My Self-Care Story

Self-care is a hot topic that is getting a lot of attention in the news and social media right now. We know self-care is important but what is it really? Are you doing it right? How can you make the most of the little free time you already have? As I go through my yoga therapy studies and the evolution of my own practice my perceptions around self-care has changed and I want to share with you what I have learned.

In this blog post, I share my views on self-care, my daily routine and how I managed to have the best winter ever despite it being long, dark and cold, AND how self-care doesn’t have to be time-consuming or expensive.

This Fall I will be hosting a day-long Self-Care workshop to help you design a self-care practice that will work for your lifestyle. You will also learn how you can be accountable to maintaining a self-care program that is supportive and nourishing to YOU!

What is self-care? In my experience, self-care is going to be different for everyone. There may be some similiarities and there will certainly be differences. For me, self-care is more than checking off an action on my to-do list. It is something that is becoming a lifestyle, a series of choices that I know are nourishing and supportive. What this is for me, may be completely different for you. And it didn’t happen overnight. It was as series of choices that have evolved over time. Things taken out of my life and things added. Let me share a couple of examples. There have been some toxic relationships that I had to let go of if I wanted to thrive and have a lifestyle that was free from drama and guilt. I cut out drinking alcohol because I didn’t like how it made me feel. I thought this was going to negatively impact my social life but it only made it better. Some things I’ve added: I’ve started to include some Ayurvedic dincharya practices into my morning and bedtime routines (learn more). Some things that evolved: my diet and how I practice yoga. These lifestyle choices nourish me, they help me sleep better, I have more energy, I handle stress better, I am better at my job. What works for me, might not work for you. Let me give you an example. Some people might find that playing with or petting a dog to be extremely comforting and relaxing. They find it re-energizing and supportive. Someone who is allergic to or afraid of dogs might find petting a dog extremely agitating and therefore not nourishing or supportive. This is why we need to assess what feels good for us, what is sustainable, and what is the outcome of the self-care practices we choose.

My experience of Ayurveda and self-care began in ernest last summer. I began integrating the Ayurvedic practices of Dinaycharya that I learned in my training. I gradually introduced these practices into my daily routines, with consistency. They are now a natural and organic part of my lifestyle.  What I noticed, and what I attribute to these practices is that I had a really excellent winter.

Let me explain:

Winter has always been a troubling season for me.

I get cold and stay cold and find myself shivering all the time. Going outside is extremely uncomfortable.  My happy place is piled under blankets with an electric heating pad.

The long dark days are depressing. No amount of Vitamin D could pull me out the seasonal funk.

I had no desire to go outside, to exercise, to be social. I literally hibernate.

Winter was a real struggle that never seemed to end.

Does this sound familiar? I also worked on going to bed by 10pm each night, waking up early every morning, eating at regular times during the day – which I still find challenging.  But what I took away from these seemingly benign practices was so much more than I though was possible. We can all agree that here in Ontario we had a long, cold winter. Everyone, and I mean literally everyone complained about how terrible winter had been, how long it felt, how there was an urgency for spring for to arrive. While, yes, it was long, this was the first year I didn’t feel negatively about it. I felt like I had weathered the winter well. The snow and the cold didn’t bother me the way it had in the past. I had energy to do more things and try new stuff.  I would even go so far as to say this was the best winter I’ve experienced. When I share this, people look at me dumbfounded. I don’t have any other explanation as to why I didn’t experience all the symptoms I typically do in the winter. When I considered what I was doing differently, it was my self-care routine.

If we want to experience to a different outcome in our lives – whether it’s how we feel, the outcome of our businesses or our relationships, we have to do something differently. Same actions, same outcome. New actions, different outcome. I had no idea what the outcome was going to be. I didn’t start this self-care routine thinking it was going to make my experience of winter better. I was curious. I was willing to try something new if there was potential that it could help me feel differently and in a very general way. There is very little time spent or cost associated with these practices.

I’ve also gained a deeper understanding of how I can create balance in my life. Balance does not mean more of something and less of something else. For me, balance is the outcome of how I am able to be with a situation without being thrown out of whack. It’s about how I relate to stressor or a bad driver or a negative comment. Balance is a state of being that you can cultivate when you are nourished from the inside out.

As a result of this self-care lifestyle that I have cultivated over time,  I have more clarity and awareness around how my diet impacts different aspects of my life. While winter was wonderful for me, I found there was some struggle going into spring, which sparked a new curiosity for me. What do I need to change during the winter, to support myself going into spring? Now I get to explore. Self-care in and of itself evolves and changes over time and for me, across seasons.

