Self-care practices rich in nourishment and self-love can be found in Ayurveda.
For any operating system, regular maintenance is key to optimal performance and longevity. For our human operating system maintenance includes regular self-care in order to experience a finely tuned physical body, healthy state of mind, a well-balanced emotional operating system, and a daily dose of self-love.
Ayurveda tells us how to monitor and maintain our own operating systems with the concept of dinacharya, daily rhythms of loving self-nurturing. There are self-care practices galore in Ayurveda, and a few have gained popularity with the rise of yoga culture such as oil massage, kitchardi fasting, dry-brushing, neti potting, and even oil-pulling.
Our entire day could be spent in self-care, but that just isn’t possible for most modern lives. I recommend choosing realistic morning and bedtime rituals. Perhaps one is more robust than the other, and that’s okay. Having some measure of both strongly anchors your internal daily rhythm.
Create a ritual that attends to your body, your mind/emotions, and feeds your soul. For example, not everyone feels nurtured using a neti pot and others struggle with meditation. Find practices that make you feel good about how you are taking care of yourself rather than being just another should on your to-do list.
Ayurvedic self-care practices often seem geared to the physical body, like dry brushing your skin or tongue scraping. The subtle body effects of these practices are not always taught and may go unnoticed. Yet when we pay attention, we can feel their potency. Here are four major psychospiritual components of regular dinacharya.
Regular Time and Space with Yourself
Clients often ask me if working out at the gym or attending a yoga class can count as their self-care time. This is the case if we fully engage with self-care during the activity. While the answer is different for each of us, a silent run in nature or a deep restorative class can be opportunities for a good emotional check-in. If we’re checking our email while on the bike, listening to our BFF dish about their latest relationship drama, or speeding our way through a weight-training circuit, then we may not be fully present. Being present lets you explore what you are feeling and why. This is the time when you can consider how you want to approach whatever is happening in your day and how congruent you are with your decisions.
Nurturing your Best Self
In Ayurveda, we honor that we are dynamic, changing beings. For example, I understand that I am more likely to be reactive, quick-tempered, or closed-minded when I’m short on sleep, not feeling well, and/or starving. When I feel well taken care of and well supported, I’m able to receive and respond to life in a way that is more aligned with my ideal version of me.
I can aspire to be calm, empathetic, helpful, nurturing, flowing, and growing when I am in a state of wellness, so it doesn’t make sense to expect that I can be any of those qualities from a place of deep depletion. If I force myself, then I’m either becoming further depleted and further away from my personal sustainability or I’m building resentment and bitterness toward the things that take my energy, time, and resources away from healing myself.
Greater sense of Integrity
An important facet of health from an Ayurvedic perspective is having clarity and flow in all of the physical and subtle body channels. From the digestive tube to the invisible channels of energy in your mind, your being is one massive waterpark of moving flowing energy, blood, lymph, hormones, et cetera. When channels are obstructed, their contents accumulate and decay, with eventual loss of functionality in the related tissue systems.
Our sense of integrity could be viewed as a clear channel of flow from intention to words to actions to manifestation. When our words and actions do not echo the sentiment of our intentions, we block our ability to manifest our desired experience of life. Self-doubt, fear, and lethargy ensue, and the emotional ama (toxic buildup) of unfulfilled intentions accumulates, often leading to depressive phases.
This comes up often in the topic of self-care. Many of us have the intention to feel well and be healthy, but don’t match our words and actions with that intention. Instead, we feel overwhelmed or intimidated and choose easier old patterns, then judge ourselves for doing so.
When I put off my dental cleanings, skip the gym, binge on chocolate, or keep forgetting to make that eye doctor appointment, my actions all say that my health is not important to me, even though I may profess otherwise. My integrity is obstructed and I will have trouble manifesting and sustaining my desired level of health. When I prioritize daily time to attend to myself, I know that I’m showing up for my intention consistently, and this allows me to respect myself more and cultivate a greater sense of integrity and trust in myself. Of course, this also leads to reduction in internal conflict, removing further obstruction from the state of flow.
Attracting what you are embodying
During my morning ritual, I feel cared for, even if it’s by me. I feel more nurtured. I feel more heard. It doesn’t matter that I’m nurturing and hearing myself because I am embodying those states more with my daily ritual. I’m able to allow my feelings to guide me in decisions, and I’m making more decisions that are in alignment. This means I’m embodying and attracting the guided, clear, decisive state of being with my feelings attended to. Through self-care, we attract more experiences, situations, and people that allow us to feel well cared for, valued, and supported.
When you’ve attended to our feelings, shown up with your best self more regularly, prioritized your mind-body practices, and embodied being well, you will love yourself and your life experience more. It’s just that simple (and amazing).
How to Set up Daily Self-Care
Do you! A morning ritual is varied and individual. For example, mine includes a hot cup of chai, watching the sunrise, taking customized herbs, intention-setting at my altar, chanting, meditation, and sometimes a morning stretch. That’s a lot for some and an easy routine for others. What matters is that it’s my best fit now.
As long as your self-care ritual cultivates pleasant feelings and includes an opportunity to examine your thoughts, decisions and feelings, you’re golden. This could look like journaling, sun salutes, staring at the clouds over a hot tea, or an austere ashtanga practice; it just has to feel nourishing to you, on that morning or evening.
SET ASIDE AT LEAST 30 MINUTES A DAY
I’d recommend setting aside 30 minutes at minimum, for at least one of your morning or evening self-care times. An hour is best to not feel rushed. Morning is the most fertile time of day for all spiritual and subtle energetic body shifts. Your morning routine allows you to set the tone of the day, as opposed to the day’s events setting your tone.
HAVE A PLAN B
We all have variations in our day-to-day lives necessitate adjustments. However, when you get out of your routine, it’s easy to landslide into not showing up for it. I have a five-minute version of my morning routine (chai, altar) that allows me to be flexible but still feel like I showed up, allowing me to anchor my rhythms.
19 Ideas for Self-Care Practices
- Yoga Asana (including digestive series, sun salutes, restorative sequences or other practices)
- Self massage and oiling (whole body or just a focus area)
- Exercise/ Activity
- Communing with nature (such as sitting outside while drinking tea and listening to the birds)
- Taking daily herbs
- Using a Neti Pot
- Reading that builds awareness of self
- Upashaya (drinking hot water with lemon and honey)
- Sipping on Herbal Tea
- Gratitude exercises
- Oracle cards
- Listening to guided meditation
- Sitting in silence and reflecting
This is not an all-inclusive list, but a good starting place. Simply choose one or two from the list for each morning and evening self care time. I recommend trying the same practice for a two week period to really feel the effects of that practice for you and to connect with it. Once you’ve connected to a few practices and know how each one feels for you, you can customize and choose your daily blend of practices based on what you feel is a best fit for that day.
Any of these ideas could be appropriate for the morning, or evening; however the quality of your practice would need to match what is balancing for you at that time of day. For example, I may choose a more invigorating pranayama or yoga practice in the morning, but would choose a more calming, grounding and relaxing practice in the evening. In general, evening is the time to prepare the body for good sleep and relaxing, while the morning is a great time to stimulate, activate, and do spiritual practices. In the morning, our practices help us to set a tone for our day, while evening practices are more about recovery, and coming back to homeostasis.