When I was in sixth grade, my extended family rented a lake house in Maine for a week. When I needed a break from the group, I turned to the house's little beach-reading lending library. Obviously, my first choice was a Danielle Steele novel about scandalous movie stars trying to make their way in the industry. After reading that in about a day, I returned to the shelf and picked up a book called A Year of Beauty and Health by Beverly and Vidal Sasson (1976). It contained the detailed daily, monthly and yearly routine of this 70's power couple. Dated as it was, I was fascinated by how they planned their lives. Each morning began with hot lemon water and yogic stretching in bed, they fasted for one weekend a month and changed their diets with the season. They were exuberant about the results and urged everyone to try these practices for better health. As an overweight, somewhat reclusive 12-year-old, this was definitely not the way I envisioned my life. I enjoyed frozen french fries during most afternoons of the year and specifically did not enjoy any form of exercise. Still, the book spoke to something in me and I brought it back home. It was on my bookshelf for years and I would read through it from time to time just to get a little shiver of inspiration up my spine.
Fast-forwarding 20 years, my interest in the book makes perfect sense. The Sasson's were essentially describing a yogic lifestyle. Today, I drink lemon water as many mornings as I remember to buy lemons, do yogic stretching on the daily and love the Ayurvedic practice of changing my food with each season. I am still not a huge fan of fasting but I do it from time to time. (I just decided today that I'll be doing a kitchari cleanse during the first week of September. It will be hard to eat the same thing for three days but I know I will be happy for it afterward.) These are ancient practices for good health and I do them because they make me feel grounded, clear-headed, and full of energy. Of course, I forget to do them of the time and then start to feel like crap and drink extra coffee to compensate and suffer until I break the cycle and do something kind for myself. Always, there is such power in remembering how to do right for myself.
I'm still fascinated by self-care as a practice. I've essentially made my career around it and bring it up often in conversation. I love reading books and articles where people will fess up to their specific practices. In that spirit, here are a few of the things that have been most wonderful for me of late.
1. I get eight hours of sleep. There is no substitute for what this does for my overall well-being. I've learned that I can't sleep in like I used to so this means going to bed before 11pm most nights.
2. First things out of bed: I pee, scrape my tongue (swear by this), splash my face six times with cold water and put some nice-smelling, soothing rose water on my face. Of late, I've taken advantage of the time Adam is walking Poncho to light some incense on my altar and chat my mantra 108 times. The timing usually works out perfectly that I finish my mantra just as they come back.
3. Five days or so a week, I spend 45 minutes in the later morning doing my morning pages, reading a course in miracles and meditating. this is a powerful combination for me that diffuses negativity and reminds me how I really want to live my life.
4. Most days I do some amount of yoga (vinyasa flow, acroyoga, or kundalini) but I must do at least one session of restorative or yin yoga a week (I love the ones on yogaglo) for the health of my nervous system. I do this mostly on Wednesday afternoons--right in a middle of a busy few days of teaching and after I feel so rebooted.
5. This is kind of new but it seems to be working well: unless it's a special occasion, I limit my intake to one cup of coffee and one alcoholic drink a day. I never enjoy the second one as much as I think I will and especially with alcohol, I am starting to feel the second one the next day.
6. Caring for my dog Poncho also feels like self-care. We go for a walk around the cathedral near my house almost every day and once a week we head somewhere beautiful like Rock Creek Park to feel the tall trees around us and breath a big sigh of relief.
Of course there are other little things but those seem like the most important ones. Now I'm so curious about yours. Wat are they? Write down your top five, follow them for a week and see how you feel. Bonus, post one in the comments section to help us all keep the inspiration going.
(If you live in DC and are interested in learning more about self-care, come to my Self-care 101 workshop next weekend. It's on Sunday, September 1st from 2:30-4:30pm at the Bloomingdale Yoga District. Click here for more information. )