How to Start Practicing Self Love
How many times a day do you compliment yourself?
How often do you intentionally schedule ‘me time’ ?
What types of activities restore and nourish you?
What makes you happy?
What is Self-Care?
These are important things to consider when creating a self-care practice. We hear the term ‘self-care’ everywhere now- from magazines to skincare brands. It has seemingly become a trend that boasts of staying in, popping open a bottle of wine, and putting on a face mask (which is GREAT therapy- don’t get me wrong!) But what does ‘self-care’ really mean?
In Ayurveda, India’s 5,000 year old traditional system of medicine, we have a popular response to questions: It depends!
That certainly is the case here, too. What self-care means totally depends on you. It’s a practice that is highly unique to you. It depends on what stage of life you are in, what time of day it is, what region you live in, what season it is, what you ate at your last meal, what mood you are in…the list goes on.
Each of us have a unique constitution and collection of experiences and emotions that no other human being in this world has.
Think about that for a second. In this whole universe, no one is exactly like you.
Of course there are commonalities of shared traits and life events. But you, sweet friend, are one of a kind!
And your self-care routine should be too.
At its core, self-care means honoring your uniqueness by tapping into your own intuition and inner voice. It means forming an intimate relationship with yourself so that you understand what feeds you and what depletes you. I think when we realize that self-care is truly unique to the individual (it's not about being trendy or what superfood your healthy friend is into right now), that's when we begin to enter into the practice of self love.
This holiday season, like many of us, I was so caught up with the busyness of the season that I neglected to nourish myself- I didn’t schedule ‘me time,’ sleep was not a priority, and everything was work, work, work.
In January I decided to turn inward and make self-care a priority. Truthfully, I’ve been doing less, not more. But there’s one new habit that I’ve adopted that I want to share with you.
Yes, literally covering the entire body in a warm oil. It’s luxurious. But at first, I’ll admit, I thought it seemed labor intensive and I did not have the time for it.
I’ve known for awhile that it’s a self-care ritual I should practice, but it wasn’t until my anxiety was interfering with daily life that I realized a shift was needed. To me, oil massaging is pure self love. It’s also great for my anxiety, dryness, concentration, and happiness!
Here’s how I do it:
Set the Stage
I make the bathroom comfy by lighting a candle, smudging the space, and closing the door. I put a towel on the floor to catch any oil drips and turn my phone on silent. At this point I have also gathered everything I will need- a hair clip to keep my strands out of the way, a bottle of oil (I like to put high quality sunflower oil in a pump bottle), a speaker if I’m in the mood for music, and maybe a crystal or a mantra I’ve written down.
Warm it Up
I usually run a hot shower for a minute- until there is some nice steam to warm up the room. You could also use a space heater for this. But if you’re trying oil massage out at home- don’t overlook this step!
Apply the Oil
Just like the space, the oil has got to be warmed. I fill a bowl with hot water and sit my bottle of oil in it for several minutes (usually while I prep the space).
This is where you’d get nakey!
I pour some oil into my palm and start applying. I like to start on my shoulders since they carry so much tension. I work in DOWNWARD strokes and circles over the joints. In oil massage, or Abhyanga as it’s called in Ayurveda, the downward direction is crucial because our aim is to calm and ground the energy. Think of it as extending your roots down into the earth and stabilizing.
From the shoulders I go to the chest, breasts, and stomach, working clockwise circles over the stomach (up the right side, across the top, down the left side, across the bottom).
Then I move to the arms, elbows, wrists, and hands. Again, long strokes on the limbs, circles over the joints.
On to hips, low back, bum, legs, and knees.
This is where I prefer to have a seat on the towel and spend a little intimate time with the ankles, heels, arches, and toes. No area goes unattended to here!
I always find a moment, no matter how small, to just pause. Some days I sit and meditate for ten minutes, other days I just take a few deep breaths.
At least once I week I find myself taking a longer pause. This is lovely to allow the oil to really sink into the skin and hydrate.
Soap it Off
This is something I recently learned in my Ayurvedic Health Counselor training. I was surprised to learn it since I had not been washing the oil off…for the last few years!
I’ll admit, I resisted soaping off that oil because I wanted to hydrate my dry skin as much as I could. I thought that the longer the oil was on the skin the less dryness I would have. But here’s the thing- your skin needs to breathe, baby! When we don’t wash the oil off we may think that it’s hydrating us even more. But really, it’s clogging the subtle channels of the body and not allowing the skin to properly carry out its functions (sweating, shedding skin cells, etc.) This in turn can lead to health imbalances. So soap off that oil!
I’m happy to say, my skin feels even smoother and less dry now that I do this!
This is one of my favorite ways to practice self love! If you’re giving oil massage a try, just remember that it doesn’t have to be a big production! It can be swift and simple and still be substantial. It doesn’t have to be a big elaborate ordeal, although I try to make it long and extra special once a week.
It makes me happy.
It restores and nourishes me.
It’s great ‘me time’ that I usually schedule every morning.
Oil massage helps me connect to the deeper self. I now compliment my body on a regular basis.
And what a wonderful form of self love that is.