REAL Self Care: because a bubble bath doesn’t cut it

True self-care is not salt baths and chocolate cake, it is making the choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from. – Brianna Wiest

Self Care vs. Treat ‘yo Self

Self care is a hot topic these days. Probably because we’re all realizing how sad, sick and tired we are. But we sometimes confuse self care with the concept of “treat yo self”, both important, but one is more valuable and a lot more necessary in my opinion. Self care is about building a life (body, mind, spirit, relationships, careers, etc) that makes you feel happy and fulfilled. Treat yo self is about indulging. Self care is being honest with yourself. Treat yo self is delaying the consequences of your actions. Self care is taking on the responsibility of yourself. Treat yo self is pushing that responsibility away.

This is another area that commercialism may take a hold, convincing us to buy stuff we don’t need in order to take care of ourselves. Face masks, bath bombs, boxes of chocolate, bottles of wine, the list goes on. I’m not saying these things aren’t great, because they definitely are, but at the end of the day, these are not things I need to be happy and fulfilled. These things don’t push me to be a better person. They don’t lead me to feel more connected to myself or my surroundings. They aren’t what I need. And let’s just say, sometimes what I need wouldn’t sell well.

So what does self care actually look like?

First things first, to take care of yourself, you have to be honest with yourself. Take time to reflect on yourself – take inventory, what you have, what you need, what you don’t need, what you want. Truly believe that life can be what you want. Raise self-awareness, recognize when your life is not what you want it to be, and make a change. As you can guess, this is not a glamorous task and it can be painful. It may be tough love, but sometimes this is the most important love we can receive, and we have to give it to ourselves. This might mean a tough conversation with yourself. Maybe changing your diet, being honest with someone else, quitting your job, ending toxic relationships, getting rid of something you have, telling someone how you feel, etc.

There is a balance that must be struck, however. Too much self-tough-love can lead to guilt. Or pushing yourself too hard. It’s not self-care if it’s self-deprecating. This tough love is meant to lift you up, not tear you down. So in order to take care of yourself, you have to be honest as well as compassionate. This is a struggle I’ve experienced. I was always pushing myself to be “better” but I never appreciated how I was in that moment. I didn’t love myself for what I was and I expected myself to be “perfect” all the time. I was missing something huge: the journey! Give yourself time and space to grow – don’t expect your needs to be met overnight.

Self Care Ideas

– Abhyanga (self massage)
– Tell someone you love how you feel about them
– Spend time in nature
– Clean your space
– Detach from technology
– Create new and stimulating relationships
– Start a savings account
– Exercise
– Sleep
– Meditate
– Take a day off
– Soak in epsom salt
– Cook yourself a nourishing meal
– Find a mentor
– Perform a random act of kindness
– Read about a topic new to you
– Pick up a new hobby
– Reconnect with someone you’ve lost touch with
– Make plans that excite you

DIY Weekend Yoga Retreat at Home

Really want to get away from the world and have a spiritual experience? Need a retreat but don’t have the time off or the cash to spare? I feel you. While a trip to the Caribbean eating fresh fruits and doing tons of yoga would be idyllic, you can escape the world and sink into a spiritual place from anywhere! Here are some tips and even a sample schedule for your weekend stay-cation!

