One of the things that has been turning over in my head recently harks back to a recent post, where I wondered how it was that my personal practice could be tweaked so that I could avoid burnout and illness during and after a busy period. On a walking talk with my mother the other day, she suggested that now I am in my 40s, my daily routine may need to be tweaked to reflect my changing life. After all, she said, your 40s are a time of hard work out in the world, and these busy times are likely to become the norm. Your practice needs to incorporate filling your well so that you can embrace this time, a time that you have been preparing for over the last decade and longer, without burning out, getting sick or both.
Aha! The missing piece of understanding clicked into place. My personal yoga practice had been centered around increasing strength and flexibility, focusing on the ability to be present in discomfort. This was an important practice for me in my 30s, as I needed to learn about staying in one place instead of packing up and moving every time things got challenging. As a mother, cutting and running like I did when I was in my 20s was no longer an option. The urge to run away was still strong, especially when the children were little or my relationship with the Bear would hit rocky waters. I would long to just leave, go somewhere else, live another life. I thought about those women who abandoned their families with a mixture of horror and longing, and although I never physically ran away I would absent myself emotionally when things got tough. Five years ago, when I began a daily yoga practice, I learned to sit with discomfort, to not run away when things got difficult. As part of the process of sitting with myself, I learned that I needed space of my own and time away, and when I gave those things to myself, I no longer needed to run away.
Perhaps now that I am in my 40s, I need to switch the focus of my practice to one that uses breath and movement to fill up my well. I know I am not the only one with this problem – everywhere I look I see people trying to do everything and be everything, and running their lives on empty tanks. We are not taught how to fill up our well. Many people spend their days fuelled on caffeine and their nights wound down by alcohol. Don’t get me wrong – I love espresso coffee and good wine. My cup of coffee in the morning is one of my greatest everyday pleasures; however, using it as a way to run on an empty tank will cause damage, as will any drug used in this way. I don’t really want to spend my 50s recovering from the damage I did to my body when I was in my 40s, if you get my meaning. So many of us stop exercising because we’re so busy. We don’t eat properly any more – because we’re busy. We forget to have fun and play – because we’re too busy. We drop our meditation practice – because we’re too busy. If we neglect and deplete our entire self, our body, mind, heart and spirit, then what have we become? We are literally a shadow of our former selves.
As we walked and talked, my mother and I, we talked about the kinds of practices that are regenerative, recharging and ideal for topping up our energetic well. Mum is loving her Qigong and Taichi practice, which are beautiful modalities, but they aren’t in my repertoire (Yet. I have plans 🙂 ). However, in my collection of sequences and practices that I have been putting together for years, I have quite a few that are designed to replenish and revitalise. These practices literally fill the well, and in combination with healthy choices around food, movement and sleep, will keep us topped up in the busy times.
5 Ways to Fill Your Well
Do-in acupressure energising technique: I was taught this at a women’s retreat run by a wonderful local therapist called Sue Baughman a couple of months ago, and I was so taken with it that I have been using it ever since. Acupressure works with points and meridians in the same way that acupuncture does, but you use your fingers and hands instead of needles, tapping, stroking and patting. It takes a few minutes and literally wakes up your body, stimulating the flow of energy through your energetic body along the meridians which are the energy highways. Printable instructions are here: Do-in acupressure energising technique.
Dru Yoga: I came upon this sequence by accident a few months ago, and have incorporated it into my practice for its lovely gentle flow. There are others as well – the Dru tree sequence is another favourite – they have the flow of taichi and the feel of yoga, and are very gentle and nourishing:
Yin Yoga: Is seen as a counterbalance to the more yang, active style of yoga, where you push and strive towards an outcome. Yin yoga is slow, involving various sitting or supine postures, often supported by bolsters or blocks, held from 3-5 minutes. A yin yoga practice is an inward practice, focusing on releasing tightness and restriction. Like all yoga, the benefits flow from the body to the brain, and you may find that attitudes that were blocking your way forward may simply dissolve along with the tightness in your hips. This is a great sequence with a printable version that I use all the time: Yin Yoga for Surrender and Self Care.
Breathing: A conscious breathing practice, known in yoga as pranayama, is one of the most powerful ways of filling our energy well. Prana is the sanskrit term for life force or breath and ayama means to regulate or control. In pranayama, we use the control of our breath to increase our life force. Learning how to breathe using the whole of our lung capacity is extremely beneficial. There is a whole world of breathing techniques out there, but there is one very simple breath that I will share with you, called the 4×4 breath: breathe in for the count of four, hold for the count of four, breathe out for the count of four and leave a space before inhalation for the count of four. Repeat the cycle three more times. The beauty of breath, is that you can breathe anywhere, anytime. There are some wonderful beginner videos here if you are interested in learning more.
Yoga Nidra: means yogic sleep – a deep relaxation where you access the consciousness of deep sleep while staying awake. You are guided step by step into an inner awareness, focusing on each part of your body. Like anything in yoga, it can be accessed in a shallow or deep way and anything in between – and all of them are beneficial in their own way. It is possible to do a self-guided yoga nidra, but there are so many beautiful guided yoga nidra recordings, many of them free, that I would recommend you use one of them, especially if you are new to this practice. To get you started, there is a yoga nidra app, free yoga nidra recordings and for a deeper practice, a full yoga nidra cd or download.
I really believe that our everyday lives hold the key to balance and replenishment. We should not have to wait for a holiday or retreat to fill our well – self-nourishment and awareness can be built into our day so that we do not become depleted. Fortunately for us, we have the resources that we need, here, within our bodies – our ability to move, our breath, our awareness, our sense of connection. I hope that you find something useful here for your own self-care!
How do you fill your well?