What is self-care all about? And how to integrate it into your life
Updated: Jan 16, 2019
Self-care has become a bit of a buzz word in recent times. It’s sometimes linked with ‘treats’ or ‘indulgences’ (not that there is anything wrong with a little bit of those things). But this is really just the commercialisation of an age-old topic that is simply about knowing yourself, understanding what supports you to feel balanced, and making the commitment to doing your best with that.
It’s a process of ongoing reflection and turning inwards, so that you are able to make choices that contribute to your wellbeing. Aspects of it can be very simple - things you can easily do right now, and others can be a little more complex - more about evolving along a journey.
What shifts when we are in this connected relationship with ourselves can be really significant. So, I encourage you to read on and take a few minutes to digest some of the guidance on this important topic.
It's not just about you
Sure, self-care begins with the self. Not surprising really, as the name suggests so. But crucially, it is also about how you show up for those around you, and the wider world.
If we’re not looking after ourselves or in a good place overall, it is very likely we’re not showing up in a positive way for others.
The connection between yoga and self-care
Interestingly – is it yoga that has taught me a great deal about self-care! Because for self-care to be effective you really have to know yourself. Your real self. And yoga is essentially an ever-deepening relationship with yourself.
“Yoga is universal and applicable in all situations. It is first and foremost a mental, or inner, discipline. Even its physical postures have a spiritual purpose and must be practiced with full awareness. Every single yoga technique - from postures to cleansing practices to meditation - is a tool for discovering the abiding happiness of the ultimate self.”
Judith Hanson Lasater from her book ‘Living your Yoga’.
My yoga & self-care practices have indeed evolved through better knowing myself and what I need at different times.
For me, it’s a balance of being kind, giving myself encouragement to push through limiting boundaries, and being open to the idea of ongoing self-improvement and evolution towards the person I most want to be - hence living my life with connection to the teachings from yoga philosophy.
How self-care changes me
When I go through periods where my self-care slips, I notice the difference in how I feel on a daily basis. I notice that I’m not as patient or kind. That my attention is mostly caught up with myself rather than trying to be present for others. Feelings of stress or overwhelm reduce my capacity to give. I can feel out of balance and sometimes isolated.
In contrast, when I re-prioritise my self-care practices I feel better aligned with those around me. I feel more connected to others. I feel content and joyful within. I also feel I can cope with whatever life throws at me, and I feel able to share some of this goodness more widely.
In more tangible terms my self-care practice involves:
Yoga practice (a few full-length classes a week)
Meditation (almost daily, sometimes I’ll take weekends off, depending on what I’m doing)
Keeping my screen-time limited (I try my best not look at work stuff or social media first thing in the morning or last thing at night)
Having more restorative practices when I feel I need them (ie a legs up the wall pose, or finding comfortable stillness in any other way)
Ensuring I regularly spend time with friends for a good old catch up
Exercising regularly (cardio exercise that gets my heart pumping)
Spending time outside and in nature as often as possible (I choose to exercise outside whenever I can)
Trying to be mindful when I shift into disruptive behaviours – such as reacting angrily or with frustration – I reflect on what I notice and try to understand patterns, as well as consider how I might try to be different next time.
To name just a few…I could go on!
We all have a magic formula within us. The combination of positive things that help us feel grounded, connected and happy; as well as the not-so-positive things we need to keep a handle or restriction on.
For me, on the latter point, it is all about screen time and my tendency to get caught in a whirl of doing and busyness. I have to ensure I take pause and have quiet time in stillness/meditation regularly. My magic formula is an ongoing inner dialogue of reflection and adjustment, and yours should be too - in a way that is unique to you.
That’s why yoga techniques such as asana, breathing practices and meditation are at the root of my self-care routines – they have provided a way to connect more to myself. And it is only when you have this connection that you can really start to change your life so you can find more happiness, peace and tranquility.
Taking my yoga practice to this deeper place has involved committing to developing awareness by observing my life, my actions, my thoughts, my words over time. It’s not something I just happened into, and it did require an initial outlay of time and space to reflect on what self-care meant to me, and the commitment to keep in touch with this on an ongoing basis. But it was so worth it!
My challenge to you today
Take some time out to consider your life: what you need to feel well, to feel happy, and what things you might need to limit that can get in the way of those aims?
It might be the way you change your yoga practice to what you most need every time you step on the mat
It might be letting go of relationships that don’t serve you
It might be making time for a daily meditation practice
It might be creating other rituals that bring you joy and contentment
It might be making more time for friends/family
Or the opposite – carving out space away from too many commitments!
Because our lives are generally very full, often we’re rushing around, running from one thing to another on autopilot - it is essential that we create space to explore our self-care needs properly. You won’t be able to delve deeply enough into this if you’re simply thinking about it a little while on the go.
Actually, take time to sit down, clear a few hours and review things.
Alternatively, I’ll also be providing a more led-experience into your self-care needs on my Restore and Renew yoga retreat in Dorset in March!
It promises to be a fabulous, nourishing and restorative experience, and as the theme of self-care is a big factor, I’ll be guiding you through some reflective exercises and teaching you yoga techniques that will help you find more peace and space in your life.
With this weekend experience away from the distractions of daily life you’ll be easily be able to step away from the chaos and turn inwards. Find out more about the retreat here.