Self Care: Listen, Be Gentle, and Simplify
[Editor’s note: The term “Ayurveda” refers to a natural system of medicine that originated in India over 3,000 years ago. The word is derived from the Sanskrit ayur (life) and veda (science or knowledge). Source: Johns Hopkins Medicine]
Self care, a topic dear to my heart. Self-care is an ever-evolving practice in our household, especially in this unique time having young children, working from home, and the uncertainty and challenge of the year that we’ve all experienced. For years, Ben and I have drawn upon the wisdom of Ayurveda to transform and solidify our daily rhythm and rituals. As we move toward the holidays and the close of the year, we invite you to amplify your self care practices. Ayurveda, the sister science of Yoga, is rich with guidance for daily living. Two significant tenants are Dinacharya (morning routine) and Ritucharya (evening routine). Here are some of our favorite tools for bringing balance, supporting the nervous system, and moving through daily life with great tenderness and care.
Dinacharya, morning routine:
To begin the day, take a moment of pause before first stepping foot to the earth. An opportunity to feel the body breathe, express gratitude for the gift of life and the day ahead. Begin with an intention, which can be as simple as the aim to move through the day with greater connection and softness.
Be attentive to what first enters the body. Ideally, drink a warm or room temperature glass of water to prime the system. Create a morning cleansing routine. Scrape the tongue to release accumulated toxins, brush teeth, agni sara (a cleansing practice, demonstrated here), simple movement, etc.
Take note of your morning habits. What is it that you first consume? Is it information from social media, the news, coffee, or toast? Be intentional about what the first consumption of the day is. This sets the tone for the many systems of your being on any given day.
We wake early. Ben is the first to rise, taking advantage of a quiet house for time to do his personal practice. I begin most days with snuggles and laughter, often waking to the chatter of our one-year-old. Our kiddos love morning time together; this routine has been co-created with them for sure! We weave in music, our immune-boosting regimen which includes chyawanprash (an ayurvedic supplement) and a nourishing drink that we call moon juice (see recipe below). We also make a point to send a morning video message to the grandparents; this has helped us remain connected throughout the year. All of these little pieces are our way of beginning the day feeling refreshed and connected. Sometimes it is the small things that are most nourishing.
Ritucharya, evening routine:
In the evening, turning off the screens at least one hour before your head hits the pillow will ensure that you get the best quality sleep. Be mindful of how to fill that time. Listen to soothing music, read poetry or life-affirming texts, meditate, practice restorative yoga, allow for space to be quiet, take time to reflect and journal. Soak and oil your feet with sesame oil, put on cozy socks; this is a very soothing and grounding practice. Drink a warm, comforting beverage (tea or warm milk with warming spices such as cinnamon, cardamon, cloves).
For us, self care has evolved to the simple act of listening. I like to put one hand on my heart and one hand on my navel and breathe slowly. Honor where you are in this unique moment at the end of a challenging year. Give yourself permission to boost your self care practices and to evolve. We are multidimensional beings, so at times, this may mean simply resting. Or, protecting the heart by drawing healthy boundaries in relationships. As we tune in to these various layers (physical, energetic, emotional, spiritual), we become more and more sensitive to the effect of our actions. Ask questions and stay curious. What am I consuming? What can I offer up? What can I release to make more space for what is truly nourishing?
Above all, this season, be gentle and simplify your daily rhythms. Take the time to breathe the fresh crisp air and spend time in nature. Create screen-free zones in your home. Reflect on the past year by journaling. Light a candle. Ignite your creativity. Practice yoga nidra. Do what resonates and fills your cup.
Ben and I would like to wish you all a very peaceful holiday season and a nourishing start to the new year. We invite you to this guided relaxation practice, another household favorite.
Recipe for Moon Juice (nourishing morning drink to restore and build vitality)
1) Small handful of almonds
2) 1-2 black peppercorns
3) 2-3 cardamom pods
4) 2 figs
5) 1 tbsp pumpkin seeds
6) 4 dates
7) 1 tsp poppy seeds
8) Small nub of ginger
Soak the above ingredients in a mason jar full of water. Place the mason jar under the moonlight and allow them to soak overnight. In the morning, drain off the water, add fresh water, pour contents into a pan, and add 1 cup of milk. Bring to a boil. Blend ingredients with a small amount of maple syrup (optional, and 1 tablespoon ashwagandha).