me on the receiving end. And joy bubbles up. The antidote to exhaustion or depression.
I don’t let fear win or hope attach me too much to the future. I’m now deeply aware of what’s happening in my body and going on in my mind. And I’m listening.
Our relationship to our bodies needs to be one of true caring. If you don’t have a self-care routine, start one now. Don’t hold your breath because you’re tired and don’t know where to start.
Breathe out now, and in and follow me a little longer.
No time? I understand but don’t agree. I live your life.
We must make time.
I have accessible on-the-spot tools that work. They are my 🌴Tiny Islands. They are with me wherever I go; I learned to make myself a priority, to listen to and honor my body for being my partner on this journey.
My body has been with me everywhere I’ve been. It holds more memories than my conscious mind does.
I have a reminder to hop on a 🌴Tiny Island right here at my desk. A sticky note says PAUSE. I pause for a breath or two before I answer the phone etc. I paint the letter P on my hand to remind me. And I include a mini-retreat when my timer goes off, about every thirty minutes when I write. I love to let my body move, it gets me out of my head and lets me feel.
Let’s hop on a 🌴 Tiny Island together. It takes less than three minutes:
- Notice your sitting bones on the chair.
- Drop your hands on your lap.
- Feel your feet on the floor.
- Sit tall without effort and for a moment close your eyes.
- Exhale completely inhale deeply and if you like let the next exhale out with a sigh.
- Observe your breath coming in and out without the need to change anything. Just notice it. There is nothing to fix or change. Feel your breath in connection with your body. Where do you feel it? Be curious. That’s all.
- Open your eyes again.
- Imagine having cold water on your hands.
- Start shaking it off. Enjoy! Shake it out in front of you, up to the ceiling, out to the side, behind you and down to the floor and out in front of you again. Go as vigorously or gentle as you want. Just shake the water off.
- Put your hands back on your lap.
- Gift yourself a smile.
- Close your eyes again. Exhale and receive the breath. Nothing to do, nowhere to go. Just being here.
- Put one hand on your chest. Feel your hand touch your body. Notice your breath touch your hand. That’s all. Feel yourself breathing.
- With the next exhale open your eyes again.
It’s that simple. You have time for that right? Don’t underestimate it. Start small and add more. It’s your life and your joy.
In my first workshop back in Denver I tapped into an inner source of wisdom I knew it was there but had not found the key to unlock. I was hungry for that key.
Rumi knew, “What you seek is seeking you.”
I learned to understand the body-mind-spirit connection is miraculous and mysterious. The body is innately intelligent. Our body is our teacher if we learn to listen and develop our capacity to love ourselves through it. Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy has this teaching at its core.
With awareness at our fingertips, we can’t go wrong.
“We get present to our bodies through movement. We get present to ourselves through our bodies,” are words Michael Lee, the founder of Phoenix Rising Yoga spoke in my very first session with him. They are echoing like my heart beat through my life and help me heal and honor the gift of my body every day.
In the years to come, I studied the Phoenix Rising Yoga approach and graduated as a Yoga Therapist and Group Faciliatory. It not only transformed my life; I witnessed this powerful body-mind practice to help my clients understand they do have a choice in how they live their life, no matter their circumstances.
It can be as simple as saying yes or no to what destiny delivers to us.
Yes? We take the reins into our hands, sit on the horse and ride it or…
No? Someone else will.
Don’t wait a minute longer to care full-heartedly for yourself. Hug your body now and breathe.
Commit to taking time to love your body! It’s a miracle!
* Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy. A Bridge from Body to Soul by Michael Lee