Why we need more self-care
We are dedicating this year to self-care practices due to the global challenges we have been facing for the past two years. It is also the concept growing in importance and awareness and is, being honest, a kind of a hype. Regardless, we will go through different stories and investigate what self-care means for each one of us. While we lead the discussion, we ask you to participate by reflecting on the topics and letting us know your thoughts, if you feel like sharing.
Due to the challenges we have all been facing for the past few years, we were forcefully pushed into new ways of thinking about and doing things. All the shifts that followed resulted in our search to regain stability in the light of uncertainty.
Many of us have lost something (a plan, a trip, a business, a dream) or even somebody (a person we loved or known), or, if we are lucky, we just might know of others who suffered in that way. Facing death, disappointment, and disease requires and enables learning a new way of being that is characterized by emotional and psychological resilience.
So what is that wide range of possibilities when exploring the questions of our wellbeing and contentment? Let us skip the supreme overused word of ‘Happiness’ and leave it aside as overused.
What we really want is to feel better about, and with, ourselves. In fact, many of us do not want to “transcend” this life on Earth, focusing, righteously so, on enjoying the here and the now.
Very often, a tide of negative feelings, just to name a few, fear, anxiety and sadness, can overwhelm us, pushing the “good” emotions aside. This is why it is especially important to give ourselves a possibility to recharge and replenish our energies.
How do you know when you have reached your limit? Well, have you ever told yourself during these two years: ‘Ohhh, this is too much!’? If the answer is yes – then you really do need to seek out more rest and harmony!
So now let’s see what these pandemic years brought to us through the stories of our guest teachers, who would like to share with you how they have dealt with the challenges and what changes they had to implement to transform and grow in the process
INTERVIEW WITH ANASTASIA SHEVCHENKO
Q / During the pandemic, we were faced with a forcefully imposed lifestyle and behavioral changes. What were the major shifts that you had to implement in your life?
This pandemic has brought a whole chain reaction of changes into my life. Speaking of yoga, when the lock-down came to Berlin in the beginning of March 2020, I decided to quit Ashtanga yoga and my daily practice at a local Ashtanga yoga studio. I have meant to do it for a while, but found it difficult to let go of 10 years of that practice and all the accomplishments and benefits it has given me, even though the bad side-effects and ruptures started to accumulate and weigh me down.
As the studio was forced to close for a while, that was my ticket out, and I took it. I also stopped teaching yoga in physical spaces, moving some classes online only later in the year. I was sorry to see all of my yoga festival invitations get cancelled one after another, as I worked very hard in building up my yoga teaching career to be granted all of these opportunities to teach and travel.
So instead, I decided to start working full time after I had to cancel the Berlin Yoga Conference second edition scheduled for summer that year. I started working as a Project Manager in an art industry and for a while did not even have much time for my own yoga practice. A few months into my new job, I found my work-play balance and incorporated more yoga into my weekly routine.
What yoga has given me, among good health and discipline, was structure, but also the possibility to let go of structures. The ability to create and keep up a structure in one’s life is a kind of skill that helps in anything one does. When things fall apart and the world seems to come to an end, it is that ability to create and hold on to a structure that one uses to stay resilient and focused. Structures can thus provide solace and comfort, but sometimes they can become comfort zones that bind us to old ideas and patterns. So at other times what one really needs is to learn how to let go of structures one has invested into, but that no longer serve their original or intended purpose. I would not call this skill of making and breaking structures a flexibility, like some others do, because to me flexibility implies that one is flexible enough to not need to create or break any structures. A flexible person just adjusts to anything that comes their way. A flexible person “floats” or moves with the stream. As a modern person living in an urban environment with a family and two kids, I am not exactly a fish that can swim freely with or against the current. I am more of a fisherwoman who needs to adjust her plans depending on the changes in the environment. That’s what I had to do and did.
COMMUNITY LIFE ADAPTATIONS
Q / Have you suffered any separations and divisions in your relations with loved ones?
Fortunately for me, I have a lovely family and we were together at the times when others might have been separated or alone.
Of course sharing bounded physical spaces is not always easy, even with people one loves and cherishes the most. Yet, we managed fine and learned to navigate our daily lives together, when schools and day care were closed, when there was not much work to be done.
