Do you struggle with the fine art of self care ?

Caring for yourself, while at the same time caring for family and friends ?  Knowing when to say YES or NO ?

I know this is something I am constantly aware of and is a ‘work in progress’ in my life … Day by day and week by week, I am continually making adjustments along the way.

As a mother of teenagers … parenting is completely different to how it was 10 or 15 years ago.  Back then, when my children were young, I would book in my 30 – 60 minutes a day of self-care – for yoga, meditation or a massage… or a dinner out with friends etc.  SELF CARE DONE.

Now, I do have more time available, however, my teens plans often get changed at the last minute … so that my ‘flow’ can get interupted suddenly and unexpectedly, in amongst my new found space.

I still give myself 30 – 60 minutes of yoga / mediation a day, regular beach walks and catch ups with friends, however, I am experiencing a need for a deeper type of self care… beyond the yoga, massages and beach walks.

The self care that is emerging is connecting in with the way I live my life; choices I make – big and small, in every moment of everyday.   The work I chose to do.  The people I chose to hold close. My living environment.  The food I chose to eat. Everyday choices.

I call this Self Care for an SPECTACULAR LIFE.

Because every choice we make along the way is planting seeds for our future in some way, conciously or unconsiously.  And ultimately, we are attending to our most inner needs on a deep, fundamental level.  In a way, there are no small choices… every choice is big and important.

Every time we say yes or no to someone or something, it is like we have come to a fork in the road. Saying yes, takes us along one path and saying No will take us down the other path.  Perhaps one path is wider and more commonly used, while the other path is overgrown and less travelled .. even a little scary.  Either choice will put us on a new or different path from the one we are currently on.

And sometimes we travel along a path for a little while and realise that it’s not right.. and so we may back track to the fork to take the other road, or even take the adventurous route through the forest to find the other track.

Ultimately this is a super exciting prospect –  knowing that we can make these choices and chose our life ahead.

When we make choices and decisions in our life, it can be enlightening to notice the layers of intentions involved in the decision making process. Sometimes this is very simple and straightforward, such as I am hungry, so I need to eat. Although, there may be deeper intentions at work, often less seen or completely in shadow. For instance, I am hungry (for more sweetness in my life), so I am choosing to eat chocolate or a sweet desert.

I realise this may seem easier said than done.

The first step is noticing.

Noticing when a decision or choice does not turn out the way you had hoped … or didn’t end up feeling ‘right’.  This may be an ‘icky’ feeling in your stomach or ended up creating conflict with someone.

Intuition definitely plays an important role in this process.  And intuition works best when we give ourself a quiet moment to connect in with our deepest feelings and needs.  From this place we can make the most loving and empowering choices for our wellbeing and those around us.

From here we can make a different choice next time, so we are continually refining and evolving the practice of deeper self care.

How Strong is your Inner Structure?

Several years ago, a wise yogini shared an interesting idea during a yoga class. She said that when the world starts unravelling, it will be those with a STRONG INNER STRUCTURE who will have the resilience and endurance to get through the tough times.

Although I had no clue what she was really referring to, I immediately felt the truth of the words she spoke.

Now, that these UNRULY times are upon us, I TRULY UNDERSTAND what she was saying.

As the external structures and stability around us seem to crumble, the need for inner stability and strength becomes paramount.

How is your Inner Structure holding up at the moment?  Is it steadfast and strong, or is it wavering? …. Given the world events, it’s completely understandable if your inner structure is flailing around a bit. Surely it is for many of us.

So what is a strong inner structure?   And how do we develop this SUPERPOWER?

Inner Structure could be thought of as resilience; an inner strength that sits not only in our body, but also within our mind, our emotions and our energetic body. It does not necessarily mean being rigid or fixed, however, there are times when this is appropriate … and other moments, when being fluid and flexible offers the most strength and support.

When we are strong on the inside, we are less affected or ‘thrown off’ our center by what happens out in the world around us – relationships, work, the environment, crisis’s, set-backs – as well as our own physical and mental distractions.  Therefore, we do not rely on external experiences, people or places to make us happy, instead we come to reply on our internal resources.

