About seven years ago, I created a personal challenge of practicing every day for 30 days. I had flirted with yoga, practicing sporadically for years and was motivated to immerse in the practice. It was such a great learning experience. At the time, I preferred Power or more challenging vinyasa classes. I would practice 3-4 days a week, but my practice didn’t really extend past that time on my mat in the yoga studio.
One of the first things I learned was that in order to maintain 30 days of practice, I would have to manage my energy. No longer could I just go a couple days a week and completely burn out over the hour or more of practice. I had to learn to pace myself. Part of that was broadening the types of classes I attended, including basic flow, gentle evening classes, and Yin. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have made it on Power alone!
After that 30 days, I enrolled in my first teacher training program, started teaching, and since then have experienced a major growth in my practice.
The lessons on managing my physical energy have grown and and expanded to other areas of my life. I started to become aware of how I was spending my time, resources, emotional, and spiritual energy. Greater awareness of my highs and lows, motivations and procrastinations, energy sources and spends, helped me manage my energy more wisely.
Spending Energy. The offering of energy may seem like a no-brainer if it’s a situation where you are energized by the spend. For example, offering your time and talent to a job or mission that you love. There are many times when I am teaching that I’m so saturated by the love of my work as a yoga teacher that it feels like I’m spending nothing at all.
But, what about when it depletes you? I would make the case that spending and even over-spending is okay if done consciously and wisely. There are certain missions and causes that just take a lot out of you. And you know that going into the experience. I think back to the times when my kids were little and I was the poster-child of the over-tired, over-worked, barely-holding-it-together, mom. There were many days where I spent all that I had and more. But, it was worth it.
It’s always okay to say no. There are times when it’s determined that the energy is not worth the spend. Saying no allows you to say yes to something else. Which brings us to…
Prioritizing Energy. Often there are lots of areas that need our attention. So, once you’ve decided that something is worth your time and energy it’s okay, even imperative that you prioritize. It’s one thing to say that my family or my faith is the most important thing in my life. But, if I don’t make time for them or if I don’t have anything to give when I’m interacting with them, are they really a priority?
A couple of years ago, I was in the hurricane of activity that precedes the Christmas holiday. Feeling stressed and pulled too many directions, I stopped for a bit and thought about what was really important. Time with those closest to me was the a priority. So, things that were not as important started to fall out, including our annual Christmas card. This might seem small or even trivial, but just letting go of that one task made a huge difference in the level of tension in our home. We put our time into wrapping presents and baking cookies, it turned out to be a really enjoyable Christmas.
Receiving Energy. With all of this prioritizing and spending, it’s important to consider the energy that you’re receiving. If we continue to spend without replenishing, then we go bankrupt. You can think of maintaining energy just as you would taking care of a car.
Regularly, we need to fuel the car or fill it with gas. This is our day-to-day care. Getting enough sleep, eating energizing foods, managing our health, feeding our minds, quieting our thoughts, and exercising our bodies all fall into this category. Based on our daily activity, the amount of “fuel” may vary, but there’s a perfect mix that is unique to each of us.
Then there are the intermittent service requirements. Maybe not as regularly, but just as important are really focused refueling. This may include extended rest, retreat/sabbatical, continued education, massage, or whatever it is that fills your tank. Again this is very unique to each of us.
It’s important to look at what is best for refueling and what you should avoid or repel. Some energy that is offered can be toxic or harmful. Be sure to consider human interactions with family, friends, and your community. Too often we remained attached to these sources of energy out of obligation. This is one of those areas, while difficult, it can be better to say no and say yes to something else.
Here are some of the questions that I regularly ask of myself. This type of introspection allows me to check on my energy give and take. It gives me an opportunity to tune in to what is working and what may need to change.
- Does this choice energize or deplete me?
- Is this worth my energy?
- Is this an appropriate response?
- What replenishes me?
- What opportunities do I have to refuel?
- What other demands are there on my energy?
- Does my energy spend align with what is important to me?
- Is the exchange of energy life-giving or toxic?
- Am I contributing positively in the exchange of energy?
- Am I receiving energy that creates a negative or harmful impact?
Your energy allows you to live truthfully and share your essence, so spend and refuel wisely!