Yoga As A Self-Care Practice
“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.”
How is it that we live in the most affluent times in history and we’re still deprived of optimal health? With every new invention that’s supposed to make our lives easier, it seems rather than find more balance, we just take on more responsibility. In North America, we’re seeing ever-increasing rates of chronic illness, mental health disorders, insomnia and general unhappiness or dissatisfaction with life.
It seems to me, there’s a void of adequate self-care practices that can help restore a sense of balance, health and joyfulness to our lives. Yoga offers an endless choice of practices that can be used as a remedy for what ails us.
After completing my first yoga teacher training in 2010, I knew I had found the spiritual connection and faith I had been seeking my whole life. From the wisdom found in Yoga philosophy, to the breathing techniques, meditation and the physical practice, there is always something to draw from, to restore balance and come back to our highest self.
Yoga Philosophy – The Yamas & Niyamas
~ “Balance is like this. Spreading ourselves thin looks impressive, but in the end, we are the first to lose.” ~
Self regulating behaviors involving our interactions with others and the world at large.
Ahimsa – Non-violence – Be kind. To yourself and others. Always
Satya – Truthfulness – Being mindful of your inner critic. Our thoughts are real but are they true?
Asteya – Non-stealing – Don’t rob yourself of inner peace and joy. Focus on what sparks your inner flame.
Bramacharya – Non-excess – Think “need” vs “want”. Do my “things” get in the way of me being my best self, or experiencing life to it’s fullest?
Aparigraha – Non-possessiveness – Don’t’ confuse Love with attachment. One will uplift while the other weighs us down.
Personal practices that relate to our inner world.
Saucha – Purity – How about a day at the spa to help you find balance again. There’s nothing like massage, hot tubs or infrared sauna to detox the body and soothe the mind.
Santosha – Contentment – Gratitude journaling is a great way to remind ourselves of all your blessings and good fortune.
Tapas – Self-discipline – Being dedicated meditation practice is an act of self love and care? Just 5 minutes of silent contemplation can be life changing.
Svadhyaya – Self-Study – Take some time to reconnect with what sparks joy in you. Perhaps explore a new hobby that allows you to express your creativity.
Ishvara Pranidhana – Surrender – let go…let go…let go! Life isn’t meant to be perfect and neither are you. Let go of what you can’t change, and see what fills the space left behind. I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Pranayama – The Breath
~ ”The quality of our breath expresses our inner feelings.” TKV Desikachar ~
One of the most important parts of any Yoga practice is breathwork – or Pranayama. There are dozens and dozens of different kinds, but the one I recommend most, and practice myself is, just simply taking 5 or 10 deep mindful rounds of inhales and exhales. You can even set your watch every hour or so, to remind you to take a few conscious breaths. It brings us back to the present moment and there’s also a multitude of physical benefits. When we get stressed and anxious, we often start to breath very shallow and short, which triggers a stress response in the body that releases hormones that trigger the sympathetic nervous system – or fight or flight response. By taking a few long deep breaths, the opposite happens – which is we trigger the parasympathetic nervous system – or rest and relaxation response. I mean – how cool is that!? We can change our entire physical and emotional experience with just a few breaths!
Meditation & Mindfulness
“Your worst enemy cannot harm you as much as your own thoughts, unguarded.” Buddha
I’m sure you’ve heard so much about this recently. That’s because there’s an increasing awareness of the endless benefits of both Meditation and Mindfulness practices. Our lives are so full leaving our brains stimulated to excess on a regular basis. We look at TV, computer and cell phone screens at a staggeringly increasing rate. Our intelligence, education level and access to information is at an all-time high and yet, our attention span is dropping dramatically. If something doesn’t give us the response we crave instantly, we lose interest.
The thing is, some of the sweetest moments in life are to be savored and are observed at a very subtle level. So what are we missing if we can’t pay attention long enough to see it?
There are some great apps available for guiding your meditation practice. One I’ve used in the past and really liked is Headspace. A regular meditation and/or mindfulness practice can decrease stress, eliminate insomnia, regulate your heart rate and improve overall mental and physical health, making it a truly powerful self-care practice.
Yoga or Asana Practice
“The success of Yoga does not lie in the ability to perform postures but in how it positively changes the way we live our life and our relationships.” TKV Desikachar
The benefits of taking a regular yoga class reach far beyond the stretching and toning achieved through the movement and holding of postures.
When we attend classes at a community center or yoga studio, we’re in the company of like-minded people and part of a collective consciousness. We’re also taking a much-needed break from the demands of our life. Yoga is easy on the body, making it accessible to everyone, and great for our overall health and is the ultimate in self-care.
“Do something today that your future self will thank you for.”
Sea Patrick Flanery
We really cannot control what life throws at us, but we can control how we respond to it. And how we respond to it really defines who we are and what kind of life we’ll live.
Find a self-care practice that helps you restore balance and reconnect with your true self. Your essence is joyful, blissful, playful and fearless. And you deserve the very best of what life has to offer.
Much Love to you always.
Kathy Noel, Certified Yoga Teacher 500 hours