Self-care is so underrated in our society. I hear people bragging all the time about how they’re working a double at work, putting in 12, 14 or 16 hours days. I hear people boasting themselves for not being able to remember the last time they took a day off from work. We’re constantly in a rush to get to work, get to the next job and even skip out on getting a proper night’s sleep so we can fit more work into the day. You guys, there’s no prize for the person who works the most. This is a contest you don’t want to win because the only prize you’ll receive is stress, injury, sickness and unhappiness.

Self-care should be our first priority. How can we possibly expect to take care of other people if we can’t even take care of ourselves? Just like the airlines always remind us of during the safety announcement before takeoff:

Be sure to put your own mask on first before assisting someone else.

Self-care is putting your mask/life vest on first and it should be your number one priority. Self-care can come in many forms. Self-care is eating well, sleeping well and living well. Self-care is giving yourself a break or a day off. Self-care is allowing your mind and body to rest. Self-care is meal planning for the week. It’s taking yourself out for dinner. It’s spending time with friends. It’s reading a book, getting a pedicure or having a massage. Self-care is sleeping in. Self-care can be going to yoga or going on a hike.

As with anything, if something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. When it comes to yoga, I always remind my students if something doesn’t feel right in their body, modify it. If a posture hurts, back out of it. There’s no prize for pushing your body into the final expression of a posture, especially if it hurts. Celebrate you and where your body is at right now, at this very moment.

I’ve been struggling with this whole idea of self-care myself, both on and off my yoga mat, which is why I decided to make this a theme in my yoga classes this week. All summer long, I’ve been filling my schedule each week with teaching as many Hot Power Fusion and Yoga Sculpt classes as my schedule will allow. I subbed any class that came my way, as long as it didn’t interfere with my other job’s schedule. I told myself the more classes I taught, especially the Sculpt classes, the more effective my training for my PCT thru-hike would be. To me more equaled stronger. I was wrong. So very wrong.

Today I was diagnosed with Rotator Cuff Tendinitis in my right shoulder, also known as impingement syndrome. This painful condition in my right shoulder has been occurring over time, slowly getting worse over the last couple of months. The pain started about a month after I started teaching Yoga Sculpt this summer and has progressively gotten worse ever since. After seeing a chiropractor for two months without any pain relief, she recommended I see a physical therapist.

Today, I started seeing a physical therapist. With his diagnosis, I was relieved to finally know exactly what was going on with my shoulder and could finally start on my road to recovery.

What does the healing process for an injury like this look like? For one, I have to avoid any activities that cause the pain. Teaching Yoga Sculpt hurts my shoulder a lot. I only have three more months until I start my PCT thru-hike, which means I had to decide what was more important – teaching Yoga Sculpt or hiking the PCT? Since I’ve spent the last year of my life planning and preparing to hike the PCT, I gave up my Sculpt classes to focus on my recovery.

My PT gave me a number of exercises to do every day that are designed to help restore the range of motion and hopefully ease the pain in my shoulder, while building up the muscles surrounding the rotator cuff, helping to make it stronger.

I was also relieved when my PT told me I could still do physical activities like taking Hot Power Fusion yoga classes and go hiking. He recommended I stay away from Sculpt, at least for now until I was fully healed. I’m allowed to go to Hot Power Fusion or Bikram Yoga as long as I modify any postures that cause pain. That means modifying Eagle pose to a hug instead of a wrap, shorter High Plank holds, leaving my arms down to my sides instead of putting them underneath my body in Half Locust and absolutely no Chaturangas or push-ups until I’m fully healed.

I’ve been avoiding hiking over the last month because I was afraid I’d injure my shoulder even more with my weighted pack. With hiking, the only modification my PT recommended was that I start off with a light weight in my pack. As I get stronger and the pain in my shoulder becomes less, I can gradually add the weight back to my pack and hike longer distances with it.

The moral of my story is self-care is NOT overrated. You must put your life vest on first. Listen to your body and take care of it. Otherwise one day, it will shut down and then who will take care of you? And trust me guys, the PCT will not hike itself.

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