Through my yoga therapy training we learn a lot about Ayruveda and how we can support ourselves. In my physical yoga practice there are practices I can do that help me feel more grounded and supported when I feel unthethered. There are practices that are energizing or calming. Movement, breathing, and meditation all factor into my lifestyle and supports and nourishes me. These might look different everyday too.

Check out my earlier blog post about Dinacharya practices. If you’re curious, pick one or two that feel like they would be easy to incorporate, notice how it feels for you and go from there. If you want to introduce a movement, breathing or meditation practice into your life, let’s talk about ways I can support you to get started.

This Fall I will be running a day long self-care workshop that will explore a variety of self-care practices that you can build into your routine that is manageable and supportive. We will create individual plans to help you measure whether or not your self-care practices are supporting you. If you are not on my mailing list and you don’t want to miss out upcoming events and new blog posts, sign up today.

 

 

Part 3: Ayurvedic Self Care for Cold and Flu Season

Welcome to Part 3 of Ayurvedic Self Care for Cold and Flu Season. In Part I I discussed some self-care practices to build into your morning routine and in Part 2 I shared some evening self-care practices for better sleep. In Part 3, I wanted to share a practice I will be participating in and I invite you to join me.

In October I will be participating in a Digestive Reset program by one of my teachers, Mona Warner who is an Ayurvedic counsellor and yoga therapist. When the season and weather changes, it is an ideal time to do a digestive reset. Fall is becoming cooler, we are likely to feel less grounded and this can impact our nervous system and gut which can lead to decreased immunity and onset of cold and flu.

The benefits of doing a digestive reset  include, better digestion, more energy, more clarity, better sleep and feeling better overall.

If you would like to join me this October I will create a Facebook group so we can hold each other accountable and be there to support each other. The program  is a 9 day, self-guided, online program. The program includes educational videos explaining why a digestive reset is important, an e-book with recipes, shopping list and how do the reset. In October there will be live Q&A dates with Mona as well as access to the video of the calls. The cost is $75. You can purchase the program and find more on her website.

I will begin the Digestive Reset program on October 10, 2018. I hope you’ll join me!

Stay tuned for my next post on Toilet Meditation!

 

 

 

Part 2: Ayurvedic Self Care for Cold and Flu Season

Perhaps you’ve started to integrate some Ayurvedic self-care practices into your daily routine from Part 1 and you’re ready to add some more. Today I will share some more practices that you can build into your  evening routine for sleep hygiene and better health.

Do you find that you have a long hectic day at work and by the time you get the kids to bed all you want to do is enjoy a glass of wine and turn on Netflix? I hear ya. Even though alcohol and numbing our minds to the screen gives us immediate gratification, the effects it has on our sleep quality might not be worth it long term. Our bodies are designed to process toxins and restore our system over the course of the night so we can wake feeling rested and energized. Unfortunately for many of us, we have a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep, and wake up feeling tired and foggy. Luckily there are a few things that we can start to incorporate into our evening routine.

Ayurvedic science says that our mid-day lunch should be the largest meal of the day followed by a light walk to aid digestion. Many cultures today already do this. In the evenings, a light supper is recommended and an evening walk will help to ensure that our food is fully digested before we go to bed. This is important because we don’t want our body to have to use up all its energy to digest our food while we sleep. This takes away from the restorative functions we need for good health. So maybe start with a light, healthy dinner and a short walk. A pre-bed routine will help with ease-ful sleep. It is recommended to turn off screens at least one hour before bed to help the nervous system prepare for sleep.

If you have a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep, consider these ideas to help you sleep more restoratively, deeply and easily.

  1. Set a consistent bedtime. If you have an irregular morning schedule, go to bed 8 hours before you have to get up. Some people need more or less sleep time. Keep track of how many hours you sleep and if it feels it’s not enough, or too much adjust accordingly.
  2. Have a bed time routine. This may include other items from this list. It might include reading a book, gentle yoga, chatting with family member, washing your face, brushing your teeth or a self oil massage before you go to bed.
  3. Bedroom is only for sleep and sex (that means no TV or work). That way your body/brain can fall asleep easier.
  4. Minimize screen time before bed. Whether it is your tv, phone or other device, it provides more stimuli and can set your nervous system on high alert. It will take a longer time for your nervous system to begin to settle into the rest/digest system.
  5. Keep your bedroom dark for sleep (invest in an eye-mask and earplugs if you need to)
  6. Avoid alcohol and heavy food. As I mentioned earlier, your body has to put a lot of effort into digestion, which it shouldn’t have to do while you sleep.
  7. Enjoy a cup of warm spiced milk (nut milk is okay too!). This can aid in digestion and set the nervous system at ease.
  8. Indulge in a self foot massage with warm oil. This can help to ground and settle out any erratic energies.

