The word “self care” is popping up all around me lately. For me, the best form of self care is to disconnect from the chaos of the modern western world and retreat to nature. The time I spend in close proximity to the natural elements brings me peace, its a state I’d like to be in always. I’m lucky that my career and passions are helping me manifest a life closer to nature where I’ll work in the ocean, but for the last 6 months I’ve been living in my parent’s guesthouse in Arizona. Being home is really nice. Spending time with my family, old teachers, and friends has reinspired my yoga practice. I’ve also had the freedom to delve into some creative projects, like this blog. At the same time, I miss walking barefoot everywhere and going swimming in the ocean daily.
It’s been raining in Phoenix the last few days and this afternoon when I took my dog, Zeppelin, for a walk I couldn’t help notice how much greener the grass is than it was before the storm. The water did good work. Being mindful and taking time to notice the nature around me is something I’ve been working on since coming back to America and there are many ways I’ve been trying to build it into my daily self care routine. In Indonesia I pretty much lived outside, my office was the beach or an open air boat, and I went scuba diving every day. On top of that we regularly lost power, often for days at a time, and had to adapt to the seasonal weather and daily rising and setting of the sun. If it was raining we either had to get wet or enjoy the bath and if the electricity went out at night we either had candles or the dark. It was easy to be in touch with the elements and appreciate the rhythms and patterns of the natural world because I interacted with it more and could control it less.
I feel a little “off” more regularly when I’m in Arizona than other places and have felt especially off kilter the last few months. Partly because of culture shock, partly because of uncertainty, partly because of an erratic schedule, and partly because of the disconnect from nature would be my guess. I reached out to Lorilee Gillmore, a Phoenix ayurveda specialist, for a consultation. Under Lorilee’s guidance I’ve started a self care routine of dinacharya. Dinacharya is the ayurvedic concept that looks at the cycles of nature and bases daily activities around these cycles to promote health. My dinacharya routine is special for my dosha, ayurvedic constitution, and comprises of a few rituals, most of which I perform first thing in the morning.
My dinacharya routine starts with brushing my whole body with a dry brush. Long strokes towards the heart and circular patterns around each joint. Brushing exfoliates the skin, loosens the muscles, lubricates the joints, and stimulates the lymphatic system. When I first started I was the best kind of sore under my arms, right in the lymph nodes, but over the last few weeks it’s completely relaxed. I don’t feel the tenderness under my arms and I notice increased flexibility and decreased tension in my yoga practice. After brushing, I massage sesame oil all over my body focusing on places that need a little attention. The oil warms and moisturizes my body for 15-20 minutes while I drink coffee, braid my hair, and mix my triphala elixir to drink before bed. Then I rinse off the oil, scrape my tongue, brush my teeth, and hop onto my yoga mat.
I’ve always been an early riser, but this is the first time I’ve taken much care in preparing myself for the day. My work as a yoga teacher or a dive instructor doesn’t require me to primp and so I’ve never developed any real grooming or self love rituals in the morning. Even though it never seemed necessary to moisturize, do my hair, or shower before sweating on a yoga mat, I’m really noticing the benefits of getting ready to practice now.
My yoga meditation is the foundation of my day, it’s only appropriate that I should value it enough to show up my best. Because I’m taking the moment to care for myself, to make myself the best I can be when I come to my yoga mat, I’ve been having the best practices. Physically my body is really opening and strengthening in poses. Spiritually the asana feels rejuvenating. After my morning practice I’m ready to do my best in the world. I’m more energized, focused, and productive because of the grounding ritual I do every morning.
Part of the reason I’m feeling so good is that the ayurvedic rituals are tuning my daily routines and helping me establish healthy rhythms, but I think an equally powerful component to the ayurveda is the natural nature of its application. My journey into ayurveda began at around the same time I decided to try going plastic free. Both ayurveda and going plastic free are feeding off of eachother to transform my habits and ground me. I’ve always been interested in oils and natural remedies, but my dinacharya practice is the first time I’ve used them for much more than clearing a cold, pacifying aches, or smelling good.
If you look in the beauty aisle, you’ll see that almost everything comes packaged in plastic. Integrating ayurveda into my life is helping me stay closer to nature by eliminating synthetic products like lotion that are full of chemicals and come packaged in plastic from my routines. I’m replacing store bought lotions and cleansers with homemade remedies made of naturally occurring oils. Using simpler products with ingredients names I can read and have seen growing in the wild makes me feel closer to the earth. I also know I’m not harming the earth by using them. This way I am incorporating ethical and ecological practices into my the rituals that are meant to nourish me most.
I’ve been having a lot of fun researching homemade self care products and making them without using any plastic. This week I made toothpaste, deodorant, and vegan cheese (well it’s not a beauty product, but cheese is self care). Here’s how!
Making your own toothpaste and deodorant is super simple. I already had all the ingredients for both at home. You can buy most of the ingredients in the bulk section or packaged in glass or cardboard. I stored both my toothpaste and deodorant in glass jars.
4 tablespoons organic coconut oil
2 tablespoons baking soda
20 drops food grade peppermint oil
Combine all the ingredients into a glass jar and stir until mixed. I had my boyfriend, Nichlas, shake it up for a few minutes while he watched football. Since it’s winter here in Arizona the coconut oil was hardened. I had to heat it up to get the ingredients to mix. The taste of baking soda can be a little intense, you can always add more peppermint.
I’m still experimenting with the toothpaste. I have been using it but still have a small amount left in my plastic container so have been switching back and forth. I’ve been wanting to try charcoal or neem powder but went to Sprouts today and they were in plastic packaging so I haven’t tried them yet.
4 tablespoons organic coconut oil
2 tablespoons baking soda
20 drops of an essential oil of your desire. I used sandalwood.
Combine all ingredients into a glass jar and stir until mixed. Like the toothpaste, I had to heat the coconut oil to make it liquid for mixing. I would be a little cautious of the essential oil you choose for scent, the underarm skin is sensitive. For example peppermint could be a little tingly.
I am such a fan of this deodorant! I have been using it while teaching and practicing in a hot yoga room and don’t smell! I’ll never go back to using Dove.
Vegan Cheese from Almond Milk Pulp:
Pulp leftover from making 1 litre of almond milk
1 garlic clove crushed
1 tablespoon coconut oil
2 tablespoon nutritional yeast
2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
Mix all ingredients together well. Store in the refrigerator. It should keep for a few days.
I used mine on pizza but you can also use it on crackers, wraps, bruschetta…the possibilities are endless if you get creative. It doesn’t taste exactly like real cheese but it’s a nice alternative and a good way to use all of the almonds from the almond milk. You can find my almond milk recipe on last week’s blog post.
It’s been fairly easy for me to incorporate ayurvedic and plastic free practices into my daily schedule but it has taken conscious effort. So far the shift has been positive. Dedicating my self care routine to also helping the planet is making me more mindful of my consumption and healthy in my choices. The routine of a consistent and ethical self care ritual is really soothing. With the predictability and grounding I’m getting better at handling the curve balls that are thrown throughout the day.
**photos by Sadie Such Photography