A Stretch in the right direction
My shoulders click out of sync as I straighten my spine and push my widened palms into the mat. I try to imagine the sun’s warmth on my legs instead of burning muscles as my hamstrings stretch in downward dog.
Although it hurts, this is a stretch in the right direction.
Last year, I nearly wore holes in my yoga mat. The strength, balance and flexibility left my body after months of inactivity.
While I enjoyed yoga as a hobby, the exercise was motivated by academic demands – like many other choices I make. Without a grade to assign my value, I had little drive for yoga after passing the required fitness course.
I prioritize my classes over my own wellbeing: a concept I recognize as backwards but hesitate to reverse.
Juggling two majors and two jobs, I report to numerous wardens. No one will hold me accountable for meeting my personal needs. This contrast is all too common among busy college students.
Seeking out self care resources can be a daunting first step.
Resources like nutrition services and the Campus Recreation Office are available at Salisbury University, but they do not receive the same promotion as the Counseling Center or Disability Resource Center, for example.
As the only referee for my health, I began the self-care journey of navigating those resources and finding a lifestyle that works best for me.
Making dietary changes and committing to physical activity was necessary for me while lost in a busy schedule and nearing burnout. A week-long pledge is hardly a health transformation.
I started by making an appointment with SU’s dietician, Terry Passano, to analyze my eating habits and areas of shortfall. I decided to reduce my sugar, soda, caffeine and dairy consumption in favor of balancing my diet, while drinking more water and eating three pre-planned meals each day.
In addition to making diet adjustments, I promised myself and my aching joints, I would do 30 minutes of yoga each day for one week.
I struggled to break habits in the first two days, craving soda and struggling to endure yoga poses that felt easy months ago.
The payoff – less joint pain, clear thoughts and a calmer disposition – reassured me this pledge was worthwhile. I raised the bar by pushing myself on day three, recalling the methods of modifying poses with foam blocks.
Where I saw eager improvement, I actually pushed myself too far.
I tweaked my back which resulted in significant pain for the rest of the week. My sleep began to improve, but constant neck and back pain signaled the return of restless nights.
Self-care takes initiative as well as control – difficult to hone when you're doing something just to do it. The synthesizing element is patience: mindfully taking all the necessary steps for self-improvement.
Moving slowly eased the pain enough for me to gauge the week’s benefits, focusing less on my joints and more on my classes than I previously did. More nutrition, better sleep and less reliance on caffeine improved my ability to concentrate.
Breaking up my busy days with a calming yoga session allowed me to work with a clearer head.
The experience taught me the importance of listening to my body and taking time to patiently and wholeheartedly practice self care. With the knowledge of what I need and what I can do, all that’s left is finding consistent practices that raise my quality of life.
After taking the first steps, it shouldn’t be too much of a stretch.
By BEES BEESLEY
Editor in Chief
Featured image courtesy of Bees Beesley