Pitfalls in Ayurvedic Self-Care

Pitfall: a hidden or unsuspected danger or difficulty. A covered pit used as a trap.

Scenario 1: Among the pitfalls in Ayurvedic self-care and self-care in general is this exasperating reality: just when we need self-care the most, we’re too exhausted to able to do much. This is going to be a very short blog because I don’t want to wear you out. I want you to know I’m with you. There are excellent simple short Ayurvedic self-care options that take little time or energy that could help you in these moments. A few of these include neti followed by nasya, washing your nose then gently oiling the inner nostrils before an exam, to think more clearly. Or having a half glass of warm pachak lassi, spiced yogurt drink, to fill in the cracks at the end of a meal. Enjoying a bit of abhyanga, oil massage to your achy joints before or after a hot shower or bath. Doing some pranayama, breath work to calm your mind down enough to fall back to sleep, if you’ve woken too early in the morning. 

This pranayama self-care method in particular has been a surprising learning for me. If you notice your breath as you wake up in the middle of the night, you may observe that it is disordered. Your breath and your mind align with one another, and when one is disrupted, the other can be, too. There are a variety of soothing breath patterns to go back to sleep, usually a rhythm that includes a longer exhale. Start with where you are. You can count the length of your inhale and exhale. Say it’s a count of 6 on the inhale and 6 on the exhale. Start there. Gradually play with lengthening the exhalation, and adding a bit of a hold after your inhalation: inhale to a count of 6, hold 2, exhale 8. Keep with this rhythm as long as it feels comfortable. If you want to expand the exhalation further, you can gently play with: Inhale to a count of 6 – hold for a count of 4  – exhale for a count of 10. Relax and continue. Trust your rhythms, be gentle. (Deep appreciation to master teacher Gary Kraftsow for his Pranayama Unlocked course.)

You may find yourself mind-boggled by the mere thought of self-care. Instead of adding a fresh “to-do” to your list, you might ask yourself, “What can I bail on?” Often we’ve painted ourselves into a corner by taking on too much. This could be the highest priority pitfall.

I invite you to pull away the abundant heap of piled up leaves covering the lurking trap. (“If my life were a forest, what does this trap look like?”) Oh my, it is a pit. And it’s deep. Keep an eye on it, keep it exposed there. You can keep calm or holler wildly or go to sleep next to it. Just don’t throw yourself in the pit. Pause. If you are familiar with Tsultrim Allione’s Feeding Your Demons process you might want to stay here and feed a demon. Seriously. Check it out – a sattvic way to dance with our more rajasic and tamasic aspects. Or ask for a dream on how to escape from the pit. Talk it over with a friend. I used to paint my way to clarity. The general method is, slow down somehow and apply even the tiniest smidgin of compassion and awareness to your situation.

Shifting gears, Scenario 2: You’re an Ayurvedic practitioner or educator supporting an exhausted client. Mirror pitfalls in Ayurvedic self-care beckon. Your client is desperately depleted. They need a lot of help. You want to help. There’s at least 12 things minimum they can do to help themselves, and you see them all, including Ayurvedic adaptogens. Do you suggest all of them? No.

You’re getting my drift.

Ayurveda’s whole story is to help us realign with the cycles of nature in a humanly possible way. Win-win for us and the environment. Our job as Ayurvedic self-care educators is to help our clients find their way back into rhythm as simply and sparely as possible. With a minimum of extra energy required. So perhaps you might suggest one or two practices maximum. Or, as in the example above, you might even ask them what they’re willing to drop. Good work!

Segueing back to Scenario 1. Imagine you are the person in need. Truth serum: if there was just one thing from Ayurveda or life you would be willing to take up – or toss away – what would it be?

Go for it. Good fortune. Rest well.

I’m starting a new series this month, Dynamics of Ayurvedic Nutrition. We’re kicking it off with how to deepen your health counseling skills and open your mind with the Mahagunas in Skillful Healing. April 21 & 28, PACE certified

For a passel of simple healthy Ayurvedic cleansing and building recipes, see Easy Healing Drinks from the Wisdom of Ayurveda, Delicious and Nourishing Recipes for All Seasons