I recently completed my 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training with Radiantly Alive in Ubud, Bali. One ancient yogic truth our witty and wise philosophy teacher Sanna taught us has been rolling around in my head ever since:
“Yoga is stopping the turbulence of the mind” — Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra
This one stuck with me. We’re not talking about yoga that stretches your body into the bendiest human pretzel of all time. This definition is for Yoga with a capital Y—an all-encompassing yogic way of living that extends much further than the corners of your mat. We come to our mats to practice yoga, yes. But we also practice Yoga when we get cut off in traffic and simply let it go. We practice Yoga when we choose inner peace over daily dramas.
Lately for me, the ripple effect of COVID-19 in my own personal bubble has been quite turbulent, making capital Y-Yoga quite challenging and my need for calming rituals even greater than ever. Thoughts constantly loop like:
What’s happening with my career? When will I see my family again? Is everyone staying safe? How long until things go back to “normal”? Why is it so hard to focus? How much Netflix is too much Netflix? Why can’t I seem to get motivated? Am I depressed or just dehydrated?
There’s nothing like a quarantine to shed some cold, harsh light on the squeaky hamster wheel of the psyche—and let me tell you, these days my mind craves stillness more than anything else. There are three nighttime calming rituals that I keep heavy in the rotation. Why nighttime? For me, I get so wrapped up in the vortex of the day’s dramas that getting restful sleep requires some active tuning out and zenning out beforehand.
There’s nothing quite like meditation to connect you with your mind. As soon as I try to sit and observe my thoughts like a witness, I truly realize how much energy buzzes around in thought patterns through my mind all day long.
Meditation can have the opposite effect of calming the mind sometimes, but Deepak Chopra assures us simply, “If you’re doing it, you’re doing it right.”
Building a meditation corner, altar, magic bubble, or whatever you want to call the sacred space dedicated to connecting with your innermost self, can have a marked impact on your meditations.
I learned in Guatemala (at a metaphysics retreat at Las Piramides Del Ka) that a well-balanced altar has all four elements present—earth, fire, water, air. This can manifest in many forms, and there are truly no hard and fast rules here—simply gather things that connect you with each element, and arrange with love and intention.
Here’s a few ideas to get your altar started:
- Earth: crystals, rocks, flowers, seashells, leaves
- Fire: light a white candle (other colors work too), strike a match, study the flame of your lighter
- Water: a cup or saucer of fresh water
- Air: incense, palo santo, sage, feathers, essential oils
“Meditation is a progressive quieting of the mind until you get to the source of the mind, which is pure consciousness. You are not your mind or your thoughts. You are the consciousness in which the thoughts come and go.” — Deepak Chopra for HuffPost
Airline regulations state on every flight that in case of emergency, secure your own oxygen mask first before assisting others — even your children! Why? Because you’re no good to others if you pass out while trying to help them.
The same goes for our own personal well-being levels. If you feel completely drained, running on empty in one area of your life, there is no way you can give fully and be present for others. Women especially find it hard to strike this balance, our nurturing instinct oftentimes overriding the need to take care of ourselves.
For me, a nighttime skincare routine is the one thing I do every day that’s entirely for myself. I press gently into the muscles of my face as I massage my cleanser into a foam. It feels liberating to strip away the day’s buildup—whether it’s oils in the skin, or energetic dirt that isn’t mine to carry into tomorrow. I pat nourishing serums into my clean face, infusing each touch with love, self-appreciation, forgiveness, or whatever it is that I need that night. As uncomfortable as it feels sometimes, I always take a moment to look in the mirror with respect and admiration. I always make a point to say “I love you.” I coat the skin in lush moisturizing cream before turning in for a good night’s sleep, knowing it will work overtime while I catch some zzz’s. I wake up feeling refreshed, hydrated, with skin looking radiant.
If you’re not into skincare, there’s a million other ways to connect and give love to yourself. The key here is consistency—make it an everyday, fail-safe ritual—and intention—shower yourself in small gifts and moments of appreciation.
Some more examples of small, daily self-care rituals:
- Make the bed every single morning. Start your day with a win. Give yourself the gift of coming back to crisp, clean sheets.
- Shower with intention. Energetically give back to the earth everything that is not yours to carry. Anoint your body with beautiful products, scents and sensations. Emerge renewed, cleansed, and recharged.
- Floss your teeth every single night. Clean those tough-to-reach spaces that sneakily hold onto things that don’t belong. Ok this one’s just good dental hygiene—which is self-care!