We tried to enjoy the slower, more intimate times, and what happened especially is taking small trips to go into nature, like to a forest or to a lake. We also learned to enjoy board games and movie nights 🙂
Later, when things opened up more, we adopted, I guess like many others, a “carpe diem” approach, ceasing the day and enjoying the summer, knowing that “winter is coming” quoting popular TV series from a few years back. In this we learned the true meaning of cyclical changes the way one experiences them in nature.
Winter is meant as a time of sleep and digestion, summer is a time of activity.
Everything in between is transition, where fall is preparation for winter and spring is the renewal of hope!
WHAT ARE THE NEW LIFE RITUALS
Q / What are the routines or habits, or projects that you started with Covid? Or maybe you stopped doing anything?
As I shared above, quite a lot happened and changed during the time of the pandemic. To add to that – I have started my Master Studies in Fall 2022. It has been 10 years since I finished my BA in Communications from Canada, and now I am in the middle of getting my MA in North American Studies from the JFK Institute at the Free University Berlin, with the focus on Economics and Culture. I am extremely glad to have the chance to study in Berlin at little cost, further developing and growing in my skills.
What I study fascinates and inspires me, and some of my teachers are exceptionally talented and it is a pleasure to study with them. I met some wonderful people in my classes, and a few friendships have developed over time.
I took a pause with the Berlin Yoga Conference for 2022, due to the pandemic, but I feel inspired again to resurrect the project in August 2023. In 2021 I had planned a hybrid version of the event, but ended up having a fully Digital Edition with 200 yogis from around the world joining us for the occasion.
It is hard to compare with the first edition of the event, where almost 600 yogis joined us in Berlin from all around Europe, but I was happy not to cancel the event like I did in 2020.
Q /Have you encountered new emotions and feelings that you haven’t experienced before?
This question made me smile 🙂 I believe it is quite normal for a human being to encounter a full spectrum of emotions by the age of early adolescence. However, how one deals with, processes, and integrates emotions and feelings is a whole other story. I would not say that the pandemic made me discover new feelings, and I can share in all honesty that just like any other person in the circumstances, I have experienced everything from disbelief and denial, through anger and fear, to acceptance and contentment.
It has been quite a transformative journey with many changes, and while emotions play an important part in providing clues as to one’s inner states and reactions, I would not say that I am guided by emotions, but by reason. Here I simply mean a kind of meta-cognition, which comes from observing oneself and becoming aware of everything that is out there: feelings, emotions, AND thoughts. First comes the awareness, then acceptance, and then one has a “cool head”, with the input from “the heart”, to act in a way that is necessary and fitting according to the circumstances.
Q / Shala or studio practice was simply banned and is not yet recovered from loss! How does all the above influence your yoga life privately or professionally? How do you feel about the transition into the online totalled global yoga community?
As I have already shared, I made a choice to stop teaching physically for the time being, and I am taking a pause with the Berlin Yoga Conference. I can only speak for myself, but I am happy to share my observations. I saw that many yoga teachers, after recovering from the initial shock, switched to online and are doing great with that. I am not the kind of teacher to teach online personally – it is simply not for me. I value personal connection to my students. I am happy to participate in occasional workshops from teachers I know and trust, but when it comes to my own teaching – I need the physical presence. Not so much to touch or adjust my students, but to see what they are going through and to help them improve, minute-by-minute.
I create space that helps them to focus and forget about everything else that is not necessary to remember in the here and now of their practice. I give them energy or a space to relax by adjusting my instructions, voice, tempo and rhythm, as well as my initial plan for the practice, where I can add or remove a pose to ensure that the sequence matches the common body’s (all of the student’s bodies) experiences and abilities of the moment. I may add a joke, a piece of philosophic wisdom, or a simple encouragement, to elicit a specific type of energetic change. Im looking forward to our gathering in Croatia as occasion for more in-person meetings.
It is my job to assist on their journey, and I need to see, hear, smell, sometimes touch, and perceive my students to know what they are going through and where they are, in each moment. But that’s just me, and that’s ok!
CONNECT TO YOUR HIGHER SELF
The practices of yoga and meditation can help us know our higher self a bit better. Taking time to retreat helps us profoundly understand ourselves so we can have the life we dream of.
Our dreams can manifest from imagination into reality.
I invite you to bravely stand up to the parts of you that hold you back and go to that Retreat.
Your soul will thank you.