Self-care is all the rage and along with this surge in popularity, a certain watering down has also occurred. I’m not knocking the move to mainstream. We ALL need to prioritize care for ourselves in the hustle and bustle of daily life but, if you’re anything like me, the definition has come to include an ironically distinct reliance on outside sources and services.
There are days that I will search for any and all types of care, from massage to manicure to acupuncture to a yoga class with a specific teacher to an afternoon Starbucks treat. While it is true that each of these fall under a broad umbrella of self-care, what I have come to notice for myself is a dependence on a set of circumstances to be present in order for me to access that care. For instance, if the nail salon is booked, the masseuse on vacation, the yoga teacher not on the schedule, I get a pass on my self-care. I tried and it just didn’t work out – maybe I’ll binge watch Orange is the New Black, instead. Not quite the care I was aiming for.
Self is the first word in the term “self-care” and I’m aiming to make that the driving force of the phrase. I truly love getting a massage or a cupping session with my acupuncturist but, if I’m honest, I don’t plan ahead all that well when it comes to taking careful guardianship over my day-to-day well-being. Often I’m hoping for a same day appointment, which rarely works out. So the care falls to me. As Karyn Shanks, MD says in her article on easing anxiety, by soothing your own biology, “there is no way to ignore or hack our bodies on our quest to soothe our overwhelm. Self-care is a non-negotiable part of the solution.” I’ve developed a few key tactics to maintain self-care without having to jump the fences that outsourcing puts in the way.
Practice Sensory Awareness
Develop a practice that trains your attention to observe sensation within your body and embed it into your day, every day. Judith Hansen Lasater writes in her essay “Relaxing Into the Self: Why We All Need to Learn to Let Go,” from Yoga Therapy: Theory and Practice, “focusing on the sensation will help you because sensation always exists in the present moment, never in the past or future. And you want to be in the radical present.” Yoga Tune Up ball work, Feldenkrais, yoga nidra, conscious relaxation and breath work are all examples of practices that teach intentional focus on sensation and bring you directly into the present. These practices can be broken down and inserted in small doses in your day. As a Yoga Tune Up teacher, I often remind my students that my goal is for them to be able to utilize these tools OUT of class; to develop the muscle memory to build in 10 minute practices to their day and follow their own intuition to strengthen their awareness of feeling in their body.
Go barefoot, lay down on the floor whenever possible. Feel the earth underneath you and allow its solid support to empower you. When that is not open to you, bring your feet under your hips, balance your pelvis above that foundation as you center your head over your central line of gravity. Spread your toes (wear shoes that provide the space). Connect the points of your feet. Sense your connection to the floor.