A Short Self-Care Practice

People who feel good act good. Try this short embodiment practice for self-care.

I think one big thing that I think often, I’m always reminding myself that my students, or the kids in front of me, are my mirror, right? Who they’re being is who I’m being, or who they’re being is what all the other adults in their lives have been being, right? They’re literally our mirror so when they’re reactive, when they’re impulsive, when they challenge us, when they, you know, can’t get still or focus, the first thing I, you know, ask myself is like, “Okay, well how am I… how is who I’m being right now, how is that causing the matter of behavior,” right? “How can I shift myself…” I look to myself first. I always feel like it’s my responsibility for them to learn so, you know, often when I do that I discover my directions weren’t clear, you know? Or I discover that like, I hadn’t, you know, reinforced this particular community agreement that we had or I haven’t, you know, I haven’t had a touch with that child. I hadn’t made a more personal connection. That relationship, right, is not strong with that kid. That kid doesn’t feel like I see them, you know?

It’s always me. It’s always me. That’s the first thing. 

Self-care is a huge part of what I do, especially when I’m working with vulnerable populations because, you know, I do feel that we have to start with ourselves, right? We have to know what we need in order to meet the needs of others. You know, yoga is a big part of that or, I won’t even limit it to yoga. I love yoga because I feel like it is like a giant playground within which we can explore being mindful and explore self-awareness and explore checking in, in the sense that there’s a million different poses, there’s a million different meditation practices, a million different…

Not a million but you know, ten different, you know, guidelines for how we interact with ourselves in the world. There’s all this stuff. There’s like a rich, rich plethora of things through yoga but you know, for you it might be writing, it might be painting, it might be running, right? But there are all these things that we can do to pause to get reflective and take care and when we do that, we’re just better human beings, right? And people who feel good act good. I don’t know who said that but I say it all the time. Like people who feel good act good in the world, right? 

So that is why. That’s why, you know, I emphasize self-care so much in what I do.

Let’s go through a guided exercise so maybe we could practice a little bit of that self-care for ourselves.

An Embodiment Practice for Self-Care

So go ahead and take one hand to your heart and just place the other hand right on your belly and take a moment with your eyes closed or perhaps looking down in front of you at a still point and with your hands touching your body, just start to gently notice the movement underneath your hands. Notice the slight rise and fall of your belly and heart in response to your breathing and see if you can watch the breath for a few cycles from the very beginning of your inhale all the way to the end of your exhale. Then start to expand your sense of awareness. Your attention to include how you’re feeling in your body right now. So just notice from the top of your head all the way down to your toes, what you’re feeling. 

As you notice, you might start to discern that your thoughts or your emotions are coloring what you sense in your body. Maybe not but just notice how this moment feels. Then very gently, when you’re ready, open your eyes and you’re gonna start to move a little bit and start to notice how moving affects the way we feel. So sitting tall in your chair, you might come towards the edge of whatever you’re sitting on so that your spine can be nice and tall and take an inhale. Stretch your arms around and up and look up. As you exhale, take your right hand down near you and stretch up and over to the right. Inhale, palms touch at the top, exhale stretch to the left. Inhale, palms touch. As you exhale, fold forward over your legs, around your spine, touch your toes. As you inhale, take your hands to your knees and arch up and look up. Exhale round your back and touch your toes again, folding forward. Inhale, reach your arms through the center, look up and then just give it a clap on three. One, two, three [clap]. 

Hands cross your heart. Take a moment, just notice how you feel now. Maybe close your eyes or look down in front of you. And we’ll do that a couple more times. Breathe in, reach up, look up. And exhale, stretch to the right. Inhale, palms touch. Exhale, stretch left. Inhale, palms touch. Exhale, fold forward, touch your toes. Inhale, arch up, look up. Exhale, round your back, touch your toes. Inhale, reach up, look up. Give it a clap on three. One, two, three, [clap]. Hands cross your heart. 

Last time. Breathe in, reach up, look up. Breathe out, stretch right. Breathe in, reach up. And stretch. Breathe in, look up. Breathe out, fold forward, touch your toes. Breathe in, half way up, open the chest. Exhale, round your spine. Breathe in, reach up, look up. Give it a clap on three. One, two, three [clap]. Hands cross your heart. Close your eyes for a moment and just check in. Notice if anything has changed in the way you feel right now. 

So similar, but a little different. This time breathe in, reach up. As you breathe out, twist to the right and you can take your left hand outside your right knee, resist your hand against the knee and the knee against the hand to help you twist a little more. Inhale, grow tall and as you exhale, rotate more to the right. Inhale, lengthen up. And exhale, twist. Inhale, de-rotate. Reach your arms up, look up, and exhale. Fold forward over your legs. Inhale, hands on knees, arch up, look up. Exhale round your back, touch your toes. Inhale, reach up, look up. Give it a clap on three. One, two, three [clap]. Hands cross your heart. 

Good, again. Second time. Reach up, look up. Exhale, twist to the left this time. Take your right hand outside your left knee and then inhale, grow tall. Exhale, twist. Inhale, lengthen up. Exhale rotate. Inhale de-rotate and then reach your arms up, look up. Exhale, fold forward over the legs. Inhale, hands on knees, arch up, look up. Exhale, round your back, touch your toes. Inhale, reach up, look up. Exhale, give it a clap on three. One, two, three [clap]. Hands cross your heart. 

Good, this time a little different. Inhale, reach up. As you exhale, grab your right knee underneath with your hands. On your inhale, stretch your knee straight. Straighten the leg and exhale, re-bend it. Inhale, straighten. Exhale, bend. One more time. Inhale and exhale, re-bend your knee, set it down. Inhale, reach up. Exhale fold over your legs, touch your toes. Inhale, half way lift, open the chest. Exhale, round your spine. Inhale reach up, look up. Give it a clap on three. One, two, three [clap]. Hands cross your heart. 

Good, last time. Inhale, reach up. Exhale, grab your left knee this time. Inhale, straighten your knee. Exhale, bend it. See if you can stay tall as you straighten your leg. Inhale and maybe it doesn’t straighten all the way. That’s okay. Exhale, bend. Good. Inhale, straighten and exhale, set your foot down. Inhale, reach up, look up. Exhale, fold, touch your toes. Inhale, hands on knees, arch up, look up. Exhale, touch your toes. Inhale, reach up, look up. Give it a clap on three. One, two, three [clap]. Hands cross your heart. 

Go ahead and close your eyes and take a moment with your eyes closed to observe how you feel now. So notice if the temperature of your body has changed. You might even notice if your breathing, the pace of your breathing has changed. Can you feel your heart beating underneath your hands? Like just notice all there is to notice and gently open your eyes. Thank you. 

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About the author

Crystal McCreary

Crystal McCreary is a yoga, mindfulness and wellness educator, speaker and writer. Crystal participates as a curriculum developer, consultant and lead teacher for research studies on yoga and mindfulness conducted by CUNY-Hunter’s public health department and also serves on the Yoga Alliance Diversity, Inclusion and Accessibility Advisory Committee. She is involved with organizations that impact youth including Mindful Schools, New York based Bent on Learning and Little Flower Yoga, and the Lineage Project. Crystal’s programs emphasize the importance of self-care as the gateway to social justice and community healing in the world. Crystal graduated from Stanford University with a BA in African and African American studies and completed The American Conservatory Theater’s Master of Fine Arts program in Acting. She is registered with Yoga Alliance as an ERYT500 and RCYT and works full-time at The Dalton School in New York.