- Drink your morning cup of tea or coffee with the intention to fill up on gratitude, presence, joy, or whatever you’re calling into your world.
- As you you sit down to your day’s work, take three long, luxurious breaths. Fill up your lungs entirely. Empty entirely. Repeat. You’ll feel clarity, grounding, and lightness as you begin your tasks.
Food is fuel, and cooking is magic. Taking the time to prepare dinner for yourself allows you to slow down the mind and connect with the ingredients that you put into your body.
The trick here to turn cooking into a calming ritual is to do every step mindfully. As you peel the outer layers from your crisp onion, acknowledge the many hands it took to plant, grow, and harvest this vegetable that is now in your kitchen. Get into a mechanical rhythm as you chop your garlic ever so finely. Feel your day melt away with that first sizzle in the pan. Sink into the delicious aromas that texture the air. Taste test as you go, seasoning your culinary creation like you mean it (see Salt Bae for inspiration).
Before you know it, dinner’s ready. Cooking truly is the ultimate hobby, because at the end you get to feast!
My recent quarantine dinner favorite is pasta bolognese, sneaky vegetarian style (you won’t even miss the meat!). To me, this dish strikes the right commitment to payoff ratio that is crucial when it comes to slow cooking. True, this dish requires lots of veggie chopping up front, but remember…calming rituals! Also, the longer you let the sauce simmer and stew in its bubbly saucy goodness, the better it will taste — and if you make enough for leftovers, watch those flavors come alive on day two.
But the moment you take that first bite of steaming hot spaghetti smothered in rich sauce, you’ll realize it was well worth the wait. Who’s hungry?
5 big cloves of garlic
1-5 chilies (optional, depends on type of chili available and how spicy you like it)
1 paprika pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1 small carton of mushrooms
2 big handfuls of spinach
1 green onion
1 big handful of fresh basil
1 can of tomato paste
Salt and pepper
1 box of spaghetti
- Finely chop all your vegetables and herbs, keeping them separate
- Place a large pot over low heat. Pour one generous glug of EVOO into the warm pot, and heat until the EVOO is runny. To check if the pot is ready, carefully flick a teeny tiny bit of water in the pot and see if it makes a sizzle.
- Make sure the heat is nice and low, and add finely chopped garlic. The garlic should be sizzling but not browning at the edges, otherwise the taste goes bitter.
- When the garlic gets nice and aromatic, it’s time to add finely chopped onion. Season with salt and pepper, and allow to cook until the onion is translucent.
- Add chilies and paprika. Keep moving ingredients around the pan with a spatula occasionally to cook evenly.
- Add carrots and season with oregano. Be sure to chop the carrots finely, or they will take forever to cook!
- Add mushrooms and bell pepper to the mix. There should be some lovely sounds and smells filling up the kitchen right about now…
- When the carrots, mushroom and bell pepper start to soften, it’s time for the chopped tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add chopped spinach, fresh herbs, and the juice of a full lemon. Sizzzleeeeee
- When things start to look saucy, it’s time for tomato paste to bring some heartiness to your sauce. Use the entire can of tomato paste. Fill the empty can with drinking water, swish around to get all the tomatoey goodness that’s left, and pour into the pan. Do this twice or three times if you have time to let this sauce stew for a bit—only add water once if you’re hungry and can’t wait.
- Give your sauce a nice, loving stir and maybe a pinch more of salt and pepper to taste.
- Leave uncovered, stewing at a low simmer for as long as possible, stirring every now and then. Always taste your sauce to make sure you like where the flavors are going and see if you need to season more with salt and pepper. Add more water if the sauce starts to thicken too quickly. You want the sauce to do its thing on the stove for a few hours to really let the flavors sink in, but it does require some hydration, seasoning and stirring. You can eat sooner if you must—just add less water!
- When the sauce is starting to thicken and come together (but not quite there yet!), it’s time to make your spaghetti. Cook according to the box’s directions, and always be sure to add more salt to your pasta water than you think! You want to basically cook your pasta in ocean-water-level saltiness 🙂
- Cook the pasta to al dente perfection. Serve piping hot and smothered in hearty veggo bolognese. Add some fresh cracked pepper and basil garnish if you really want to go gourmet!
Psssst…this recipe is actually vegan! But you can add fresh Parmesan cheese to take this thing to new heights if your heart so desires. You’re in quarantine…we won’t tell!