Practical Self-Care for Mothers
Motherhood is a gift of immeasurable love. We are forever changed by the arrival of our precious child and instinctively inspired to offer our nurturance and care. The word “Mother” can be defined as: creator, protector, healer, one who provides nourishment and support, one who is earth connected, loving, steady, and stable.
Modern day living is busy and complex. Mothers in this era are confronted with immense pressure and responsibility. In addition to providing care for family, mothers commonly work outside the home. As a result, many women experience overwhelm, exhaustion, stress, and anxiety; their well-being is compromised. Stress and fatigue are common signs of imbalance and depletion. If you’re unsure about your Ayurvedic body type or current state of balance, this free dosha quiz is a good place to start.
Truly Take Care of Yourself
Unless we routinely take care of ourselves, our bodies and our minds will call for attention. Ignored, that call manifests as imbalance. When we are not well physically, mentally, or emotionally, how can we care for our children effectively? How can we teach our children to be healthy without modeling it first? True health begins within ourselves.
It is indispensable for us to prioritize self-care with activities that are rejuvenating. This way, we can cultivate a sense of renewal. Self-care does not have to be time consuming to be effective—consistency is the most important thing.
If a mother is feeling steady and grounded, this will translate as strength, stability, and confidence in her mothering. From a deeply nourished place, she can experience expansive joy, patience, lightness, and grace in her actions. Her vessel is full. She offers herself from a place of abundant, radiant health. Everyday life is easeful. By modeling self-love and care, we instill a love of self in our children. A mother’s entire community benefits by her caring for herself. And mama’s regular self-care practices may eventually turn into the family’s practices.
The wisdom teachings of Yoga and Ayurveda can remind mothers to connect back to nature and her rhythms; the elements of earth, air, space, fire, and water that exist within ourselves and within the universe; the ultimate truth that we are not separate. Both Yoga and Ayurveda recognize that authentic health means wellness on all levels of our being: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. We are offered supportive practices that quiet us and align the body, mind, and consciousness. Through these practices we can restore our vital life essence and return to our own unique state of balance.
Creating a Daily Routine: Dinacharya
In Ayurveda, the daily ritual of self-care is called dinacharya. These daily routines were developed to keep the body in tune with the natural earth cycles and rhythms of the day. Dinacharya practices emphasize mornings as a sacred time to set the tone for the rest of the day. For most mothers, mornings are full, so it may be easier to find some other time during the day, or perhaps establish an evening routine. Timing must be practical for our lives.
In addition to doing the things that bring us joy, we can aim to incorporate a few of the key practices outlined below. Start small and keep it simple, adding more when you are ready.
Daily Intention and Gratitude Practice
Upon waking, we may give thanks for a new day and acknowledge all of the blessings in our lives. We might set an intention to carry with us throughout the day.
Daily meditation is a profound way to pause and witness ourselves. For mothers, this is especially beneficial to foster self-kindness and compassion. We also become more present and attentive to our children. Meditation can be restful and healing, restoring balance to the nervous system. This practice can be as little as five minutes. We simply sit still and observe, mindfully breathing into our bodies, connecting to the now.
Garshana—Dry Brushing the Skin
Dry brushing is the practice of brushing your skin with raw silk or a natural vegetable bristle brush to remove dead skin, enhance blood circulation, release accumulated toxins, and stimulate lymph drainage in the body. We can begin with feet and work our way towards the heart with gentle pressure.
Ayurvedic warm oil massage enhances every system of the body. It is incredibly calming, which aids in emotional and mental well-being. Massage is one of the most effective ways to alleviate stress, silence the mind, and soothe tired, aching muscles. It is wonderful for mothers to receive massage from a practitioner whenever possible. In addition, when we offer ourselves a warm oil massage, it is truly an act of self-love. This is something that can be done daily or when time allows. Abhyanga can be done after dry brushing or on its own. Apply a liberal amount of organic oil like sesame or Vata Massage Oil (ideal for vata-types), coconut or Pitta Massage Oil (for pitta-types), or sunflower or Kapha Massage Oil (best for kapha-types). Allow the oil to soak into the skin for 10 to 20 minutes, then take a warm shower or bath. If you don’t know whether you are a vata, pitta, or kapha, the Ayurvedic Profile quiz™ is a quick and easy way to determine your constitution and receive a personalized oil recommendation for your self-massage.
Easily Digested Food
The ancient Vedic texts recommend sattvic foods, which means pure, whole foods that nourish the dhatus (tissues) and ojas (our deep inner essence). This includes foods such as milk, ghee (clarified butter), fresh seasonal and organic fruits and vegetables, and a variety of grains. Sattvic foods do not cause constipation or indigestion, and they can support a calm and settled mind. It is recommended to avoid leftovers, refined sugars, processed, and frozen foods. Banyan has thorough information about an Ayurvedic diet for you to check out if you’re interested in learning more.
Warm Aromatherapy Baths
Warm baths can become a healing ritual at the end of a long day. We can dedicate special time for ourselves to soak and relax deeply. Perhaps wait until the children have gone to sleep. Prepare an herbal tea such as tulsi, light candles, and play soothing music. Add Epsom salts and calming essential oils, like lavender, to make the bath more therapeutic.
Time in Nature
Getting outside into the elements, regardless of the weather, can be exceptionally revitalizing. Activities such as gardening, walking, hiking, and swimming promote circulation and move our energy. Even just 10–20 minutes each day can be uplifting and invigorating.
Retreat can be as little as a half day, a weekend, or a week or two. During retreat, include a technology fast—a conscious break from all devices. As mothers, it isn’t always easy to get away, but when the children are old enough, this is an incredible gift to ourselves. Often retreats are set in nature. This in itself is deeply healing. We can take a solo retreat or we can be in community with an inspiring spiritual teacher and others of like mind. Taking time away from our daily lives can bring forth insight, fresh energy, and clear perspective. It can assist in replenishing our whole being—physically, mentally, and spiritually. It is also a rare delight for mothers to have someone else cook and clean for them!
Rest and Sleep
Mothers have a tendency to maximize every hour of every day. If the child naps, the mother is eager to check things off of her task list. Also after the child has gone to bed for the night, this is yet another opportunity to get work done. Mothers tend to stay up late and burn the midnight oil. Over time, this becomes incredibly draining.
This can be in the bath, doing restorative yoga, receiving a massage, and getting acupuncture. Going to bed early and aligning our sleep with the moon resets our natural circadian rhythms. There is no substitute for sleep. We cannot take supplements or herbs to replace sleep. If we are not getting our essential rest, it will eventually catch up with us. Our bodies rejuvenate and heal during deep sleep. To calm the mind further, turn off all devices one to two hours before settling down for sleep. Banyan’s Guide to Balanced Sleep has an abundance of Ayurvedic wisdom to help you get the evening rest and rejuvenation that you need.
Always remember that self-care is not an egocentric act. We should never feel guilty when taking time and making space to nurture ourselves. Our children need us to operate from an empowered, solid foundation. In this way, we are teaching our most cherished values to our beloved children.