In the past 2 months I have:
- Taught 63 yoga classes
- Taught 31 private yoga sessions
- Led 6 workshops
- Traveled to Ohio 3 times, twice unexpectedly and at the last minute
- Spent 35+ hours learning in yoga training
- Attended a funeral of a family member
- Decided to give away our puppy
- Learned that the foundation of our house needs to be replaced…now
- Learned that the people who renovated our house quite possibly took down a load-bearing wall, leading to the imminent collapse of our kitchen ceiling
- Gave myself secret pep rallies in my mind to show up when I didn’t want to or felt like I couldn’t
- Surrendered to the universe
- Reminded myself I am human
- Practiced yoga
- Indulged in a Nora Roberts book, a guilty pleasure
- Enjoyed Ben & Jerry’s ice cream because I needed to soothe my soul (see Amanda, we’re not so different)
- And much more
If you’re tired just from reading all that, you’ll understand that I’m tired too.
I admitted to my Yoga for Anxiety workshop participants over the weekend that I felt like I should be in the classroom with them instead of in the front of the room teaching them. This was right after I learned that my house is falling apart and will cost at least $100,000 to repair.
I’ll never forgot something Seane Corn once said at a Yoga Journal Conference: “We teach what we most need to learn.”
I’ll also admit I’ve been having a little pity party for myself the past few days. And I’m trying so desperately to snap out of it.
In perfect timing, my mentor recommended I take a day off last week. Now I’m agonizing about how I’m going to be able to do that when I’m staring down serious house repair bills, in addition to the fact that giving something up is never easy. I’m really good at working hard. I’m right there with you learning how to relax and let go.
I share all of this to show you that I’m imperfectly human just like you. And of course, there is a yoga lesson on its way.
But if you’re feeling stressed, anxious and overwhelmed and like life is kicking your butt right now, you’re not alone. I feel that way too.
First thing’s first.
It’s positive affirmation time.
Repeat to yourself silently, “this too shall pass.”
All of this, whatever this is, is only temporary. Temporary has different deadlines for different people, but I promise, it’s only temporary. Happiness, growth, smiles, laughter, joy, and righteousness are right around the corner. But only if you allow yourself to have those things. Only if you believe you deserve them.
Now let’s get to the yoga lesson.
In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, there is a set of values outlined to be the purest and most universal values all yogis can strive to live by. These values are called the yamas.
There are 5 of them, as follows:
- Ahimsa (don’t harm yourself or other living beings)
- Satya (tell the truth and seek the truth)
- Asteya (don’t steal – possessions OR time)
- Brahmacharya (manage your energy)
- Aparigraha (don’t hoard material possessions, people, time, energy, anything)
Sutra 2.38 expands upon the purpose of managing your energy:
Originally, in classical times, brahmacharya referred to celibacy. Since yoga is now for the householder and we’re living in the world, not in caves, the more modern interpretation is to manage your energy (all energy) appropriately.
My favorite translation of this sutra is from Jnaneshvara (with my own interpretation mixed in):
When [we are able to successfully manage our energy], then a great strength, capacity, or vitality is acquired.
In other words, the secret to gaining more energy is to figure out how to appropriately manage it.
Those sneaky yogis. So simple. Yet terribly, annoyingly complex. No magic pills on this path.
Different perspectives on how to manage your energy
There’s an article making rounds on the internets about how Randi Zuckerburg has said entrepreneurs can only pick 3 of 5 very important life categories to focus on if they want to be successful. She says between family, work, friends, fitness, and sleep, you can only have 3. This is an example of energy management, however harsh it sounds.
Another way to look at energy management is understanding all the activities in your life that drain you and all the activities in your life that fill you up. We want to maximize the energy-giving activities and minimize the energy-draining ones. Sometimes that means making hard decisions. And yes, that means learning how to say no.
There’s another way (there’s ALWAYS another way) and it’s somewhere in the middle.
Fine, mom and dad. You win. They always liked to remind me that “moderation is key.” I naturally ignored them or scoffed at their petty wisdom. Of course, I was wrong and they were right. So thanks for planting the early seeds and being gentle with me as I found my own way back to the same exact concept.
