Self-care; it’s a word that should be self-explanatory, a concept that should be uncomplicated, yet over the past few years the word – and the concept – has been misinterpreted, re-interpreted and at times, completely miscommunicated.
A quick Google dictionary search offers the following description:
Self-care: The practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s health and the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular in periods of stress.
Simple enough, right?
If social media was all we looked at (and sometimes, it is) we could be mistaken for thinking self-care and the practices often associated with it – yoga, meditation and mindfulness, to name a few – are expensive, time-consuming and mostly practised by beautiful, thin, white women on golden sandy beaches, and in plush studios in exotic locales. But dig just a little bit and you’ll find that this is not at all what self-care is about. Yes, practising yoga in a beautiful studio that costs you $200 a month is definitely a form of self-care, but if that’s not what suits you (or your finances) you’ll be pleased to know that it’s not the only way you can practise self-care. In fact, there are far simpler, less expensive and more accessible ways in which you can incorporate some self-love into your life.
It’s can be as simple as taking an aware breath, explains George Prow, a yoga teacher and self-love coach based in London, UK. “We are all unique individuals with unique bodies, and we really benefit from tuning into ourselves and listening to what our body needs,” he says. “Every human being deserves to have a deep connection with themselves, and deserves self-love and self-care.”
But what about the price tag? Does this mean we should be spending hundreds on monthly microdermabrasion sessions, massages and hair treatments, as we’ve been led to believe?
Not at all, according to George, and it needn’t be as complex – or expensive – as all that if you don’t want it to be: “Every practice (of self-care and self-love) with good intention is valuable – whether it’s free, inexpensive or expensive. It can be enjoyed by – and benefit – anyone who chooses to prioritise more self-care, body care and self-love in their lives. It is for everyone!”
While it may be considered a ‘buzz word’ in 2019, this article from 2014 breaks self-care down into eight uncomplicated, easy-to-understand sections: physical, psychological, emotional, social, professional, environmental, spiritual and financial. Within each section are simple practices that almost anyone can incorporate into their lives, for example; a physical self-care practice might be having a bath or getting enough sleep; psychological self-care could include reading a book or journaling; while emotional self-care might just be saying ‘no’ to plans that are going to stretch you energy-wise. Simple concepts that certainly don’t have a hefty price tag attached.
Once we start to look past what we see on the ‘Gram, self-care may have many simple connotations that are in fact readily available to nearly all of us, but there is one practice it is regularly associated with in particular: yoga. While the practice of yoga dates back many thousands of years and is traditionally associated with eastern cultures, yoga studios and different forms of yoga – from yin and ashtanga to the more modern (and sometimes controversial) hot, Bikram yoga – have been popping up in cities and suburbs across the entire globe for several decades now.
I know that I, for one, have often thought; ‘I need to do more for myself – I’ll do some yoga classes!’ In the past, this has meant I’ve signed up and spent my hard earned cash on a monthly pass, completed a few sessions, realised I’m not flexible – and promptly given up. After all, I’m not lithe and bendy like all the other yoga girls, I don’t have the chic Lululemon kit, and sometimes my mind just will not shut up during savasana. As it turns out, this is where I – and many others – could be going completely wrong.
“Yoga is not just a class you attend…. It’s a way of life,” explains Zana Glamuzina, a certified meditation teacher and life/health coach based in Melbourne. While most of us have come to associate yoga with busy classes squeezed in before work, in a beautiful crystal-adorned studio, the practice itself actually dates back some 5000 years and is based on a set of principles which were created to help keep the body and mind connected.
“Yoga literally means union,” says Zana. “Union of the body and mind. This is something that here in the west we try to understand, but often miss. At any time – and anywhere – in your day, you have the power to access and use these principles to unite your mind and body – no equipment necessary. You don’t need a quiet room, a mat, a workout outfit or even more than three minutes.”
Zana points out that we have been caught up in thinking yoga is something to be ‘done’ or achieved, and that being seen to ‘do yoga’ often comes with a level of prestige attached to it – something that was never intended by those who created it all those years ago. “Unfortunately, like most things that require us to connect intuitively, we have taken an ancient practice and modernised it into a ‘class’ which you ‘attend’ in order to achieve a physical outcome,” Zana explains. “But yoga is not a fancy classroom, or a series of stretches performed by a class of fit, trim Lulu ambassadors, nor is it reserved only for those wearing a loin cloth and sitting in the icy, cold mountains of the Himalayas. It is irrelevant whether you can stand on your head or do a downwards dog – if you can breathe, then you can practise yoga.”
Maybe self-care and practising yoga needn’t be as complicated as we’ve been led to believe it is? Perhaps the answers we’ve been looking for to make ourselves feel calmer, more connected and a little more ‘whole’ have been right in front of us the entire time?
Self-care is for everyone. Yoga is all for all human beings. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Here are just a few examples of how you can incorporate self-care and the practice of yoga into your life :
TAKE AN AWARE BREATH
Take an aware breath – right here, right now. This is the simplest way to take a mindful breath: if you can, close your eyes, if not then having your eyes open is fine too. Take a deep inhale through your nostrils (3 seconds), hold your breath (2 seconds), then a long exhale out of your mouth (4 seconds). If you can allow a few minutes to do this – great! If you can’t, just a couple of breaths like this will make a big difference.
TRY THE THREE MINUTES YOGA PRACTICE
An oldie but a goodie – try this three minute yoga practice from the comfort of your own bed.
FOLLOW YOGA WITH ADRIENE
Follow Yoga With Adriene on YouTube for weekly yoga and meditation sequences – they are so good, it’s hard to believe they’re all free.
- Jot a couple of thoughts down either first thing in the morning, or before bed at night. This is a great way of either setting an intention for the day, or clearing your mind of any worries or concerns. Disclaimer: you don’t need a fancy journal to do this – a pen and the back of a bank statement will work just as well.
GET SOME FRESH AIR
Getting some fresh air in your lungs and sun on your face could be as simple as taking a quick walk around the block at lunch time, hopping off the bus a stop early, or parking a little further away than you normally would.
JUST SAY NO
Knowing your boundaries is a great place to start when it comes to self-care. If weekend plans or extra hours at work are going to push you to the limit and burn the candle at both ends, give a polite but firm, “no, thanks”.
UNPLUG FOR AN HOUR
Unplug for an hour. If you’re able to, turn your devices onto airplane mode and detox from the digital world for a bit. Read a book, watch clouds, cook or nap – it doesn’t matter what you do, just enjoy the disconnection.
UNFOLLOW PEOPLE THAT IMPACT ON YOUR HEALTH IN A NEGATIVE WAY
While we’re on the topic of digital detoxing – spend some time unfollowing people or accounts that don’t make you feel good. If there are posts that frequently pop up on your social media feeds, that make you feel invaluable, inadequate or unworthy – hit that ‘unfollow’ button as quick as you can. It’s a small move, but can make a big impact on your mental health.
oPENing IMAGE | ADAM BRYCE
words | Kerrie morgan
Having lived in London and travelled extensively, Kerrie can now be found in the bohemian sanctuary she shares with her husband in Grey Lynn, where she works as a freelance writer, sub-editor and (sometimes!) interior stylist. Pop culture, travel and the environment are topics close to Kerrie’s heart.
When she’s not hunting out treasures in local thrift stores and vintage shops, Kerrie can be found trying her hand at everything from trail running to sewing and designing sparkly creations for festival goers.
Follow Kerrie’s work on instagram @kerriemorgancreative