A few yoga postures that I help me prepare for sleep include child’s pose, cat/cow, and legs up the wall. If I’m having a particularly hard time falling asleep I’ll listen to a Yoga Nidra recording.  Usually the hardest one to implement is the one we need to do the most. Let me know what works for you and if I can support you in any way.

In Part 3 I will share a Digestive Reset Program that I will be participating in this Fall so stay tuned!

Happy Exploring!

Source: Mona Warner, Ayurvedic counsellor, Janati Yoga

 

Part 1: Ayurvedic Self-Care for Cold and Flu Season

This blog is the first of a 3 part series on Ayurvedic self-care practices you can build into your routine for better health. In part 1 you will find morning self-care practices you can start building in your daily routine. Part 2 will discuss evening routines for a better sleep. Part 3 will have details for digestive reset program that I am participating in this Fall and I will invite you to join me.

This year it felt like Mother Nature flipped a switch and the weather changed from the hot humid summer to a cool brisk Fall. When the seasons change we are at risk for lowered immune function. I see people all around me getting colds already.

As a student and later as I began my first career as a classroom teacher I would get sinus infections like clockwork as the seasons changed. It wasn’t until I began a regular yoga practice that my nervous system started to become better regulated and my immune system became stronger and the infections stopped.

That is not to say I haven’t periodically come down with the flu or felt under the weather. As I delve deeper into my yoga therapy studies for the C-IAYT certification, I have started some new routines based on Ayurvedic science. Ayurveda is the sister science to yoga that developed thousands years ago. It is based on the belief that health and wellness depends on the balance between mind, body and spirit. Its main goal is to promote good health, not fight disease. This is a proactive approach that we can assimilate into our routines which becomes an ongoing self-care practice or lifestyle, rather than an antidote you receive in order to fix a problem. As a part of my daily routine I have started to implement some new practices. As I begin to find ease in my routine I will continue to add more and more.

Why is a daily routine so important? Without going too deeply into it, our doshas, or qualities that are inherently in us, influence our body-minds and environments in a particular way throughout the day. When we can align with the natural rhythms of the day and the natural rhythms of our body, we promote optimal health. Starting with our morning routine is a great way to begin because it sets the stage for how our day unfolds.

Our bodies naturally work to clear out excess toxins while we sleep. This is why having a full nights sleep is so important. These toxins find their way into our colon and skin which is why personal hygiene needs to be taken care in the morning. First thing when you wake up drink warm water with a squeeze of lemon, followed by elimination. My friend Shelly Prosko, a physio/yoga therapist designed a toilet mediation which I will share in a separate post.

Here are a few things you can build into your morning routine (choose 1 or 2 things then add more later). The key is to be able to create more ease and not feel overwhelmed by a to do list of things.

  1. For your Mouth:
    • Gargle: use sea salt and warm water for a sore throat or to clear the throat of potential infections. To reduce soreness or dryness use sesame oil. To reduce inflammation of the oral tissue use milk.
    • Scrape your tongue with tongue scraper or spoon: it removes accumulations from the tongue and stimulates the fire quality (that we need for energy and digestion). Rinse the mouth after to clear any residue.
    • Brush teeth: astringent, bitter or pungent tooth powder or paste are used to keep the gum tissue firm.
    • Oil pulling: the state of the mouth is thought to reflect the state of the entire gastrointestinal tract. Lubrication is of the utmost importance for a well-functioning digestive system, especially for elimination. Take tablespoon of oil (sesame for fall/winter, coconut for summer) and swish it in the mouth for 2 to 10 minutes. When I started 30 seconds was the most I could handle. It helps to strengthen gums, teeth and tongue. Reduces dryness of the lips and tongue and helps to promote elimination.
  2. For your Eyes:
    • To freshen the eyes, rinse with cool clean water or organic rose water (hydrosol).
  3. For your Nose:
    • Neti: this is my favourite part of my morning routine. This is a technique used to clean the nasal passages using sea salt, water and a neti pot. It is great to clear excess mucus from the nasal passages and sinuses. It reduces the build-up of allergens, dust and other debris in the nasal passages and promotes clear and easy nasal breathing.
    • Nasal Oleation: oiling the nasal passages helps keep them lubricated and nourished and prevents dryness. It is especially important with environmental sensitivities like animal dander and pollen. Use 2-4 drops of plain oil like sesame or coconut in your palm. Rub your pinky finger in the oil and gently swirl in your nostrils.
  4. For your Skin:
    • Dry brush: using a raw silk glove or a brush specifically designed for the body, gently brush the skin to remove any dry skin and promote lymphatic circulation. Depending on your need, it may be done daily, weekly or monthly. Brush gently over your face and genitals. Long strokes over the long bones, and circle strokes over the joints.
    • Self oil massage: a technique used to nourish and protect the skin, harmonizes the flow of energy and promotes circulation and soothes the nervous system. Depending on your need, oil massage may be done daily, weekly or monthly. Use sesame, sweet almond or jojoba for Fall/Winter. Use similar strokes to the dry brushing. Sit and breathe for a few minutes while the oil is absorbed by the skin. The skin is a very important organ of digestion therefore using organic cold pressed oil is recommended. From an Ayurvedic view, you would only put on your skin what you would put in your mouth.
    • Shower or Bath: after self oiling, a bath or shower is taken to remove excess oil before getting dressed. They are also invigorating, refreshing and release negative energy. Soap can be used for the arm pits and groin area. The remainder of the body is simply rinsed – unless there is dirt of course. Too much soap removes the natural oils that maintain the health and strength of the skin.
    • Sweat: the skin benefits from sweating daily. A little perspiration beneath the arms and at the low back – about 50% of one’s capacity. This can be done by going for a brisk walk or visiting a sauna. The intention is to liquefy any toxins and allow it to release through the open pores.
  5. For your Ears:
    • To keep the auditory passages from drying, we put a few drops of oil (sesame or coconut) into the ears by either putting oil on the pinky fingers and rotating them around the aperture or using a dropper to put 2-3 drops of oil into the ear canals. You can also oil the outer architecture of the ears if you like.

