An on-going theme that I teach in my courses and explore in my own life is how to become your own best care-giver.
A good way to begin to explore this theme is by remembering our own care-givers and becoming aware of our learned and inherited patterns of care-giving and self-care.
Who were your primary care-givers? Name them. Your mother, father, older siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents, teachers, etc. Your list can include blood relatives as well as the special people who showed up for you in your life and cared for you.
In what ways did you experience their care? Maybe it was through physical touch, nourishment, humor, coaching or teachable moments. If your caregivers are still living, consider reaching out to them and expressing gratitude for their care. If they are no longer living, find a way to remember them and inwardly express gratitude.
Was self-care something that was strongly modeled in your family of up-bringing? Did the adults in your life model self-care? Can you remember how your care-givers cared for themselves and/or reached out for support when they needed it?
How is your self-care? What habits or practices do you regularly engage in to promote your wellbeing?
Do you teach self-care to your kids or to the people in your life that you influence?
These inquiries are important. Our own personal health evolution requires a strong examination of the habits and patterns that are present in our lineage. The habits that we learned from our care-givers that are life-affirming, we aim to perpetuate. The habits that we learned from them that are not life-affirming we should release. Yoga is a tool for this process.
This week, when you go to your mat or your cushion, choose to be curious about your lineage. Tune in and inquire into the body-mind patterns (postures, emotions, mindsets, etc.) that you inherited or learned. Begin a conversation with your body, your ancestors and your ancestral lineage.
Fall is an auspicious season for remembering our ancestors and clarifying and healing our relationships with them. There are many traditions around the world for remembering our ancestors. You may choose to create a Day of the Dead altar to remember you ancestors, to celebrate their lives, and to invite their benevolent energy to be present in your life. Additionally, the Yoga and Ayurveda traditions offer us tarpana. Tarpana is a relationship healing ceremony aimed to help individuals clarify and release constraints from an ancestral relationship and invite healing. You can read more about tarpana here.
What does it take to be your own best care-giver?
How have your learned or not learned to take care of yourself?
Learning self-care involves acknowledging how self-care was modeled or not by your caregivers. What patterns of self-care or self-neglect have you inherited or learned? This week, notice your patterns and tendencies.
Last month I did a free talk on Healthier Eating this Fall.
You can listen to the entire talk here:
In the talk, I share:
Here is a tip sheet that you can download and put on your fridge to help you stick to healthy eating. Enjoy!
Fill up your cup! Build ojas
According to Ayurveda, ojas is the life sustaining vitality that promotes immunity in the body. I like to think of it as your energy reserves. Ojas is responsible for sustaining your physical health, mental clarity and emotional well-being. You know when you see a friend who has been taking really good care of herself? She has a radiant smile and sparkling eyes, and you comment, "Wow you look fabulous!" She is letting her ojas shine. When you have a lot of ojas, your cup is full. Your eyes are bright. You look well-rested and content.
When we spend too much time in the fast lane, we spend our ojas quick. You know what I mean - working long hours, forgetting too eat, not getting enough exercise, not getting enough social time. This is a sure way to deplete your energy reserves. The next thing you know, you'll feel crabby and cranky and come down with a cold.
We build ojas by good wholesome living. Fall is a great time to do this. Here are a few ways to build our ojas this season:
INQUIRY: What is one thing from this list that you can prioritize to build your ojas this week?
What do you do when a curve ball comes into your life? Although we can wish that life would stay neat and tidy, the reality is that life is messy. Unexpected circumstances arise. We all run into difficulties, blunders and are subject to accidents, losses and tragedies. Some great and some small. Curve balls hit even those who have the best laid plans. Every human being experiences adversity, stress, challenge and loss.
It is what we do when we experience daily stress or a curve ball hits that can make all the difference. This is resilience, and it is something we can cultivate. Resilience is the ability to adapt to new challenges, manage stress and recover quickly from adversity. While it may seem that resilience is an in-born trait, the fortunate reality is that resilience is a set of skills that can be cultivated. Resilience as the ability to surf the waves of life. Resilience requires a sensitive, strong and adaptable “container” of body-mind. This is something we cultivate through steady and reliable habits and practices that help us adapt, stabilize, rewire and thrive. These habits and practices help us effectively deal with the everyday stresses that arise, so when a curve ball hits, we have to fall back we can bounce back.
