The Holidays are in full swing and it seems like the buzzwords “self care” are everywhere. With shopping lists to fill, gifts to wrap, parties to attend, meals to prep, and work and school commitments, it’s easy to lose track of the importance of taking care of YOU.
My self-care routine is something I’ve been wanting to post for some time, but it’s hard to make time to sit down and write. I lost most of last week due to sickness: first myself after indulging in gluten (homemade croissants are still not worth it after all these years) and then my son’s flu.
Over the past year, I’ve followed this basic daily protocol, and it makes a huge difference in the health of my skin, my seasonal allergies, my digestion, and my stress level. I’m a very busy gal with a business that’s currently expanding to a second location, renovating a short-term rental home, my two sons, my husband, a puppy, and the daily demands of keeping ourselves fed and clothed (no small task). If I have time for this, so do you. Trust me, it’s worth it!
Kriya Yoga emphasizes the cleansing process in order to purify your body to prepare yourself for the higher practices of yoga. When the body is free from impurities, the mind can follow. Also, it can be difficult to practice asana (postures) when you feel crummy, so taking care of your body to maintain radiant health is a great preventative measure. Here we go! Set your alarm a few minutes early and treat yourself to my eight steps to bliss.
1. Scrape the Tongue
This ancient Ayurvedic practice removes the toxins (ama) that coat the tongue during your sleep. It’s important to remove this residue before taking even a sip of water in the morning, as you don’t want to drink and reingest this built-up coating and bacteria. Additionally, scraping the tongue stimulates the organs through the energetic connections in the tongue. I use a copper tongue scraper and gently pull from the back of the tongue to the front 7-9 times each morning before doing anything else. Once you see what comes off each day and enjoy a healthy pink tongue, you likely won’t go back to the non-scraping days.
2. Drink Warm Water
You’ve probably heard of the benefits of drinking warm water first thing in the morning (often touted with lemon). According to Ayurveda, warm water is easier for the body to assimilate, offering deep hydration and a flush of the organs and digestive tract before you start the day. A cup of warm water on an empty stomach aids with elimination. You may even find that you don’t need your daily cup of coffee to get the body moving (to the toilet). According to Ayurveda, the ancient science of mind-body health, consuming iced water is a shock to the body as the cool water douses the digestive fire. Our electric kettle has been a lifesaver for preparing hot water each morning with the quickness.
3. Nasal Cleansing with Neti Pot
Oh, neti pot… how times have changed. What once was a real struggle for me is now an enjoyable and easy part of my daily ritual. About 12 years ago I was prescribed neti pot cleanses by a Jin Shin Jyustu practitioner for a sinus infection and I could never quite get used to it. I’d stand over the sink, mouth wide open, stressing over why the water wasn’t coming out, and was it getting stuck in my nasal passages, and why does it look so easy on YouTube? Then during my yoga teacher training I woke at 3:30am daily to make it to the Center to perform our shatkarmas (cleanses) together with 15 other students, outside on cold, dark, sometimes snowy January mornings. I grew to like it. I miss seeing those bleary-eyed yogis silently lining up to fill their pots and find a nice corner in which to squat and cleanse.
But I digress. You can see my setup here – the purple ceramic neti pot is on the small side so I fill one pot with about a half teaspoon of sea salt (I use a baby spoon we had hanging around the house), half hot water and half room-temperature purified water. Mix it up, insert the spout into one nostril, and breathing through the mouth let the water run into the first nostril and out the second. The body will be positioned either standing while leaning over the sink, or in a squatting position (outdoors) with your head tilted so the ear is toward the ground. Now just relax and let the water flow out the opposite nostril.
At my house, each nostril gets its own pot, due to the capacity of the neti pot I have, but there are larger neti pots on the market that hold more water and you can switch nostrils halfway through. If it stings, you either have too much salt or not enough. You’ll figure out the ratio pretty quickly. Don’t overthink it. We’ve all gotten ocean water up the nose and lived to tell the tale.
Once you’ve cleansed each nostril, you’ll need to expel the water by reaching your arms overhead and folding forward several times (about 10) to powerfully exhale through the nose and get the water out. If all the water doesn’t come out, don’t worry – it’ll make its way out with gravity through the back of the throat.
4. Eye Cleansing
There are a few months here in Sedona when the juniper blossoms make most residents miserable. Itchy eyes, congested noses, sore throats… a walk through the supplement department at the health food store during this time of year is pretty dismal as everyone is trying to find natural relief before reaching for the Zyrtec. This eye-cleansing step is such a relief for me during juniper season, and the rest of the year I benefit from glowing radiant eyes.
Using an eye cup (pictured above) or a shot glass, fill the cup with purified water, place the cup over the eye, look up, and blink 60 times. Then switch eyes and blink 60 more times. At the Center we used purified water in green or blue glass bottles that had been bathed in moonlight. Here at home the reverse osmosis water is the best I can do. And I love it. Now read on for the real pampering.
5. Salt Scrub
By far my favorite part of the cleansing process, the salt scrub makes me feel like I live at a day spa… almost. Arguing kids? Dog running into the bathroom with my slipper in her mouth? Clock ticking down to school drop-off time? Nothing can phase me while I’m gently massaging lavender-scented salt scrub all over my body in the hot shower.
Combine natural, fine sea salt (no fillers) with a neutral oil and stir to desired consistency. I use sunflower oil because of my high pitta constitution, but a mix of half sesame oil and half sunflower oil works for most people (the sesame oil should not smell like peanuts). You don’t want it too wet or clumpy, but you do want it moist enough to give your skin a nice moisturizing boost in the shower.
I use a wooden bowl because I’ve broken a full bowl of the salt scrub in my tile shower and trust me, it’s the pits to clean broken dishes in the shower. Add a few drops of your favorite essential oil and you’re ready to go. Massage the salt scrub all over the body (don’t forget the feet or the face), rinse, then cleanse with soap where you need.
My husband used to tease me when I’d return from grocery shopping, asking whether the bags of salt and bottles of oil belong in the kitchen or the bathroom… now that he’s tried the salt scrub he thinks I should open a boutique business selling it, it’s that good. And who can complain about using products on the outside of the body that are also ok to use inside the body?
6. Go Cold
Ok, ok… this is really part of Step 5, but if you’re anything like me, you don’t like the discomfort of cold water, especially first thing in the morning. I’m giving this its own step to remind you how important it is to set the internal temperature for the day by turning the water to cool and then cold at the end of your shower. Every day. Even in January. At 3:30am. Just do it.
This is your daily spiritual practice. Yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, mantra… whatever your daily spiritual practice is, make time for it every day. Show up for yourself so you can be your best self for your loved ones. Sometimes I practice my sadhana before the other steps, simply because the house is still quiet and sleeping. Sometimes it happens after the kids are in school. But if it doesn’t happen, I’m no fun to be around. I certainly have never been a morning person, but the precious early morning moments spent looking out at the moon in the starlit sky while practicing my yoga have been some of the best, and most serene.
8. Say No
This is an added holiday bonus. Give yourself permission to say “no” to events, invitations, company parties, etc. Sometimes I say “yes” even though I don’t really want to go somewhere… we all do it, and your peers can usually tell if you’re feeling it or not. Whether it’s guilt, fear of missing out, old habits, thinking you “should,” being a good parent, etc, it’s not worth draining your energy to do something you know deep down you’d rather skip. So if it’s not a “hell yes!” it’s a “no.” No need for explanation. You enjoy some self-care time and wake up tomorrow feeling great. They’ll still love you, and you’ll love yourself a little bit more.
Happy holidays! What daily practices to you have to keep yourself feeling healthy and balanced during this hectic time of year?