We Cannot Fill Another’s Cup From Our Own Empty Vessel

September is Self-Care Awareness Month, a time to remind us that taking care of ourselves, first and foremost, is essential. Wellbeats Instructor Jan Johnson offers advice for getting in tune with your body and mind through self-care and the centuries-old practice of yoga.

Jan Johnson teaches Wellbeats classes including Essential YinGentle Flow, and Mindful Meditation.

Yoga is her saving grace

“Whatever it is you’re looking for, yoga will provide it for you,” says Jan. She has been practicing and teaching yoga for the past decade following many years of managing group fitness for a national fitness chain. “I was getting burned out and I actually went through a period of depression.” Then, a friend invited her to a yoga class. “That first time, on my mat, I had a breakdown and a breakthrough … this is what I’m supposed to be doing! I felt like everything I had gone through had led me to this. It did so much for my heart. I cried tears of joy.”

This realization caused Jan to heed the advice of one of her mentors: “Once you find something you love, you can’t help but want to share it with other people.” That’s what she’s been doing for the past decade, teaching a variety of yoga, meditation, and body prayer.

Jan has been a Wellbeats instructor since January. “I’ve taught meditation, yin, gentle flow and Ashtanga.”

To get the most out of yoga, Jan encourages her students to “Step in with an open heart. Step onto your mat with no anticipation or expectation. Give yourself permission to slow down and to just ‘be.’ Suddenly you’ll realize, ‘Oh man, that thing that I was worried about … it’s not important.’” She has seen it many times and experienced it herself. “It gives you that release; that peace of mind; that joy … that thing that you’re missing in your life.”

Self-care is not selfish

“Human beings are geared to help others, but we can’t forget ourselves,” says Jan. “Growing up I was taught that to think about yourself first is selfish. It took a while to get beyond that idea.” Eventually, she learned that not taking care of herself first is selfish. “If I don’t take care of myself first, I can’t be strong enough and balanced enough to be of service to other people.”

How yoga aids self-care

Jan’s sense of inner peace has given her great perspectives on self-care. “Self-care shows up in many different ways depending upon your energy,” says Jan. People often associate self-care with scheduling a massage. “Self-care doesn’t have to include massaging or having someone else touch your physical body. Sometimes self-care means getting yourself into nature, walking in the woods, breathing the air, looking at the trees, unplugging. You’re not checking out; you’re actually checking into yourself!”

Jan advises asking yourself, what do I need right now? “When you say yes, yes, yes to all the things you think you should be doing, that means you’re saying no to your self-care,” says Jan. “When you start feeling anxious and you can’t breathe, that’s your intuition telling you no, you don’t need to do that.”

Jan suggests blocking off a day in your calendar, or at least a block of time, to focus on yourself. “Every day I meditate, commune with nature, journal, allow myself to feel gratitude … and most of all, I give myself permission to simply enjoy my own company.”

Ideas for self-care:

Most important: “Be aware of what you’re feeling,” says Jan. “I become very anxious. I know this about myself. Sitting by yourself allows you time to just ‘be,’ before the world and all the world’s energy interacts with your energy and changes your whole sense of being.”

It’s important to let go of the news, the radio, the TV. “I try to limit my exposure to the news,” says Jan. “We can’t help but hold onto things, even in our subconscious, even on an energetic level, and these things weigh us down. When you start feeling that shortness of breath, catch yourself. Validate what you are feeling right then and step away from whatever it is that is causing that reaction. This, too, is self-care.”

The benefits of yoga and self-care are many. “It makes me a better person. It makes me joyful; it makes me thankful; it makes me want to be kind to people and receive them as they are.”

How yoga contributes to Jan’s self-care: “I can be more loving, and gentle with myself and others. I don’t need to hold grudges or be attached to ‘being in charge.’”

“I am not perfect, and I don’t always live such a yogic life, but if I do lose my way, yoga is always there to guide me back to compassion, love, humility, generosity and grace.”

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