I’m writing a series of blog posts on Radical Self Care: Become Your Own Best Care-giver! In my last post, in honor of the Day of the Dead, I wrote about how we learn self-care and care-giving from our own care-givers. In the next few post, I will write about how Ayurveda views self-care.
In Ayurveda, there are 3 main ways we fall into dis-ease. My teacher of Ayurveda, Cate Stillman, has written about these three causes of disease in her blog: How to Sink Your Ship (Ayurveda and the Three Causes of Disease) published by Banyan Botanicals. In this series of blog posts, I’ll unpack each cause and discuss how understanding this can help you orient toward better self-care.
According to Ayurveda, the first way that we way we fall into disease is: prajna parada, or making negligent choices.
The word prajna means intelligence or wisdom. The word parada means “to go against.” Yoga and Ayurveda claim that wisdom is an in-born trait. Each of us has a deep in-born intelligence. It is that place deep inside ourselves from which we make good judgment. In yoga, we call this aspect of our mind, buddhi. Buddhi comes from the root, budh, which means to be awake, to understand and to know. Our buddhi is that our higher mental faculty, our instrument of discernment and decision. I’m sure you know the feeling, when out of the blue, a thought or feeling arises in you, and you experience a gut feeling or gut decision in which you very clearly know what you should or shouldn’t be doing. That’s your buddhi speaking to you.
When the body-mind is healthy and clear, we can listen clearly to our wisdom and make good choices, based on our wisdom, our prajna. But, we all know that we can’t always listen clearly and we don’t always make intelligent choices. And, even when may know that something isn’t good, we may do it anyway. Not long ago, my 12 year old son was at a dinner gathering and he was seated at the kids’ table right in front of a large plate of mini cupcakes. He ate one, then two, then three, and then more, so many more that he couldn’t remember how many. The next day, he had an upset stomach. Cause and Effect. About a week later, it was Halloween, and I reminded him of his past sugar overindulgence. “Learn from your yesterdays,” I told him.
It doesn’t just happen to kids though. Recently, my back “went out.” That is to say, I pulled a muscle in my low back. It happened in the early morning when I was getting out of bed. It hurt a bunch and it took over a week to heal. When I reflected on the cause, it became clear to me, that the cause was stress and fatigue due to being over-busy. Our family has been living with the stress of dealing with an unforeseen house renovation due to a pipe leak that ruined a good portion of our main floor. Floors, subfloors, dry wall and cabinets were all damaged. We literally had the ground yanked out beneath us! The stress of living with the house renovation on top of a busy family schedule was challenging and created in me a feeling of overwhelm. I literally felt “ungrounded” and “unsupported”, which translated into stress in my low back. The last time I remembered a similar back injury, it was also a time when I was under an unusual pressure and felt stressed and ungrounded.
So, I am learning from my yesterdays! My lesson is that I need to make sure I ask and get the support I need when I’m under stress and overwhelm. This is a big self-care lesson for me since I really like to be self-sufficient! I could have probably prevented the injury had I sought more support from others and had taken more time for self-care during such a busy time. Since the injury, I have made my self-care a priority. I’m getting lots of rest, healing touch and doing restorative yoga. I have also been reaching out and getting support from other people for the house project as well as for myself and the family.
We all live under the law of karma, cause and effect. We do something and that something has an effect. If we make a choice and it turns out to be a poor choice, we have the responsibility to learn from it and make a different choice the next time we are in a similar situation. That is the lesson behind prajna parada and this is self-care. But, if we make a poor choice, and keep making the same poor choice again and again, eventually, our capacity to make good choices becomes impaired. Our thinking becomes cloudy. The series of poor choices gain momentum and turn into a poor habit. Poor habits = poor self-care.
How yogis can learn from their yesterdays:
Thankfully, yoga is a tool for us to strengthen our wisdom capacity and up-level our self-care. Yogis practice svadhyaya, self-study. If you are a yogi, use your time on the mat to tune into and deeply listen to your body. Make this a study. Get to know the places where you hold tension and stress. Use your mat as a laboratory to practice moving and find the movements and postures that help you align to your innate wisdom. If you make a poor choice, and things go south, take the time to reflect upon the situation. Learn from life. Learn from yourself. Life offers us opportunities again and again to refine ourselves, to better ourselves and to become our own best care-givers. Do it! Be your own best care-giver! You deserve it.
Interested in practices that boost self-care? Check out the free resources on my website.
Annie Barrett. Educator, certified health coach yoga instructor.