A blog post by Mary Moscarello. To read all of Mary’s blog posts, click here.

Photo credit: Mary Moscarello. Banner image by Joseph Greve on Unsplash

In my zest for teaching yoga when I first started, I jumped at every chance to teach. I got caught up in the idea of getting good at teaching and thought I was helping myself. Not so. I taught so often in those first few months that I didn’t leave time for my own practice. This was a mistake. Thankfully, t didn’t take long for me to realize that this method of honing my teaching skills was not sustainable. I had to slow down abruptly and reassess.

It seems I had forgotten the wisdom behind the idea that an empty cup cannot quench thirst. It is so important to take time to fill your own cup so you can pour out to others.

All forms of caring for others (for an elderly person, for an ill spouse, for a friend in need) DEMAND putting others first – putting off one’s own needs – which is super draining. Care givers do not always act out of love, the love develops as the act of caring continues. It is as if you care for the person because you have to and in so doing, you develop more love for them.

The advice to “refill your own cup” goes beyond the yoga mat and beyond the yoga studio. It most obviously applies to parenting. Newborn babies have needs that must be met, whether the parent is hungry, tired, frustrated or just plain worn out. The common understanding is that dedicated parents respond to their baby’s cries out of love. But the love comes second. The parent simply must respond in the moment no matter what else is going on and as the parent/child bond grows, the love grows too.

In a new Netflix series called “Babies” – one learns about how levels of the so-called “love hormone” oxytocin increase in pregnant mothers. But what was news to me is that these hormones also increase in involved fathers who play with, bathe, hold, change and cuddle their newborns. While females have the advantage of anatomy and the ability to host lift, it isn’t the act of gestation and giving birth that causes the oxytocin increase alone – since the boost in the hormone is seen in males who do none of that part of procreating. The dad’s hormone boost comes from interacting with his child – and there the love grows even at four months postpartum.

But the love cannot be nurtured without refiling or refueling the caregiver – so must the yoga teacher have her or his own practice to refill and refuel.

The term “self-care” has become pretty worn out (enough to need its own self-care) – yet I submit that it is extremely valuable to care for yourself SO THAT you can care for others. If it is true that in the act of caring for others, we build stronger bonds of love for those others, why not develop stronger bonds of love yourself as you treat yourself well?

Refill your cup so that you may first drink and then pour out to others.