This inner strength may be thought of as awareness or an inner stillness.  We can develop the skill to observe, witness and respond, rather than being drawn in and reacting to the drama around or within us.  When applied in our everyday life, this practice is commonly known as mindfulness.

Through yoga, we can better understood this via our holistic aspects of our body & self. These are 5 layers or sheaths known as koshas and include the: physical body, energy body, mental body, wisdom body and bliss body. Despite their layered structure, they are intertwined, fluid and inseparable from one another.

‘When these layers are clear and aligned, there is more integrity and therefore, more inner strength is available to us.’

Annamayakosha:  Our PHYSICAL BODY is the most dense layer and located on our exterior. It is made up of the food, liquids, herbs & supplements we consume.

By chosing clean, whole foods and regular exercise such as yoga, which purifies the body, we can create a strong, grounded & clean physical body. When we begin noticing our body and it’s sensations in a neutral, objective way, we can begin to develop awareness or mindfulness. This simple practice keeps us “in our body” rather than in our head.

Pranamayakosha:  The BREATH or ENERGY BODY, is made up our prana or energy. This layer includes our 7 chakra’s or energy wheels which sit along our central channel or central nervous system and indicate when we are balanced or not.

By simply paying attention to our breath, we develop connection to our energy body. Breathing exercises, retention of the breath & bandhas (energy locks) purify and direct the prana throughout the energy body equally & expansively.

Manomayakosha:  THE MENTAL BODY refers to our everyday “lower mind’ and emotions. This is where our ego resides which can manifest as our frantic ‘monkey mind ‘or ruthless ‘inner critic’.

This is where meditation, self-enquiry and reflection come in handy. We become aware of, and are able to witness out thoughts and emotions as they arise. Therefore, by seeing ourself as separate from our thoughts & feelings, we can chose to be drawn in and believe … or stay impartial.  As spiritual teacher, Eckhard Tolle says ,”don’t take your thoughts too seriously”.

Vijnanamayakosha:  The ‘WISDOM BODY or ‘higher mind’ is where Buddi resides, which relates to our intuitive intellect and discernment. This helps us connect with and see the truth or reality as it really is, rather than being being pulled into the opinions and  belief systems of others.

As the other layers of the body become more purified, clear and still, the wisdom mind develops more clarity. Trusting our intuition is something we can develop over time by embracing quiet, meditative moments and allowing truths to rise up.

Anandamayakosha:  Our BLISS BODY is the most inner layer which – interestingly – sits around our HEART.  Here we experience absolute joy, peace and of course BLISS.  This brings us closer to Atman (Ultimate consciousness) providing us a direct experience with the divine.

Once we let go of the distractions of the lower koshas. and connect with the buddi and discernment of our wisdom body, we have more access to our Bliss state, which is eternally available to us.

By acknowledging ourselves being made up in this way, then we can get an inkling about how our body and mind are connected… and therefore, work together to create an inner strength or not.

By putting our attention on these various layers, separately and together, we bring more awareness to where we may be out of balance or alignment. For instance, by noticing our shallow breath and allowing it to regulate naturally or through breathing practices, we help to strengthen our Energy Body.

Another way to look at our inner structure, is in terms of SHAKTI, which is the universal stuff from which everything comes from. The essence of Shakti is pure energy, like a very fine electricity, from which we can yield potent creative power.

For Shakti to be truly effective and useful, it needs to be well balanced with wisdom and a quiet, aware mind, known as Shiva. If not, Shakti can be a brutal and destructive force that may be channelled in unhealthy ways.  This, however, is a story for another time….

I am very grateful for the years of practice, therapy, knowledge and inner work that I have invested in – to help build my strong ‘inner structure’. Of course, this is a work in progress, however, now the urgency is calling me to continue the work of refining and developing these subtle energies within me.

If you would like more information or guidance on how to strengthen your inner structure, you can contact Emma here.

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Emma Louise Roger - Yoga Therapist

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