“Me First”: Yoga Therapy for Radical Self-Care


This summer I had an important revelation, which punctuated a seven-year cycle in my life. I was incredibly depleted from caretaking and from the service-oriented existence, that is parenting.  I don’t regret any of this time, as it encircled the crucial years after adopting our two children. They needed every second of my intense listening, caring and attention as we folded these two incredible beings into the fabric of our family and focused on their healing.

During that time, I also started my own business, survived COVID and went through menopause-and as I list these milestones, I really just feel grateful to be on this side of it!  I got through it with a sporadic yoga practice, a new meditation teacher, and the belief that my efforts were not just important, but vital in order for my family and my mission to thrive.

Late last spring I started to feel really burnt out. I was giving as much as ever, yet the narrative remained the same- parenting is really hard, I worry a lot about the kids getting what they need, I want my business to take off, my wife and I don’t get enough alone time together-not to mention the collective stress we are all feeling in these times. The time I was spending in my yoga and meditation practice planted a seed that has been transformative:  So many things are out of my control. What I can do is nurture and feed myself so I can be strong enough and clear enough to deal with what’s in front of me. As I took a step back from the neverending requests for my attention, I firmly, but lovingly, declared, “Me First”.

How does a veteran giver and expert nurturer begin to turn those gifts inward? My reflections led me to the Panchamaya Model, and I examined the five elements of myself to see where the cracks were. The part of me that was raising its hand the most vehemently was my body, or Anamaya Kosha.  I had begun to notice that patterns in my daily life, compounded by a change in life stage, (and subsequent weight gain), had created a lack of ease in movement that made everything seem harder. I noticed that my gait had changed from a confident, swift, easy stride to a sort of compensating hobble that left me with pain in my feet, my knees and my hip. My experience was telling me, “just keep doing yoga”, but my intuition was saying how can we supercharge this? I came up with a two-step solution that I was confident would help me get back to feeling comfortable and strong in my body- but what actually happened was shocking.

Last year we partnered with Watershed Spa and I’ve been surrounded by many gifted bodyworkers and healers. It occurred to me that a massage therapist and a yoga therapist working in tandem could escalate healing by disrupting embedded patterns through deep tissue massage, and then create new patterns with a therapeutic daily yoga practice. I first met with Ryan Knickman, a long time yoga teacher and trigger point massage therapist at Watershed, and she expertly began unraveling the years- long holding that was creating imbalance in my tissues. I felt great right away, but I knew if I didn’t change my physical habits, it wouldn’t take long for my body to slip back into the asymmetry it had taken years to create. Three days later, I met with Celia McCoy C-IAYT at Panchamaya. Using the insight from Ryan’s work, she gave me a personalized yoga practice to support the newfound space in my body. I began my practice that very next day and expected to spend the next three months building a new, pain-free me. Letting go of what I used to do ie: sitting in lotus pose for meditation, locking my knees in standing position, I was led to a more balanced sustainable way of being through a series of intentional yoga postures.

I saw Ryan about two weeks later and followed up once more with Celia. To my great surprise, all of my physical pain had been resolved- a miracle! I continue to see them both and work my daily practice in honor of this “Me First” era.  Without the constant pain in my body I have so much more attention to give to the other things in my life that are precious to me. 

Stay tuned over the next four weeks for more on how my Yoga Therapy Practice addressed the other elements of the Panchamaya Model. Up next how meditation and breath work addressed my unsteady Mind, or Manomaya Kosha

Wishing you all freedom in your being, let me know if you want to talk more about how to put “You First”.

With Love,  Sarah Jane