  1. Reflect & set intentions before & after. Consider why you’re called to do this retreat. Reflect on what you are looking for and set intentions for yourself before you begin, maybe before you even plan your weekend. Then, after the weekend is through, use a possible newfound sense of clarity to set intentions and reflect on the last few days. Also, before the weekend begins, try your best to let go of expectations of the weekend and prepare to accept any way it unfolds.
  2. Maybe theme your weekend. It may be fun to theme the weekend – based on your intentions. This could be something you feel you need or a topic you want to learn about. Detox, Chakra Healing, Ayurveda, Kundalini, etc. Base your activites, readings, yoga classes, meditations, and meals around this theme and fully immerse yourself.
  3. Clean. Clean the space you’ll be spending time in if it needs it. De-clutter the area. Make sure you have plenty of clean, comfy clothes and fresh sheets – make it a vacation, we want everything fresh & clean!
  4. Go shopping. Make sure you have all that you need in your house/apartment before the weekend begins. It might be a good idea to create a meal plan and menu for yourself. A couple days before, get all the ingredients you need to prepare yourself healthy meals.
  5. Cook your own food. Give yourself scheduled time to thoughtfully prepare each meal you eat on your retreat. There is a special connection that comes with cooking yourself healthy & nourishing meals. Use this weekend retreat to feel a true sense of gratitude for yourself and your preparations.
  6. Find classes & guided meditations in advance. If you’re planning on using guided yoga classes or meditations throughout the weekend, find them in advance so you’re not browsing YouTube or your meditation app throughout your weekend. If you prefer to move intuitively, still make small & vague class plans for yourself in case a lack of inspiration exists at the time.
  7. Disconnect. Do what you can to disconnect – this might mean turning off your phone and unplugging the TV but be careful not to set strict rules for yourself. Just let it feel like a vacation – treat yourself to what you enjoy but look for a small disconnect from your day-to-day life.
  8. Make plans if you want them. Your weekend doesn’t have to be closed off from your social life – if having dinner with a dear friend will add to the experience, do that!! Just have the plans in advance so you’re not trying to make it up as you go and things possibly not working out, etc.
  9. Make a schedule. Organized yoga retreats have a schedule so that the day is broken up and there is no time of the day when you wonder what to do with yourself. It is also helpful when planning activities. Overestimate timing so you can move slowly and thoughtfully through your day. Make a schedule for yourself but don’t hold it as law – move slowly.
  10. Do what you love. Like I said above, there are no rules or restrictions, whatever will add to your experience is what you should do! Bring movies, blare the music and dance, invite loved ones, or make it a silent retreat of introspection, whatever makes you feel at home in yourself.
  11. Embrace doing nothing. Leave yourself some empty time or time gaps to just be. Take things slow and do nothing without feeling shamefully unproductive. See the below schedule, I’ve allotted half an hour to a cup of tea. Nothing else. Just the tea.

Sample Schedule:

cropped_sampleschedule

August Resolutions? Why Wait? + a Meditation for Change

Welcome to August!

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about resolutions. One of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to New Years is the fact that everyone decides to make these awesome resolutions to improve their life (which is amazing!) but they think they have to wait for the new year! Don’t wait. When you see a change that you want to make, just make it. It can be that easy for you – see the change, make it.

Also, ever notice that your resolutions are the same…? Mine usually are. This used to stir negative thoughts in my mind, leading me to believe I was failing at my resolutions if I wasn’t getting them “done” in that year. Now, I don’t think of this as not completing that resolution or as a failure – rather a success of knowing exactly what I want to be and taking my time getting there. Change takes time – and sometimes, I live a resolution fully but still want to live it the next year! I’m always striving to grow closer to the person I feel is truly me.

I’m sharing some resolutions I’ve made since the new year and ones I’m making today! Every day, every moment is a great opportunity for a change – don’t wait for the right date or even hour.

– Raise awareness through all senses
– Be present in thoughts, words, & actions
– Listen more & talk less
– Let go of expectations & embrace uncertainty
– Become more comfortable in silence
– Get more fresh air
– Do more to show gratitude to loved ones
– Perform more selfless acts
– Make decisions based on love
– Do more to express: journaling & sharing
– Do something fun every day just because – no purpose

A Meditation for Self-Reflection & Change

I am sharing a kriya meant to prompt self-reflection and hopefully in turn, create space & inspiration for change.

  1. Sit with an upright spine.
  2. Make fists with the hands (excluding the thumb) and bring the two thumbs together to touch at hearts center, palms facing down. Keep the elbows wide.
  3. Close your eyes and bring attention to your breath. Focus on the breath and energy passing through the thumbs.
  4. If you want to include a mantra, try Om Namah Shivaya, this chant helps to expand the innate wisdom we all carry within us. Repeat this mantra 3-5 times before beginning and between each rest period.
  5. Continue for 3 minutes. Rest. Then proceed for 11 minutes. Rest. Then proceed for 22 minutes.
  6. Sit & notice the shift.

What changes do you want to make today??

7 Tips to Make Meditation a Regular Practice

Meditation is something that has shed true light on my life and yoga practice. I am not being dramatic when I say it has completely changed the way I sit, sleep, drink, eat, read, speak, listen, move, breathe, teach, and live. I now view meditation as an essential part of any meaningful yoga practice. But I won’t lie, it can be a pretty hard practice to break in to. There are still times it feels impossible to me, but hey, that’s the practice!

I’m going to share a few beginner meditation tips that helped me kick start my practice, which now feels completely natural (like 85% of the time 😉 ).

