by Renee Bedard
Self-care. That is something we hear a lot about. It pops up on social media feeds, blogs, and memes. We are treated to snippets of pretty scenes of candles, beautiful locations, delicious treats, and even luxurious bubble baths. There are many ways to offer ourselves a break from the hustle and bustle of our busy schedule to have some ‘down time’ to rest and recuperate from our daily stress. While it is fun to explore and experience restful activities, self-care is so much more than a suggestion in a short bite. Self-care is an ongoing practice to create a healthy lifestyle in body, mind, and spirit. This sacred act gently allows us to balance our life between work and play while fostering healthy habits and beneficial boundaries.
Each Sunday during Virgo season, we will explore ways to create our own self-care rituals and practices. I believe that it is important to offer ourselves the love, comfort, and care we quickly offer others. When we do, we encourage ourselves to look deeper within, listen to our bodies, and understand what we need. We experience self-care by eating healthy, drinking plenty of water, exercising, and breathing deeply. Self-care is also being mindful, asking for help when we need it, saying no when we must, and knowing what is beneficial and true for our daily life.
For our first Self-Care Sunday, I would like to ask you this: When was the last time you took a moment to pause and take in a deep breath? How does it feel when you fill yourself with the sacred breath of life? Do you grant yourself permission to pause and breathe deeply throughout your day? When breathing deeply, can you hear and feel the subtle messages your body is telling you? Are you drawn towards a particular chakra or body area when you sense a message? If so, what does it say to you?
The act of taking three deep breaths allows us to begin to shift our perspective, relax our bodies, and clear away tension. When we engage in this simple ritual in a difficult moment, we are not only giving ourselves the space to regroup and reset. We are recognizing that there is some aspect of ourselves that is out of balance. By breathing deeply, we give ourselves the time and space we need while welcoming the break to nurture our body and spirit. This act allows us to see our situation more clearly. This may seem like a simple ritual. However, do you catch yourself holding your breath in a stressful or uncomfortable situation? It is something that we all do as humans. By practicing our breathwork, we empower ourselves to be mindful of the moment, listen to what our bodies are communicating, and create healthy boundaries.
While breathwork aids us in difficult situations, it is incredibly helpful to incorporate it into our daily lives while in a relaxed state. When we practice deep breathing or belly breathing, we are tuning into what our body is naturally designed to do. However, some may find this kind of breathing strange or unnatural in the beginning. That is ok. The practice of breathwork is to help us tune into the physical body – the rising and falling of our ribcage and belly, the movement of our diaphragm lowering as we fill our lungs up with air to then move it back up with the exhalation, and the relaxation of our muscles allowing our shoulders to drop, jaw relax, and our head, neck, and back to rest comfortably. As a result, we are in harmony with our inner rhythms and our entire being moves into a relaxed state that can lower our blood pressure and heart rate and even help us to have a good night’s rest.
Some ways to add breathwork into your practice is to:
- Breathe in through your nose slowly, filling your lungs and belly. Watch and feel your body expand. As you exhale through your mouth, release not only your breath but the tension you may feel in your body, heart, mind, and soul.
- Rhythmic Breathing – Try breathing in for a count of three, hold your breath for three beats, exhale for three beats, and then pause for three beats before you begin again. When you can do this for a few minutes, try raising the count to four beats and then to five and six. Can you feel a difference between three and six beats? If so, how?
- As you are breathing deeply, can you feel your heart beat and the power it holds? By placing your hands upon your heart as you breathe, can you feel your connection to your body? Can you feel your connection to the world around you, your connection to the Universe?
- Adding a word or short sentence is a powerful experience. By breathing in certain words and then exhaling them, we are bringing their virtue into our physical body and breathing it into our energy field. Try these affirmations as you breathe: I am peace. I am serene. I am love. I am safe. I am worthy.
Try this for about ten minutes a day at first then move up to fifteen or twenty minutes. I really enjoy placing my hands on my heart as I work the exercises. For me, I can feel the love, care, and compassion that I am offering to myself. It also helps me to tune into my different bodies and listen to what they may need.
How does breathwork affect you? What are some of the ways your body talks to you through breathwork? If the answers are not clear, maybe some reflection or journaling can help you peer into your inner workings. Self-care begins when we choose to clear a space for ourselves in our daily life. By offering ourselves gentle love and grace, we are saying that we are important in our lives. What we feel and experience matters. Our health and wellbeing are crucial. It is our responsibility to give ourselves the space to breathe and to offer ourselves what we need to fill our cup with love, rejuvenation, and joy. What better time to open to yourself than now?