How do you practice self care?

So there is this thing that I do several times a week, for about an hour each day. It’s something that I do solely for myself. I arrive at said thing, with zero intentions other than to do something that will benefit me: my mind, my body, and my deepest self. Most of us have something like this, whether it’s reading a good book alone and drinking tea, meditating, working out, running, or taking extra long cat naps on weekends. For me it is getting bendy, hot and sweaty on a long rubber mat (aka hot yoga).

When I first began doing yoga, I saw it as a practice to lose weight, tighten up, or get in shape. To me it was strictly a physical practice. I went, got a workout, and left. La fin. And I really enjoyed it. I kind of liked the mini-nap at the end of each class, it was quiet unlike the horrific gyms I has attended and it smelled better than them too (thanks essential oils). So I kept going. With each class and each unique teacher, I learned something new, be it a new pose, a new perspective, breathing exercises, or a cool new way to look at things. My eyes became open to a different spectrum of benefits from my yoga practice - something greater than increased flexibility, strength and cool yoga move party tricks.

Fast forward several years. Now, when things have gotten busy, my yoga practice seems to be the first thing that gets moved from the to-do list to the to-do-later list. I don’t know if you have ever been able to see a clear change in yourself when you stop doing whatever your ‘yoga' is for you, but I can tell you that I have noticed a clear distinction between myself with and without yoga. When I put yoga on the back burner, It is as if the parts of me that I value get slowly buried by the ‘other stuff’ that life brings in. I get short with people, reactive, feel self-centred yet self-conscious and anxious - none of which are aligned with how I want to show up in my life.

There have been months that I don’t make the time to practice yoga because I’m “too busy” and the day that I push myself to get back on the mat is always a transformational day. The change for me is instant. I go in feeling one way and leave feeling renewed, refocused and remotivated. I have come to realize that this time that I carve out for myself on my mat is time that is more than just getting a workout. It is a time for me when everything comes together into alignment.

We can get so tied up in our internal conversations - the busy chatter between our ears that is constantly commentating on each individual occurrence happening around us. Yoga is my opportunity to silence this. To tune into the other voice. The one that sees beyond what is going on at the office, at home or on the busy streets. The voice that is truly who YOU are, and knows what it is that you need and desire at the deepest level. Regardless of supposed or perceived flaws in your body or mind, this voice is always impeccable and always knows best.

Yoga was the first opportunity I was given to acknowledge that there is something within our selves beyond just a mind and a body. Our brains are our GPS, but our true self/spirit/soul (whatever resonates with you) is the true guide. Our minds help us to navigate through the craziness and chaos that is life, but it is so incredibly important to take time to check in and make sure that the GPS is taking us to the right destination. Whatever your yoga is, I encourage you to make the time for it regularly. You need to take care of yourself and in order to show up how you want to for others in your life. Self care is not selfish. Notice who you are with your self-care practice, and who you are without it. Acknowledge what your practice gives you, or what it allows you to go without. I have recognized and continue to receive many gifts each time I step foot on my mat and I will always be grateful for the lessons that this time of introspection, slowing down and tuning in have brought me. 

One of my biggest passions related to health lies within the realm of self-care. It isn't talked about enough or taken seriously by the majority of people. It is my belief that we should hold our self-care practices to the highest level of importance and protect this time like our lives depend on it. Because they do. The quality of our day-to-day experience improves if we consciously take steps to care for ourselves. Ask yourself, what do I do that is for me and only me? What makes you feel renewed, refreshed, reconnected, remotivated? Whatever it is, make time for it. And remember that is it called a practice for a reason. There are weeks when it will slip off your radar, but there will always be lessons learned if you are paying attention.