It’s always funny to me how the past melds right into the present. My graduate degree is in Human Resource Development. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs returns to me as I walk my path of yoga therapy. Basic needs = physiological needs. Food, water, shelter, and air. We must first answer to the brain stem – the oldest portion of our brain – in fulfilling these needs. It must feel that survival is secure so that we can function at higher levels of analyzing, comparing and processing our world. If the brain stem doesn’t interpret our position as secure, it will (in my experience, not in any technical terms) clog up our ability to be effective in the rest of life. It effectively steals all of our energy to protect us so we have no energy left to enjoy this day.
And so for me, a crux in how fully I am experiencing life – and how I come back to home plate over and over again – always begins with sufficient sleep. I wish I had something fancier to share but when my needs go up (e.g. kids get sick, husband is going through a tricky time at work, I have a difficult problem to address, I have extra deliverables for my certification program) then I know that I will feel more tired.
Tired is a gift, you guys. I used to feel like it was how all of life was meant to be for me but I’ve since experienced it differently. Tired tells us that something is up with our current way of being and doing. Either physically we are going too hard for our system to absorb the shock in it’s current state of integrity, or mentally we’re taking too many hits to proceed without more external support, or perhaps food wise our body is overworking to digest certain foods so it doesn’t have any energy left to give us to function during the day.
A concept that serves me well is “I’ve only got 100%.” When I repeatedly dive into the place where I am running on fumes – with no honoring of replenishing that tank – well, I’m screwed.
“Okay. So, what do you do?”
I pause. When I discover that I’m sneakily speeding up how I do everything, I slow down. I even stop. Not all the time but more times than in the past. And if I don’t stop myself, you can bet your money that a migraine or a hip flare or a broken foot will sure as heck stop me. We can push through and hide behind the “I’m good!” with a fake smile to everyone else. But we can’t hide it from our bodies.
It is up to me to FEEL the tired instead of ignoring it. I still do what needs to be done – feed the kids, manage my business, see my clients, fold the clothes, blah blah blah – but I do it while I feel and honor the tired. I move more slowly. I breathe more mindfully. I put my legs up the wall while the kids are in the tub. I do a nidra during their naptimes. I listen to music that soothes my agitated system. With all these mini steps of feeling into the tired even while I move through life, after the kids go to bed, I will take myself to bed too. And I will go to sleep instead of watching Netflix or shoving 15 cookies in my face. Oh yes – that was totally a longterm strategy for me to ignore the tired! Husband can confirm.
The key here is that if I ignore the tired and push through without feeling it, then I’m up a creek because I won’t be able to go to sleep when I have the opportunity. Adrenaline is cranked up and sending my system into a bit of a tailspin.
#1 on my self care list. Feel the tired when it comes up. Respond with sleep. And listening in carefully for when I need more and when I’m in a zone that it can comfortably flex into a little less.
That’s the tricky and also the beautiful of this all.
There is no prescription. There is no right and wrong. Each person is unique, each day is unique, and each breath truly is unique. It all depends.
Play with it on the mat. Get honest about what days you have more to give – and do so – and get honest about the days you need to turn down the dial on the intensity of your practice. Or perhaps even shapeshift your practice on the exhausted days to skip class and go to bed early. Awareness is the practice. And responding to awareness by embracing choice is ridiculous power.
And so, yes. There is always more.