I invite you to pick one or two things to incorporate into your daily routine this week and let me know how it goes. Stay tuned for my next post on evening routines and bed time hygiene.

Happy exploring!

Source: Mona Warner, Ayurvedic counsellor, Janati Yoga

Pain and Healing – Part V

 The Food Fallacy: The idea that eating should be pleasurable, social, fun, and comforting is a marketing ploy. This is how food addition begins. When our eating experience produces pleasure, the biological process in the brain is getting a hit a dopamine. We then want to reproduce that experience over and over again. Think about kids and candy, cake, juice – anything with sugar. Sugar addiction is a really hard habit to stop.

When you go to a restaurant there is an “expectation” that the food be beautifully plated, colourful, alluring in smell, sight and taste. We are eating to please our senses, or expectations, our desires – it is no longer about fuelling and nourishing our body.

When we learn how to eat in a way that is appropriate for our nourishment needs – to provide nutrients, to balance the gut and remove toxins we suddenly find ourselves with more energy, more clarity, less pain and illness, maybe we lose weight, have less inflammation, have better skin, sleep better, etc. Our food can still be tasty and flavourful but perhaps the experience of eating becomes duller than when we eat for desire. When our food brings out body and minds back into balance, we no longer need the dopamine spikes to make us feel better. The purpose of eating is to refuel, not to induce pleasure.

Want to live healthier, longer? It’s time for a paradigm shift in how we approach food and eating.

Neuroscience and Ayuvedic practioner Dr. Kulreet Chaudry outlines how we can use food as medicine to improve our digestion and how our gut health is intimately linked with our brain health and thus full body health.

Three ways we can support ourselves and heal our gut through food is:

  1. Tri-Dosha tea: one teaspoon of each: coriander, cumin and fennel. Steep in 4 cups of boiling water and sip throughout the day. This will help improve digestion.
  2. Take Triphala, 1000mg at bedtime. This will help remove toxins and heal the gut mucosa.
  3. Eat your heaviest meal at lunch and the lightest meal at dinner.

Our gut microbiomes is a huge living population that impacts every part of our health. What is often seen as a structural issue is often related to inflammation, as is the case of migraines. The blood brain barrier is mimicked in the gut, so we can prevent neurological conditions through the gut. The majority of neurotransmitters that talk to the brain, come from the gut.

In general, pain is often seen as structural issue. We use medication to hide pain from the brain BUT you are not getting to the cause of the pain. Dr. Kulreet has found that 90% of pain is related to inflammation. Inflammation caused by the food we eat. The blood brain barrier is mimicked in the gut. It’s kind of a like a canary in a coal mine. This means we can prevent neurological conditions through the gut. The neurotransmitters that relay information from our body to the brain, mostly come from the gut. It talks to the brain. She describes leaky gut as a dumb gut. A gut that has lost intelligence because the shift in the population of gut bacteria that prevents inflammation. There is also an autoimmune component so there are lot of things happening all at once.

The take-away? Healing happens on many different levels and effects the physical body Be mindful of what you eat. Consider consulting an Ayurvedic practitioner and find out what you need for your constitution to maximize your health and wellness.

In health,

Lindsay