Yoga, meditation and my daily Ayurvedic routine are my pillar practices and are my saving grace. Without them, I would be much less grounded. I would be less clear-headed. I would be a less present parent and a less compassionate spouse. These practices act as a buffer and a balm to help me stay steady and grounded and keep my cool with the day-by-day predictable stresses. Of course, the unpredictable challenges or curve balls are always going to be hard. It is very tough to stay steady in the wake of a tragedy or surprising health diagnosis. Such circumstances can broadside us. They will make life topsy-turvy. We might wobble. We might fall. However, if we have practices in place, we are in a stronger place to get back up. The daily regularity of these practices cultivated over a long time cultivates resilience, the ability to rebound after adversity.
I want to be resilient and I want my kids to be resilient. So I do my practices every day. No matter how crazy life gets. In fact, the crazier life gets, the more important it is that I do my practices. When time is crunched, I may do abbreviated practices, but I still do them. I consider these practices a form of activism. I believe that the world is going to ultimately change from the inside out. I do my practices to strengthen the vessel of my human body so that I can be a strong container to do the work of being a good parent, communicating with care and respect, helping others live more vibrantly in their bodies and in this way, contributing to a better, more compassionate planet.
The days are getting chillier. Apples are falling off the trees. The maple trees in my back yard are dropping their leaves. The natural world is in transition. Ayurveda offers a wonderful lens from which to understand this season and practical guidance for healthy living.
In Ayurveda, autumn is considered a vata season dominated by the elements of air and space.
The qualities of autumn according to Ayurveda are dry, rough, windy, erratic, cool, subtle, and clear. To see this in nature and in our own lives, think of dry leaves and skin, windy weather, erratic schedules, cool mornings and clear nights.
Because this season is dynamic, moving and changeable, there is a sense of new possibility and potential. At the same time, these same qualities of dynamism and variability can leave one feeling overwhelmed or depleted. Ayurveda recommends focusing on the qualities that balance vata.
To bring balance to your life this season, focus on staying grounded, nourished and warm, and create predictability and boundaries in your life.
Ease happens in the body-mind when life is predictable. Not everything needs to be predictable, but enough of life should be predictable that there is a felt sense of rhythm to the day. Rising, moving, eating, working, hydrating, having fun and sleeping need to be pretty predictable, that is they should happen at similar times each day. This rhythm is settling for the nervous system and optimizes our metabolism and digestion.
I think of predictable morning and evening routines as bookends of sanity for my day. My days might be erratic and changing, but my mornings and evenings can be rhythmic and sane inducing.
To create predictability in our modern life, I have to use a calendar. In my calendar, I enter all of the work time, school schedules and appointments as well as everything else that I want to happen in order to feel easeful. I enter in my ideal meal times, my meditation, my yoga, and walking time into the calendar.
How can you make your routines for rising, moving, eating, working, hydrating and sleeping more predictable?
It's great to have a calendar, but for predictability to happen, I have to set boundaries. I have to hold myself accountable for what's on the calendar: getting up when my alarm says to get up, taking a break from work when I say I will, eating on a regular schedule and getting off my devices at night and winding down and getting to bed at the time I say I will (10 PM at the latest!). If I don't enforce these boundaries, I'll sleep in. I won't do my morning meditation or yoga practice. I might forget to eat a good lunch. I'll probably do screen time too late. And, then, I'll go to bed late and not sleep as long or as deeply as I need. And, the next day, I'll sleep in again and not exercise again.
So, this season, I'm learning to do what my calendar says I will do. And, when that doesn't happen (because it won't always happen!) I have to reflect on why it didn't happen. Maybe there was a spontaneous invitation to go to a music performance and I stayed up later than usual and then I didn't get up at my usual time. That's great and fine once in a while. Or, maybe I just chose to not honor my fatigue and I stayed up too late working on my computer rather than winding down and going to sleep. Reflecting means that I own the situation and I can then make better choices next time.
When I adhere to healthy boundaries, my life feels more grounded and easeful because I am less likely to over commit myself to people or projects, and I will protect the time in my schedule set aside for movement, relaxation, friends and family.
Where you can firm your boundaries in your life to create more sanity and ease?
For more tips on healthy living this season, check out my tip sheet:
How to live Vibrantly in Autumn
Annie Barrett. Educator, certified health coach yoga instructor.