The middle way
It’s really hard to live in the middle. This is because so much of the world that we aspire to live in dwells in extremism. I’m not talking about terrorists or radical religions here.
I’m talking about the extremism that is the voices in our heads telling us we’re too fat because we don’t look like the models and celebrities we see on TV.
I’m talking about the extremism that is diet plans based on restrictions because now we’re all suddenly gluten-, lactose-, fruit-, legume-, nightshade-, and processed food-intolerant. Don’t get me wrong there are some people that have serious food allergies or even diseases and I’m not knocking that. To truly know yourself, you have to spend time with yourself. You have to conduct experiments. You’ll probably suffer. A lot. And then, you’ll have an answer. Only then. Reading a magazine article probably isn’t enough to confirm a food intolerance.
I’m talking the extremism that is working 60 hours a week and calling that normal, because it’s just what it’s become. I’m calling myself out here on this one. I work too much. We all work too much. There’s a better way to manage our energy.
It starts with self-awareness.
Choose the game you want to play
A couple weeks ago I was looking at my schedule thinking to myself, I’m really going to need a vacation soon. But I have so much going on there is no time for a vacation (and now that my house is falling apart, no money).
I felt deeply that I needed one even before all of the last 2 weeks unfolded. And I didn’t listen to what my body knew. I didn’t make the hard choice because I let my mind override my body.
This yoga journey is a lifelong process people.
Energy management is about sustainability. It’s about playing the long-term game. And I know, the long-term game is no fun. But until you step on the train to the long-term game, you’ll constantly be thrown off the tracks of the short-term one. There is no end to the short-term game. Just more. More stuff, more goals, more money, more suffering.
If you choose the short-term game, you’ll sacrifice the benefits of sustainable living, but gain quick hits of happiness (and then crash and experience the lowest of lows when you fail).
If you choose the long-term game, you’ll sacrifice the quick reward in favor of a larger, more beneficial reward down the road. You may experience sadness up front, but the investment in bettering yourself is always worth it.
Energy management action plan
What can you do now to make energy management a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly maintenance practice? Here are some ideas:
- Look at your calendar and say no to one thing. What are you not looking forward to? What is not ABSOLUTELY necessary?
- Find 5 minutes a day to spend time with yourself to breathe, practice yoga, read, or engage in some activity that helps you relax and forget about the rest of the world.
- Take a day off. Reschedule clients and meetings. Cancel engagements. Rearrange. Give yourself one day off in the next couple weeks.
- Plan your next vacation. It doesn’t have to be far. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Pick more then one day, think about something fun you’ve wanted to do for awhile and put it on the calendar. You could take a vacation reading novels, visiting museums, staying with family, or taking art classes. Choose something that is not work. And make a pact to yourself that you won’t work.
- Start to notice the activities that fill you up and the activities that drain you. Take notes so you can remember and notice as patterns start to build up. This will help you when you’re looking at what to say no to and what to let go of.
- Get clear on your values and priorities. Do I think you can only pick 3 of the 5 categories Zuckerburg mentioned above? It rings pretty true for me. So what is most important to you? Is that what fills your life right now?
- Stay active. Move your body at least once a day. Take a walk, dance for 5 minutes, jog, yoga, swim, whatever it is, just move. This does not mean you have to spend hours at the gym or attend exercise classes. I saw the app Sworkit on Shark Tank this past weekend and it looks really neat. Check it out!
- Get organized. Our lives won’t always go according to plan, but like my former client/boss and friend Charlie Gilkey likes to say, if you’re planning effectively, you’ll always be changing your plans.
- In addition to energy output, pay closer attention to energy input. What are you feeding your body and is it giving you the energy you need to show up and do your best every day? I’m not going to tell you what to eat, but I do believe that food and nutrition is a big piece of staying healthy and managing your energy. I’m having a hard time with that right now, but I keep trying!
- Have some compassion for yourself. Be patient. Love yourself. Take care of yourself. It’s okay if you fail. As Aaliyah sang: “If at first you don’t succeed, get yourself up and try again.”
Good luck managing your energy this week!