Self Care is the New Health Care

by Adrienne Alane White

When I arrived in Bali I was sick. I knew that I had been under a record amount of stress in the last few years.  I had most of the big ones on the list: divorce, prepping a house for sale, moving twice, corporate job with difficult management, worrying about kids, kids becoming teenagers, opening a new business…  wow.  Even so, I had no idea how sick I had become.  Stress is a poison to our bodies and our minds, and most of are living there 24/7, 365.  I know I was.

I am a yoga teacher.  I have tools to manage thing like stress and anxiety.  I have asana and meditation to quiet my body and mind, but I was still struggling.  I felt overwhelmed by my daily to-do list, and deep down inside I knew I needed a change if I was going to survive.  Usually when we reach this state we are on such a hamster wheel we literally don’t know how to get off unless something major happens.  Luckily for me what it took was an email from Zuna Yoga about their very first 300 hour Meditation Teacher Training.  It was completely impractical, there was no way it could work, I simply couldn’t:  get away, leave the kids, afford the tuition, leave the business, and certainly I couldn’t return to Bali for a SECOND 300-hour teacher training…  I signed up anyway.  Thank goodness I ignored the naysayers in my head and listened to my intuition.  A door opened, and path was shown, and I took it.

Taking time for yourself I think is finally making a comeback.  I saw a meme the other day that said, Self Care is the New Health Care.  I hope this is true.  We need to step outside our lives sometimes so we can step back and clearly see the path we are on.  Sometimes we need to go far so we can witness our life up close from the place of the observer, not the doer.  Add in deep meditation, self study, incredible teachers, a gorgeous location, and inspiring peers and you have a recipe for healing that can be truly profound.  That is what I received from an opportunity to learn about how to teach others self care -  the amazing gift of healing myself that I intend to carry with me as I return back home.

As I spent the 4 weeks in the training learning about breathing and meditation techniques as well as super cool scientific facts and studies to support the yogic wisdom, surrounded by the serenity of the Balinese rice fields, I felt the poison of the last few years drain from my body.  I took deep breaths of the jungle air filled with the fragrance of tropical flowers and the sounds of unseen animals, I felt my nervous system unwind and soften.  The knot in my neck muscles began to release, and the lock in my vertebrae that had been attempted to adjust (unsuccessfully) by two chiropractors let go in the 4th week when I turned my head in a simple reclined twist.  I felt carefree, a place I hadn’t visited in a very long time.  I spend a lot of time in life taking care of others, something I love doing, but I had forgotten that I need to take of myself too. 

We learned how to lead others in appropriate asana to support seated meditation, we practiced the guided meditations themselves, we went deep into Yoga Nidra practices and I learned how to guide MYSELF into some of the most profound “yogic sleeps” I’ve ever experienced.  I now practice self-guided Yoga Nidra almost daily, another priceless take-home gift.  Yoga Nidra heals us from a deep level of the unconscious mind.  Our experience really culminated when we spent three days in our final week in virtually total silence.  We put all of our training to the test while we sat in 4-plus hours a day of meditation.  The down time was filled with… well, silence.  No phone, no computers, no reading, no writing (except one hour of journaling in the evening), just time spent in contemplation with the best friend we will ever have in our lives... ourselves!  How many times had I said in my life:  I wish I could sit down and have nothing to do, nowhere to be, and have some peace and quiet?  Be careful what you wish for… I loved it!  I could have easily done three more.  My mind unwound and long ago memories and stories bubbled to the surface.  I had time to stare at the sky, watch the birds raid the rice fields, and soak up that Bali sun.  It took me back to the days of my childhood when you had hours of nothing to do. That’s the space where all the ideas come from, sweet day dreaming.  It was (mostly) pure bliss. Afterward I proclaimed I would do three days of silence every month!  Well, maybe once a quarter.  I’m definitely committing to once a year.  I highly recommend it to everyone. 

If you had the opportunity to live your best life, would you take it?  Well, that is the true promise of yoga and meditation.  It seems too simple to be true.  How can moving your body in rhythm with your breath then sitting down, getting still, to become mindful of your breathing in and breathing out take you there?  It really is that simple, but it’s not necessarily easy.  You still have to put in the time and do the work, and sitting still can be the hardest part.  We, as humans, are absolutely ruled by the past.  Our past ideas and emotions created chemical reactions in our bodies that affected us on a physical level.  We store all of these past experiences in our cells, they affect our DNA.  Our bodies and minds then become trapped in the past and we seem to be destined to then repeat these same emotions and have the same reactions as if they are programmed into us.  Yoga and meditation bring us squarely into the present moment.  They help us to experience real time joy and guide us towards “higher” emotions of love and compassion.  They help us to remember who we truly are, step out of the unconscious routine of our bodies and wake up to our life, our creativity and our purpose. We stop being the doer and become the observer of the present moment.

Why do we sometimes have to go thousands of miles away to remember who we truly are?  Maybe it’s that aforementioned ability to more clearly witness our lives when we can step away.  It also likely goes to back to those patterns, that program, that controls our chemistry and our mind.  Step outside of the routine, and the mind wakes up.  There are a lot of people who are getting conscious, who are waking up through mediation.  It’s like suddenly remembering you had the power to live your best life all along.  Like Dorothy and her ruby slippers… which also reminds me that there's no place like home.

As amazing as this journey has been, I am excited to head home to see those humans (and puppies too) that I love.  Part of living your best life is the ability to connect with others and we can only really do that in the present moment.  Thank you, yoga and meditation for bringing me back there and for bringing me back home to myself.  Thank you, Zuna Yoga, for creating the space and the content and the learning for this remembrance.  Bali, I’ll hold you in my heart and I’ll be back soon enough. You’re just too magical to stay away for long.  And now that I’ve taken this time for healing I can remember that no matter how far I travel, within myself I will always be home. I’ve had the power all along.

Missed the previous installments of Adrienne's beautifully documented journey?

Read Part 1 of the 4 part series

Read Part 2  of the 4 part series

Read Part 3  of the 4 part series

Bali Yoga Teacher Training, Meditation, Yoga Nidra