The heart feeds itself first.
During the stay-at-home orders I have been conscientious about how I spend my spare time (there is actually no such thing as “spare” time-- but that’s a different blog post!)
As I knew there was no lack of work to be done (we’re up-leveling many aspects of our business in preparation for reopening) and since I value rest-- I resisted the (ok, not that strong anyway) urge to learn to crochet or bake my own bread, like seemingly everyone I follow on Instagram.
There was one opportunity though, that I knew I wanted to invest my attention in.
For 6 days in a row, I got to peek into the lab of Gil Hedley, famed Integral Anatomist. Gil studies human anatomy by dissecting cadavers. His goal seems not only to be exploring what he calls “inner space” but also to help laymen cultivate an appropriate level of awe and appreciation for our bodies.
Gil’s perspective is interested in connections and continuity, and aligns perfectly with the teachings of yoga. For the first time ever, Gil was allowing viewers to tune in online to 1 hour per day of what is usually an intensive full-time week of dissection in his lab.
So when I got his email invite, I was doing it!
One of the most special moments of the week was getting a closer look at the human heart. Gil actually calls what’s in our chest the “heart center” since the whole organ is more like a “heart-tree,” whose branches extend throughout the body in over 60,000 miles of blood vessels (!!) and even beyond the body through the vibrations of the heartbeat.
As his cohorts in the lab took turns gently cradling the heart in their hands, Gil explained something which I'd never thought about in quite this way before:
The heart feeds itself first.
A quick anatomy lesson:
Your coronary arteries (from Latin corona meaning "crown") wrap your heart like vines. The coronary arteries connect to the aorta. The aorta is the (huge! about 2cm in diameter!) blood vessel that spins freshly oxygenated blood from the heart up to your brain and out to the rest of your body.
As this oxygenated blood rushes from heart out into the aorta, the coronary arteries divert some of it right back into the heart directly to provide it with oxygen.
The heart feeds itself first.
There is a room in Gil's lab labeled "Teacher's Lounge." It's where the cadavers are kept! It is so true that the human body has great quantities to teach us. By observing relationships within the body, we can gain insight about our relationships, too.
You would never call the heart "selfish" for nourishing itself first -- and yet many of us have been taught to believe that we should put others' needs before our own.
We back-burner our own self care – compromising sleep, neglecting to make time for exercise or eating well, sacrificing the activities that feed our souls. It’s a well-meaning, misguided attempt at being a good person.
Observing how the heart works, offers us a different lesson: we should be feeding ourselves first.
But does prioritizing our wellbeing, somehow take away from what we have to give others? I’m going to say nope, and the heart will back me up:
When the heart feeds itself first, it doesn’t adversely affect the rest of the body. Your coronary arteries are relatively small vessels that redirect a relatively small amount from the abundance of blood which supplies the rest of the body.
In other words, a small amount of self-care can be profoundly nourishing. Your 90-minute yoga class (or even a 5-minute savasana!) offer rewards that far exceed the time you invest.
Your body depends on your heart’s health to live. So the “self-serving” aspect of the heart is a loving act which ensures that the rest of the body thrives! In the same way, your self-care is essential to the well-being of your family, your friends, and your community.
You know when you’re on an airplane and the flight attendants tell you to put on your oxygen mask before helping someone else with theirs? It’s like the heart has listened to that lecture.
When it comes to making yourself a priority, remember this lesson from the heart. Feed yourself first. Only when you are nourished, can you fully show up and care for other people.
Every night at dinner in our family, we all go around and say what we are grateful for that day. (Ok, our toddler just mostly says "mnxrbfthnuuhh")
Including the usual suspects like: "my brother, shelves, rainbows and toilets" there have been many special people on our gratitude list lately!
We felt it was time for a shout-out:
Thank you to the workers.
BIGTIME appreciation and respect to all the health care workers and other essential workers on the “front lines," including many of your fellow yogis!
We know who you are, we’ve got your back (literally!) and thank you.
We know it’s gotten real out there and you guys are doing your “karma yoga” (that’s the yoga of action!) for sure right now.
Thank you to our amazing team.
The truth is, most yoga teachers did not get into this industry imagining they'd be teaching people via Zoom meetings!
Jeannie, Maggie and a host of guest teachers from around the world have put on their '21st century' hats and got busy learning new skills, stepping outside their comfort zones and getting at it with Virtual Bikram Yoga classes.
Stacy and Jennell, our brand new front desk crew (we hired them mere days before closing!) are quickly becoming powerful forces behind-the-scenes, helping us connect via social media and up-level our cleaning and safety procedures
Thank you to our members.
You have kept up your membership and support (for us and each other) in all kindsa ways!
Here's an example: one anonymous member recently wrote to us asking if we would help them send out a bunch of $100 gift cards for groceries, to any yogis who might be in need!
This is what our kickass community does!
Thank you to our biz community.
We are grateful to be part of generous, supportive networks of entrepreneurs! Our community of yoga studio owners around the world has come together more than ever during this time.
Locally, the St. Johns Boosters Association has been especially helpful in connecting our neighborhood businesses with resources and with each other.
For so many of us this time apart has been hard in many ways.
It's taking these moments to be grateful for the abundance of access to LOVE we all have, which is going to pull us through. Every one of us who has been a part of Home, is part of this love!
We can't wait to get started helping you heal your “computer neck” and get all your organs pumping happily and do some hot, sweaty yoga in person together again.
It's just a matter of time, so stay tuned for updates!
For now, our virtual classes are ongoing-- and our gratitude is flowing.
HHY Founder, Yoga Business Coach, yoga-doer and life-lover, Kay Afif!