“Self care” is perhaps as big of a buzzword as “mindfulness” these days, and for a good reason: we need it! As yoga teachers, we often get into the business of teaching because we care about other people, sometimes to the point of forgetting about our own needs. I have a long history of working in caring professions: teaching yoga, working as a massage practitioner, teaching various subjects, and now, the often overlooked vocation of being a stay-at-home mom. I’ve noticed so far that the hardest one – which is also the most inspiring – is being a mom. And it is also the most exhausting because there is no income, no work schedule, and often some uncertainty on exactly how to handle certain situations with my daughter.
I used to tell people that I love teaching yoga and doing massage because being in those fields usually forces me to take care of myself. How hard it is to encourage others to let go of stress and tension when I myself am on the edge. Fortunately, living in the world of yoga and massage makes these things more accessible. But as a mom, I’ve had to stretch my imagination to recreate my idea of self care. Now that I less frequently have time for an hour-long yoga session or a massage, I’ve had to take my own advice that I so nonchalantly parroted to my adult students over the years: 10 minutes of yoga a day is better than one hour once a week.
It’s the same with self care. It’s all fine and good to go for a 90-minute massage and get all floppy and relaxed, but it doesn’t have the same transformative power that a consistent daily self-care practice does. Who has time for daily self-care? I say everyone, because without it, becoming sick and stressed is almost inevitable.
Below are some ideas that are easier to fit into daily self-care than waiting for time to open up for a one-hour yoga class or massage; they work for me, but you might modify them or come up with your own (which I’d love to hear about in the comments).
- Supported yoga pose using a bolster, cushion, block, chair, blanket…or all of these. Do one you already know, look some up, or go to a restorative class to learn more.
- Journal. This may be a cliche recommendation, but there’s a reason so many people suggest it – it’s great! It’s an effective way to get our monkey mind out of our heads and onto paper. Plus, it keeps a record of what you’ve been dealing with. Going back to read entries can be an enlightening way to get perspective. Drawing counts as journaling, too, especially if it’s hard to put your feelings into words.
- Read something inspiring. I recently read The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle and found it to be such a profoundly yogic text. It is somewhat of an easier read than the Yoga Sutras or the Bhagavad Gita (depending on the version you’re reading), plus it is not tied to a specific culture or religion.
- Enjoy a slow cup of coffee or tea held in both hands (Thanks, Shawn Fink, for suggesting this in your book, Savoring Slow).
- Wake up early or go to sleep a little bit late to do something – anything – that energizes and inspires you. I tend to do the latter since my daughter’s wake up time is unpredictable. Choose an activity that you often long to do: It can be yoga on the mat, a short meditation, some time to read a book, or work on a project.
- Find an online yoga program and forget commutes to class. I haven’t tried this yet, but I’ve discovered there are several options, such as classes on Gaia or through Yoga International, Yoga Anytime, and YogaGlo to name a few. If you can’t find time away from the kids or a quiet space devoted to your practice, practice anyway! If anything, it can help you be more adaptable to the chaos of your life.
- Gratitude practice. Thanksgiving might be over, but there are benefits to shifting your mindset from a place where you feel you can’t control things around you to one where you realize you can at least control your own thoughts!
- Self massage. You know those heatable neck wraps that pop in the microwave and drape over your neck and shoulders to heat up sore muscles? It’s a daily indulgence in my household. It goes well with a few moments of self massage on the couch. I often can’t afford regular massages, so I do what I can to reach my own tight spots, even if for just 5-10 minutes while I watch TV or sit talking with my husband.
- A catnap or a yoga nidra session. Now and then I feel anxious to get to my to-do list and then I realize that to actually be effective at doing the things on my list, I need some rest. I wish I could do this daily, but even a few times a week helps fizzle out my anxieties.