  1. Work your way up. Meditation is the 7th limb on the 8 limb path of yoga and while the limbs don’t have to be practiced in order, it took me years of work on the others before I found meditation. Especially helpful in my case were Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses) and Dharana (concentration). A common practice to find a meditative state is the candle meditation or candle gazing. Light a candle, stare into the flame, engage fully on just the flame, eventually the flame becomes all you see and feels a part of you and you a part of it. This will help with concentration as well as sense withdrawal as concentrating on just one thing blurs out the rest.
  2. Sit in a way that WORKS. We all know the beautiful pictures of awesome, strong yogis sitting in meditation with upright spines, perfect lotus legs, usually shiny heads and light colored robes. Oh to be them. But we’re not. Be realistic with your seat. What is actually functional, comfortable, and maintainable? Seats look different in different bodies but the actual seat hardly matters compared to the spine. Shoulders over the hips, shoulders melting away from the ears, ribs lifted, tailbone rooting down, crown of head rising up. The upright spine is a must – so if sitting criss-cross-applesauce on the ground makes it extremely difficult to keep your spine upright, you need a new seat. Try elevating the hips on a bolster, blanket, or cushion. You can even sit in a chair or support your spine with the wall. You can strengthen the spine and work up to the unsupported meditation but start with your tall and beautiful spine, pulling in opposing directions. Don’t let discomfort be your distraction.
  3. Guide yourself away from the guided stuff….touchy topic alert. Guided meditations are great and very popular these days. Which is great. But for myself, I found that after a while, the guided meditations hurt my meditation practice. I was uncomfortable sitting in silence and missed the leader. When I started to shy away from the guided meditations, got comfortable with the quiet and trusted myself, I found things the guided meditation couldn’t show me. Just a thought. I still treat myself to guided meditations – especially at night
  4. Try Mantra & Mala. When I began walking away from guided meditation, I still felt a little lost when thinking about just sitting in silence. I used mantra and a Mala to meditate, a really special practice! A mantra is a word or phrase – it can be anything you want, traditional or completely your own! A good practice that incorporates breath is using inhales and exhales to repeat your mantra. Example for the mantra So Hum (loosely translates to I am): As you inhale, think/say So. As you exhale, think/say Hum. You can also use a Mala with your mantra. A Mala is a necklace with 108 beads. You work your way around the Mala, breathing or repeating the mantra to yourself or out loud. Here’s a link to read more and see how to use your Mala.
  5. Take your time increasing the time. So you read somewhere you’re supposed to meditate 20 minutes…you try…you fail…you decide you cannot meditate. It’s ok! Yes, longer meditations are nice and they feel more beneficial to me. That’s just something to look forward to. But on my journey, it took a lot of time to extend my meditative state. I began with 5 minute increments. In my experience it started to get easier slowly. 5 minutes here, 7 minutes here, 15 minutes here, back down to 10 minutes here, and so on. Don’t let time be a major constraint or goal in your practice but do increase the time as you go. If you use a timer, set it one or two minutes longer than you have in the past and see what happens.
  6. Let go of guilt. If you are like me, you can be a little hard on yourself sometimes. I am very self-disciplined…which is me romanticizing my perfectionist habits. When I first decided I wanted to meditate every day, I would be devastated if I missed a day. Big mistake. Do not be hard on yourself if the time gets away from you or if the situation changed. Meditation is not a chore. You’re not ‘cheating’ yourself or anyone else by missing a session. It’s about being in the moment – not worrying! Be adaptable and let the time come and go. Otherwise, you might miss the whole point!
  7. Make it your own. No description needed for this one – meditation looks different for every human being. Do what feels right and leave the rest.

Enjoy your meditation journey – take it one step at a time! Namaste!

DIY Coconut Almond Chia Bars

As promised, here is my favorite way to make my own granola bars at home! Making your own will save a lot of money, packaging, and it’s fun! You also get the benefit of knowing exactly what you’re putting into your body – real food, no additives necessary! Feel free to add your own spin on this recipe – it’s fun to change it up and try different add-ins. This recipe is derived from the Master Granola Bar Recipe from Gluten Free on a Shoestring but vegan-ized and flavored by me.

