Happy Self-Care Sunday!
In this week's blog-post, I'm going to break down this whole self-care thing to make it a bit more simple and accessible. Maybe you don't have the time or extra cash at the moment to schedule in weekly sessions with an acupuncturist or massage therapist. Maybe, the last thing you need is something else on your schedule to show up to. I get that. And ultimately, this journey is about self-care. Learning to be your own caretaker, your own healer. Not constantly looking outside yourself for the right healing modality to put you back together.
So, below you will find a list the essentials to doing this thing on your own. And by essentials, I mean, what has worked for me. You will have to experiment and see what vibes with your personal needs. But hopefully, this list will, at least, provide a good point of departure to get you started.
The Ultimate Self-Care Kit
The underlying objective to this beginner's guide is to nourish the senses. This is about remembering what feels good. This is about what pleases the eyes, soothes the spirit, and reacquaints us with the beauty of feeling alive. Constantly being on your I-phone or staring at your computer slowly dulls the senses. So put your phone away for an hour and indulge yourself in something that delights and revitalizes you. Here is a list of my go-to items that support the practice of nurturing the senses and bringing good food to the soul:
1. A really good candle.
I am a nerd for a good candle. I'm that girl who looks forward to the fall season just for all the new warm cozy scents that release. I know essential oils are all the rage right now but I guess I am kind of old-fashioned when it comes to scent-ual lovin'. And nothing sets a mood more than a room bathed in soft warm candlelight.
If you like the unscented variety, Mountain Rose Herbs has a good selection of beeswax and soy pillars and tealights.
And if you want the best of both worlds (candles AND essential oils), check out these artisan hand-poured soy wax candles by Good Candle Brooklyn.
And I love a candle that can take me all over the world. Rare Earth Naturals sources only the finest essential oils from all over the world to bring you the fragrances and smells of Bali, Morocco and Istanbul right into your home!
2. A meditation cushion or yoga blanket.
Health trends come and go. One day Dr. Oz says turmeric is the end-all, be-all of spices. "It helps everything," he may say. And of course, he is wrong. However, I believe in the power of meditation so much that I will follow suit with Dr. Oz and boldly state:
Yes. Regular meditation practice helps everything.
It is 100% the best thing you can do for yourself. No, it is not curative in all situations, but I cannot think of anything in life that meditation wouldn't at least help. If you want to recover your sense of being fully alive and present, reduce stress and anxiety, increase your inner peace and get in tune with your true authentic self, in addition to receiving a multitude of health benefits, you won't hesitate to get started.
For those who are new to mindfulness and meditation, I suggest the following books by Jon Kabat-Zinn: Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the Present Moment -- And Your Life and Wherever You Go, There You Are.
It's also important to have something comfortable to sit on to support your body during your practice. A blanket or meditation cushion helps. Having the hips elevated allows the knees to fall below the hips, releasing tension in the hip flexors and the low back. Being comfortable in a seated position takes time, stamina and, honestly, hard work. If you didn't know, the entire eight-limbed process of yoga, set out by the ancient sage Patanjali, was designed to prepare the mind and body to sit for meditation. It's a journey that never ends. So be patient with yourself. And lie down if you have to.
3. A book that really gets you.
Not everyone is an avid reader, so perhaps some people won't resonate with this one. But nothing feels more nourishing to me than the opportunity to curl up in blankets with a book that imparts new wisdom for living into my soul. Everyone has their own tastes, so you are kind of on your own for finding a book that lights you up. I, myself, am a non-fiction reader. I love a good travel memoir and anything that propels me forward on the spiritual path. Here are a few books that have been incredibly transformative to me over the past few years:
- A Path of Practice: A Women's Book of Ayurvedic Healing by Maya Tiwari.
- Perfect Love, Imperfect Relationships: Healing the Wound of the Heart by John Welwood.
- The Great Work of Your Life: A Guide for the Journey to Your True Calling by Stephen Cope.
- Light on Life: The Yoga Journey to Wholeness, Inner Peace and Ultimate Freedom by BKS Iyengar.
- The Wise Heart: A Guide to the Universal Teachings of Buddhist Psychology by Jack Kornfield.
- Awakening the Buddha Within: Tibetan Wisdom for a Western World by Lama Surya Das.
- Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness by Sharon Shalzberg.
