~ awake in this moment, at home in the world ~

Self Care in the New Year

December 31, 2020

Happy New Year! To help us manage our long pandemic winter, I've challenged myself to share favorite self-care strategies that can help us stay afloat. The world is awash in simple practices that cultivate health and wholeness, and now is the perfect time to add them to your toolbox of wellbeing. I hope you'll find something here that brings you light and keeps your heart afloat all the way into spring.

First off, DANCE. Turn up your favorite music and let your body move to the beat. Doing this every day would be great, but if not, how about any time you feel the need to let life shake through you and out into the world? Kids don't care how they look when they shimmy through the living room, and neither should the rest of us. You are never too old to dance! Not sure about this? Movement educator Esther Gokhale holds a dance part/movement class every single day. I wrote about my love for these classes here.

 

MEDITATE.  It's everywhere these days, and for good reason. If you already meditate, the new year is a great time to reinvigorate your practice. Grab your favorite book off the shelf (or app on your phone) and get started. If you're new, here are a few ways to begin: Gil Fronsdal offers daily meditation sessions live on YouTube; Sylvia Boorstein offers a streaming class in mindful living; and Pema Chodron has a huge selection of wise and wonderful books and audio programs. If you're just starting out with meditation, here's my own guide to getting started

 

STRETCH. The body loves length and space and a sense of inner openness and ease. You likely already have your favorite stretches and strategies, and I'll add gentle traction to the list. Hang from ropes if you're a seasoned yogi, or dangle off the edge of your couch if you're a kid. Or,  simply pull your hips away from your ribs when you lie down, or gently cradle the back of your head in your hands and gently easing out the tension in the back of the neck.  Here's a video of Iyengar yoga teacher Elise Browning Miller demonstrating one of my favorite ways of adding gentle traction to your downward facing dog pose. My only advice is to check your door first to make sure your hinges are secure! (Also, you may feel more comfortable trying this the first time with someone else in the house, just in case you feel a little discombobulated when emerging the first time.)
 

 

How about giving BOX BREATHING a try? This gentle breathing practice helps steady the nervous system while giving the brain something neutral - and perhaps more wholesome than your meandering thoughts - to focus on. The practice is simple: Gently shape the breath so that its four phases - inhale, pause at the end of the inhale, exhale, and space at the end of the exhale - are equal in length. I offer a box breathing primer here


If you are looking for a gentle and uplifting practice, explore THE EIGHT SILKEN BROCADES. This classic qigong flow takes about 20 minutes and can be practiced anywhere, any time. Once you memorize the routine, it's yours for life. Learn more about the eight brocades, and explore my favorite guided practices here.

 

Winter is the perfect season to master the fine art of DEEP REST. There is something delicious and healing about just giving up and lying down, surrendering to gravity and befriending the earth. You already know how to do this, but if you need some inspiration, here's my paean to resting deeply.  

 

SING! - Make a joyful noise, in the shower, in the car, in the backyard, in the kitchen. Now isn't a good time to join a choir, but we can still sing alone. Consider this a modern-day yoga  breathing practice to strengthen your lungs and your spirit. Need a little more inspiration? I wrote singing as a New Year's resolution here.


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Check back here for additional self-care strategies shared throughout the month.