The Four Pillars of Self-Care


Self-Care is vital to one's well-being and healthy functioning. The foundation we build on determines how stable our structure will be. Our lives can be looked at as a structure and we must build a strong foundation so that it doesn't become weak, unsound, fragile, or frail. There are four (4) keys to self-care upon which everything else is built. If even one pillar is unstable, the whole structure becomes unstable. Together, these four pillars create a solid framework of self-care:

1. Nutrition

2. Physical activity and relaxation

3. Relationship and community

4. Contemplation and solitude


These four pillars are literally wisdom practices. They have a deep, well-tested basis in the classic therapies and empirical observations of traditional and indigenous cultures worldwide. They occur in various forms in different cultures as part of inclusive systems (for example, traditional Chinese medicine and ayurveda) that also incorporate guidelines regarding morals, ethics, and acceptable behaviors toward ancestors and elders. In the West, with our quick-fix orientation, we often see yoga only as exercise postures (asanas) and neglect the well-defined recommendations and teachings that underlie the practice. We whittle down the wisdom of generations of Chinese medicine practitioners to only acupuncture or acupressure without consideration of the greater context in which the practice dwells.


These origins of the four pillars are exemplified by millennia-old writings in the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, which sound as relevant today as up-to-date contemporary research findings do: In the past, people practiced the dao. They understood the principle of balance, of yin and yang, as represented by the transformation of the energies of the universe. Thus they formulated practices…to promote the flow of qi and…to help maintain and harmonize themselves with the universe. They ate a balanced diet at regular times, arose and retired at regular hours, avoided overstressing their bodies and minds, and refrained from overindulgence of all kinds.


They maintained well-being of body and mind. Thus it is not surprising that they lived to over one hundred years. These days, people have changed their way of life. They drink wine as though it were water, indulge excessively in destructive activities, drain their essence, and deplete their qi. They do not know the secret of conserving their energy and vitality. Seeking emotional excitement and momentary pleasures, people disregard the natural rhythm and order of the universe. They fail to regulate their lifestyle and diet, and sleep improperly. So it is not surprising that they look old at fifty and die soon after. (Robinson 2007, p. 85)


Significant contemporary scientific evidence exists supporting this wisdom regarding the efficacy and value of the four pillars of self-care.

Excerpt from "Deep Medicine"


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