- Introduction to Tantra: The Transformation of Desire by Lama Yeshe.
If you are interested in any of these books or other spirituality-themed options and want to support local, one of the yoga studios I teach at, Expressions of Grace Yoga, will most likely have all of these and any you could be looking for.
4. A few mood-enhancing teas.
Nothing tastes more like self-care than a steaming cup of medicinal herbs and teas. Finding the herbs that resonate best with your constitution takes time, experimentation and research. It is important to remember that there are energetic effects for every herb, so do your research before you even sit down with a cup of peppermint tea off the Starbucks menu. Make sure that the herbs you choose yield the energetic qualities you are seeking. And of course, make sure it tastes yummy to you. After all, this is about delighting the senses.
For herbal guides, I like The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine by David Frawley.
For fresh organically sourced herbs and tea blends, my go-to is Mountain Rose Herbs.
My personal plant allies are Chamomile and Tulsi, so I really like carrying around these teabags by Organic India, especially when traveling.
5. A journal that you vibe with.
Beyond deepening your intimacy with yourself, journaling can give you a safe, cathartic release from the stresses of daily life. It improves self-esteem and mental health as well as keeps your creative juices flowing.
If you are going to spend time with your journal, you want to make sure it doesn't block your creativity or ability to write freely. I am super picky about my journals. I don't like lined paper as I hate being boxed into anything. And super white paper feels too bright and intimidating to write on. So I prefer beige and recycled materials. I also like it to be pretty and handcrafted. And it's nice if the proceeds support community development programs in third world countries.
If you want to continue to support the people of Nepal, purchasing a journal from Nepali people is a small, simple way to do it.
6. An assortment of bath stuff.
Bath time is holy time for me. For me, this is the ultimate self-care practice. Perhaps it's my Vata nature, but steeping in water is incredibly grounding for me. And there are so many things you can incorporate to enhance it. Essential Oils. Herbs. Bath salts. Tealights. Groovy tunes. Bubble bath. Wine. Make it sacred and make it yours.
My job as a yoga teacher can sometimes be physically demanding so Epsom salts, for me, are a must. And this Herbaceous Essential Oil Blend by Z Oils works wonders. I also like to light a few tealights, warm some sesame oil in my oil burner and do some abhyanga (Ayurvedic self-massage) before getting in. Even better if they are herb-infused oils.
I love this Mahanarayan Oil by Banyan Botanicals. It is infused with muscle and joint targeted herbs to soothe sore muscles, support comfortable joint movement and pacify an active lifestyle (as well as excess Vata). This is one of my favorite winter bath treats.
Additionally, I did an herbal bath ritual at a hot springs spa while I was in New Mexico last summer and found it to be super powerful. So investing in some relaxing bath herbs like these can enhance your self-care regimen as well as bring a spa experience into your own home.
You can also combine some of the other self-care practices into your bath time. Sipping tea, reading a book, lighting a candle. Having just learned Reiki, I like to use this time for the self-healing hand placements. Also, pranayama (breathing exercises) is a great way to further soothe and relax the mind while in the tub.
7. A solo excursion just for you.
Maybe you can't get an exotic getaway in your calendar right now, but I am sure you can find time to do something for yourself by yourself. Solitude is important. And doing things by yourself strengthens your relationship with yourself (the most important one, by the way). Maybe head to a coffee shop, order a cappuccino and doodle in your journal. Or people watch and day dream. Write out your intentions, your self-care plan, or your bucket list. Maybe find a nature trail and go for a walk. Or do a walking meditation in your own backyard, opening your eyes to things you've never noticed before. Go outside at night and moon-gaze. Or take yourself out for dinner. And maybe, gasp, without your phone.
One of my favorite things to do alone is go dwell in a bookstore for a few hours, grab a pile of travel guide books and a latte and dig into all the beautiful places on earth I want to see.
And there you have it. 7 simple ways to begin your self-care regimen, indulge your senses and bring pleasure for the sake of pleasure back into your life. Did I miss something? Is there a simple routine that you've found to be incredibly centering and effective for you? I'd love to hear about it in the comments. And as always, if you found this post helpful to you and think it would be helpful to others, I would love for you to share it.
Time to get started and head on over to Instagram, tag @jessicayogaguide and hashtag #selfcaresunday to update me on your journey. See you there!