“If anyone needs a blanket or prop for Svasana, let me know and I can do delivery service,” my yoga teacher Marcia Miller encouraged in her airy and strongly assertive way.
Since she happened to be standing right next to me, I reached up from my reclining position on my mat and said, “I have a blanket, but you can cover me.”
“You graduate,” Marcia said to me, acknowledging that I was asking for a little extra pampering.
I rolled my eyes and laughed, “It took years.”
If the scene above were a test of my ability to ask for what I need, I failed thousands of times before Marcia “graduated” me from this unofficial course of study. If it had been a driver’s test, I would have only been taking the bus for the entirety of my adult life.
Since I started practicing at Yoga on High when I moved to Columbus, Ohio nearly five years ago, I have heard teachers like Marcia offer to get us props for resting poses. And they frequently offered many alternatives that not only help you access harder poses, but to feel better in any pose. In the beginning, this was incredibly challenging for me. For the first 10 YEARS or more of my yoga practice, a teacher could totally ask me to DO just about anything and I would at least try to do it. (Usually the hardest version of something being presented). But, when they started asking me to DO LESS, their requests crashed into a brick wall of my resistance.
For at least two years, I ignored teachers’ offers to get me things and instead got up to get them myself, or just lay or sit in a less comfortable position thinking to myself, “Oh, it’s fine.” I would attempt the “hardest” pose possible, even if it wasn’t the best choice for my body.
I’ve written many times about my self-care journey (just search for “self-care” for more of these blogs), but this piece of the story bears repeating. One of the turning points was during a class in which Marcia noticed my set-up for a resting pose and she said, “you need a blanket under your head.” I grumbled to myself and thought, “Oh, it’s fine.” In her delightfully assertive and yet somehow still gentle way, she brought and folded another blanket under my head. It. Felt. So. Much. Better.
Sometime after that (It probably still took a few more months.), I started asking for props rather than doing without or getting them myself. I started modifying poses in ways that fit my body better. (Yay! Less knee strain!) I even felt this practice spill over into my everyday life — I began taking a break at lunch for a short walk or to just stare out the window while eating. I set aside even more time for rest. I went for bike rides in the middle of the day just because the weather was nice, ignoring other tasks.
The more amazing part — I started to feel a lot less guilty about taking time for myself. I cared less when people got frustrated or judgy when I wasn’t available at the exact time they wanted me to do something. I said no more easily to additional tasks that I just didn’t have time or energy for. I stopped over scheduling myself.
The simple act of asking for a blanket at the end of yoga class and having someone cover you up and tuck your feet in, (THIS is a-mazing, btw. You should try it.) was representative of a much deeper transformation and healing. I started to recognize that I am worthy enough, good enough, deserving enough to ask for what I need. It started to help me realize that I don’t have to do a million things first before taking time for rest or fun. It helped me realize that I am a more generous helper of other people when I ask for what I need first.
Now, I am paying this enormous gift my yoga teachers have given me forward. I invite YOU to ask me for something you need. Maybe it’s meditation instruction, a reiki session, or coaching about how to do this self-care thing.
You ARE deserving of care, not because of what you did for someone today, yesterday or last week, but because you are a wonderful, divine creation who has value and worth. Period.