By Kailey Verni
“Yoga is the journey of the Self, through the Self, to the Self” – The Bhagavad Gita
Intentionality. JVs embody this ongoing theme during our service year. Intentional community. Intentional simple living. Intentional social justice. Intentional spirituality. But what about intentional self-care?
We spend the vast majority of our time as JVs with others. A reality within the field of social services is that interactions with clients in need is constant. In one-way, shape or form. Then we leave work and come home to spend time in community. In the service of others, we drain our own energy. This can mean we often forget to take the time to serve ourselves.
I didn’t realize until I started JVC that I needed intentional time alone to recharge. Particularly, to process what happens at my placement on a given day. A vast amount of my time is spent sitting in solidarity with clients as they experience chronic homelessness. It is together that we work through the housing process (which is a painfully glacial process). Days are always chaotic and I rarely have time to myself. For this reason, I usually leave drained of all the energy I came in with that morning.
At this point, leaving these burdens at my placement when I go home for the evening is difficult. On any given day, I may bring them home. I get to go home with a roof over my head and a bed to sleep in. The clients I serve have neither of those. They sleep on the streets on tarps and in sleeping bags. On tough days like these, coming home to spend time in community doesn’t necessarily sound like an ideal evening (let’s be honest, we’ve all had this thought at some point during our JV year–if anyone in Casa Maura Clarke is reading this, I love you to pieces!).
Time alone has become time of intentional self-care for me. My time to practice yoga is my time to turn inward to my needs. To (momentarily) turn away from my service work and from community. Yoga is meant for everyone and is often free or donation-based. As a result, making it easily accessible to us JVs. Yoga offers me so much more than physical flexibility and the capability to stand on my head.
Yoga gives me the support I need to process the secondary trauma I experience at my placement. Yoga gives me the space I need to love myself and to recharge. It connects me to my breath and movement to ground myself. Yoga gives me opportunity to decompress and silence the noise that accumulates in my mind. Consequently, the truth is, if I don’t give myself tender loving care (TLC) on a regular basis, then I’m not able to give my clients and community the TLC they deserve. By giving myself the time to be fully present with myself on my yoga mat, in turn, I can be fully present to serve clients and participate in community.
Paradoxically enough, yoga translates to unity. I spend time alone to create space on my yoga mat, to unify myself with everything and everyone I am in relation with. Unity of my breath and my movement. Unity of my mind and my soul. Unity of myself and my clients. Unity of myself and my community. Yoga is my form of self-care that helps me become and re-become on a daily basis the JV I intend to be.
Kailey Verni is a Jesuit Volunteer serving at OPCC, a homeless service agency for people experiencing chronic homeless, in Santa Monica, CA. Kailey grew up on Long Island, NY and graduated from the College of the Holy Cross in 2016 with a degree in English and Philosophy.