What you need:
* 9-inch baking pan
* Parchment paper (optional, but will make your life so much easier)
* Large mixing bowl
* Large measuring cup
* 1 3/4 cups quick oats
* 1 cup creamy almond butter
* 1/2 cup maple syrup (the real stuff y’all, no Hungry Jack sh**)
* Sprinkle of salt
* 1 cup chopped raw almonds
* 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes (the bigger the better in my opinion!)
* 2 tablespoons chia seeds
* Sprinkle of cinnamon (optional)
* 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla (optional)

Directions:
1. (Optional) In a skillet over medium heat, toast the almonds until they are golden and fragrant (about 5 min)
2. Add oats, almonds, coconut flakes, chia seeds, cinnamon, & salt to large mixing bowl. Gently stir until combined.
3. Microwave almond butter to soften, mix in syrup, and vanilla. Whisk until combined.
4. Add liquid mixture to oat mixture and stir (I use my hands, just to get dirty and fun) until there are no longer dry oats. The drier the mix, the firmer the bar so adjust as needed, adding more oats or more syrup.
5. Line pan with parchment paper (criss-cross will be the easiest to remove bars)
6. Refrigerate for a few hours – enough time to allow the oats to soak in the moisture. Preferably overnight.
7. Remove from baking pan
8. Slice into bars & enjoy
9. Store in fridge or freezer

Hope you enjoy this recipe and have fun making it your own! You can add chocolate chips (Almond Joy situation?), protein powder, dried fruits, different nut butters, etc. Have fun!

 

My Mindful Morning Ritual

Hello & happy Monday! To start off the week, we’re talking about my daily morning routine or ritual! Things tend to start early – I like getting up early so I have time for myself before I report to work. It just so happens that my morning routine is also my daily spiritual practice or sādhanā. I’ve linked the wiki entry of sādhanā but it’s completely open for interpretation and is beautifully unique in each person’s mind. In my eyes, my sādhanā is the part of my day that I turn into myself. It’s the time of the day that I plug in, recharge, and prepare myself for for the new day. That’s why I enjoy doing this in the morning. Sometimes this practice is goes on all day and sometimes it’s half an hour. Either way, it sets me up to be happy and feel close to who I really am.

Little disclaimer – you may notice a lot of my routine aligns with Ayurveda…this is not an accident but I am in no ways an expert on this and I’m only sharing – not recommending. Also, my ritual does change with time and circumstance, but it has been consistent for a few months – so I figured this was the perfect time to share.

  1. Morning Prayer – this is nothing fancy, I’m usually still in my bed or on my way to the bathroom. But right when I wake up, I just take a moment for gratitude for the day and the gifts it can bring.
  2. Tongue Scrape – yep, ew. It is really gross I won’t lie. I use a silver tongue scraper to pull toxins off my tongue and massage my inner organs through my tongue. Oh yeahhh. Google it.
  3. Copper Water – Every night, with good intentions, I fill a pure copper cup with water. Overnight, copper ions dissolve in that water in small amounts. It is said this water now has the potency to destroy harmful microbes, fungi, bacteria, etc. (Vasanti Health) In the morning, I use this water to swish and rinse my mouth. I drink the remaining. Beyond the health benefits of the water, I enjoy preparing my water the night before – it feels special as I drink it the next day, like an offering I’ve made to myself.
  4. Oil Pull – I throw a tablespoon of coconut oil in my mouth, melt it, then swish it around for about 10-15 minutes (I do the rest of my routine at this time!), pulling toxins out of my mouth. This also has dental benefits. Once again, I’m not expert, Google it! Or just try it and see how you feel.
  5. …Use the bathroom… – not going to give you Internet creeps any info on this…but I’ve included because it’s an important part of the morning routine!
  6. Lemon & ACV Water – I add the juice from a lemon, 3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, and ice to a glass. I boil water and pour it over the mixture. This makes an awesome, warm drink that wakes up my digestive system and since I’ve been drinking it for months, I don’t feel awake until I’ve had it!
  7. Movement – as I sip on my morning cocktail, I move. This is different every day. Sometimes it’s 5 minutes of stretching, sometimes it’s an hour and a half yoga practice, sometimes it’s a walk, sometimes it’s just walking around my apartment. This is just to get the blood flowing and it makes me happy.
  8. Meditation – I sit in meditation for about 20 minutes. I begin with a couple minutes of breath work – to quiet myself down and tune in, then I let the universe come in & take over 🙂
  9. Journaling/Intention Setting – I don’t journal every day, but some days I like to draw a picture, write down an intention, something that came to me in meditation, etc. Either way, it’s nice to take some time (literally 2 minutes some days) to consider my day and outwardly express.

