Do you ever find your yoga practice slipping away from what your instincts tell you is yoga? Are you rushing to class in a frenzy, or feeling like practice is yet another thing to tick off the to-do list? If that feels familiar, chances are you might be in need of a little self-care.
But before you google ‘self-care’ and become bamboozled by such articles as ‘45 Simple Practices for a Healthy Mind, Body and Soul’ (45? really?), here are a mere 8 ways to KEEP IT SIMPLE. Oh, and not break the band while you’re at it.
1. Breathe. Observe. And make a list.
Not glamorous, but it won’t cost you anything, and taking ownership of your well-being can give you an instant boost in itself. Ask yourself how you’re doing, what taking care of yourself might look like, and then make a list of things that usually bring you joy. Keep the list handy, and do whatever you need to do to help it seem enticing. Illustrate it, put glitter and fancy stickers on it, stick it to the fridge… the key is finding what works for you. Then, just choose one thing at a time from the list to do when you feel the need for a bit of decompression.
And if you’re stuck, here are a few ideas:
2. Essential oils bath.
Essential oils optional, of course, but this can be a quick and pretty cheap way to make bathtime feel like a treat. You can easily pick up a bottle of say, lavender oil, for as little as £1.99, which, spread over the dozens of baths you can get out of a 30ml bottle, represents great value for money. Lavender can be a great sleep aid, but of course you could choose whatever essential oil most appeals. AromaWeb have a helpful list of the benefits of over 120 oils.
3. Go for a walk, unplugged.
Take a backpack, pop your phone on silent, zip it into an inner pocket and let your senses take in your surroundings. Don’t try too hard to control your mind, but set yourself a challenge to remember at least three novel things you noticed and enjoyed about your walk. How did the weather change while you were out? What was the temperature of the air on your skin? What was the texture of the ground like underneath you?
4. Call a friend.
Don’t message them, actually pick up the phone and connect. If you’re anxious about disturbing someone, ask yourself how you’d respond to a friend calling you if the situation were reversed. And if you still feel like they might not want to hear from you, then call someone else. Enjoy the nostalgia to be had in just picking up the phone – the feel-good factor is surprisingly more instant than instant messaging.
5. Do something you wouldn’t normally do.
Doing new things can be a great way to give yourself a boost. Of course, bear in mind your energy levels, but sometimes doing something like rock-climbing, or wild swimming can be a great mood boost. When you’re feeling down, doing something new can be a great way to send a message to your subconscious that you are worthy of kindness, patience and generosity. Imagine yourself as a stranger to whom you’re being hospitable and generous as you embark on your new experience.
6. Do the yoga your body wants.
Unplug your mind for a second, and listen. Your body knows what it needs, and as soon as you can recognise that, a whole new way of practising opens up. Yoga becomes yoga when we detach ourselves from feeling the need to do the yoga we feel we should be doing, and free ourselves up to do the yoga that will actually benefit us. Very often, the yoga we feel we should do is the opposite to what we actually need. So, allow yourself the space to be curious, and for your practice to take care of you.
7. Make a self-care kit.
Why not get together with a friend and spend an evening making yourselves each a box of self-care goodies? The activity itself – compiling together whatever ingredients you associate with your chosen self-care rituals… essential oils, a killer bar of dark chocolate, whatever little things make a difference for you – can be a fun and heartening exercise. And the added bonus is that you now have, in addition to your list, a whole box (crate, pillowcase, stocking, hamper…) of things that mean something to the you that likes to be nourished. Again, none of these need be hugely luxurious or expensive. Sometimes all that is needed is a hot water bottle, a magazine and a cup of tea, and the simple act of assembling these things together can make all the difference when you need a pick-me-up.
8. Acts of kindness.
It might sound trite, but being nice to people makes you feel GOOD. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture, but doing at least one little thing in a day to make someone else’s better can have a significant impact on your own. Again, it sounds cheesy, but just committing to making an effort to, say, smiling at people you pass over the course of a day can make a difference. Have you ever noticed that other people seem more positive, friendly and agreeable on the days when you feel like that? It’s not a coincidence. What we give, we receive. Be kind, and discover the kindness of others. We’re all in this together, so take care of yourself by thinking of others, as well as by letting others take care of you.