At this point, I’m ready to get the day started! Maybe some coffee, sometimes a workout comes next, sometimes it’s breakfast, whatever the day brings! As a friend, I highly recommend having a steady morning routine – it allows the day to unfold slower and softer. My morning sādhanā leads me to take advantage of my entire day and keeps me energized and grateful. Thanks for reading! I hope this post gave you some insight and maybe some ideas for your own ritual. Enjoy your day & week 🙂

 

Sharing my Struggle: Proper Alignment vs. What Feels Right

I’m back with another struggle of mine. Like I said in the former Sharing My Struggle post, these posts aren’t really meant to be full of answers or advice (quite the opposite actually) but rather me sharing my thoughts and maybe sparking yours! There’s something freeing about allowing myself to be open and authentic about how I experience the human condition. Highly recommend 🙂

As I’ve said before, when I came across yoga, it was completely informal and self-taught. While I still find this a beautiful aspect of my practice, it led to a lot of “bad” habits. By bad, I really mean not properly aligned. Many of my versions of postures are technically “incorrect”. I use all these quotations because I honestly don’t think the words incorrect & bad have a place in yoga. Since the start of my journey, I’ve learned an overwhelming amount of information about anatomy, injuries, and alignment in yoga, stirring questions in my mind. Am I taking care of my body? Or could I actually be harming myself? Am I even on my mat to take care of my body? Is my practice safe and sustainable? Do I want it to be? Should I listen to anatomy books or my own body and sensations? Why does improper alignment feel so good in my body? How can I teach others yoga safely if I practice unsafely?

Yoga came so seamlessly and naturally – it felt like home, the original state of my body. For the first year of my journey, I would practice with loud music, no mat, no props, no cute yoga clothes, no rules, just allowing. Then I started going to yoga classes and reading yoga books. After being exposed to proper alignment, I became aware of my flaws. I became obsessive and restrictive with myself. The practice changed. I couldn’t move in a carefree way and I was constantly checking off alignment boxes in my head. I practiced in front of a mirror, critiquing myself for doing things “wrong” and praising myself for doing things “right”. In this way, I thought “proper alignment” stole my practice (spoiler altert, it was me). I tried to get it back. I tried to ignore alignment but every time I stepped on to the mat, it was like a dam burst in my brain and I was flooded with anatomical information. My practice became a routine of checking off alignment boxes. I tried to block out new information, but the lack of learning made my practice stagnate and boring. Yoga didn’t feel like a part of me anymore.

I told myself that the old way – the way that felt right but apparently was wrong – was bad. And the new way was good. I let go of my old practice and accepted the change. I learned to teach. I learned SO much more about how to keep people and myself safe while practicing yoga. (Just for the record, learning proper alignment wasn’t always negative to me at all. For every time one I was confused by the “right way”, there were more times I was led into the proper alignment and I was like oh wow ok that’s how that’s supposed to feel.)

But there was something missing. Freedom. Spontaneity. Lightheartedness.

For a year, I gave myself cheeky practices here and there like a bodybuilder gives themselves cheat meals. I threw my head back and let my arms hyper-extend in upward facing dog. My knees traveled far past my toes in every lunge. I fought with the stability of my shoulders. I bent my low spine. My forehead kissed the earth in downward facing dog. I danced on my mat, breaking all the “rules”, like an runaway teenager. A smile spread across my face. After the high, I felt guilty and ashamed of what I had done. I considered my yoga practice self-harm.

My mindset changed when I stopped taking myself and my yoga so seriously, realizing that perfect alignment doesn’t exist. Every pose is experienced differently in every body – there is no right or wrong. Alignment is important and helpful, but far from the point. Now I (usually, I still struggle) trust my body to know what to do.

Here’s my thinking now and warning, you might disagree and that is OK. The bottom line is, there is a safe way(s) to practice each yoga pose and this is the only version(s) I will teach. Outside of my teacher scope, life is short. And I don’t practice yoga for the physical benefits (I mean they’re nice, I’ll take them. But that’s not why I’m here). This was a hard realization to come to – yoga is “healthy” right? It’s a way of taking care of my physical body, right? Yes, in a way, but the truth is, yoga teaches me the impermanence of my body. It’s here and gone. I practice to feel my body from the inside out, to be in the moment, to breathe in, to breathe out, to feel the universe flow through me. I’m here for the feelings, not the appearances.

I guess I’m still looking for the perfect balance of the carpe-diem-do-whatever-feels-good-listen-to-my-body mindset and the actual preservation of my body and its strength, mobility, and flexibility. Have you felt this? Do you have a pose that feels so right when your alignment is lacking? It’s good to be bad 😉