I often overlook skin care as self care. I have my regular routine fixed, but I'm rarely mindful of my skin. When I stop to consider all that my skin does, all of its beauty, uniqueness, strength, resilience, and ability to heal, I cannot help but be in awe, and yet it too often becomes a passing thought if one at all. So in realization of this, this month I challenged myself to be more mindful of my skin and this challenge took the form of taking up a yoga practice.
If you are anything like me, likely the feasibility of doing all that you set out to do in a day is laughable. I try to be realistic, I try to keep my expectations manageable, but some days, even some weeks, my mind runs wild and I decide there are all of these "pressing" things that need to be done, and instead of re-evaluating my expectations I try to race them before they catch up to my actual energy level and time constraints. My goodness, how that can wear me out. Fast.
I had an economics teacher in high school who would stand before the class at the end of a lesson and proclaim to us "Be lazy!". By this he meant: don't put it off, don't overthink it, don't crowd your schedule. When you have something to complete, some need or deadline. . . take care of it. Then absolutely relish in the free time you have to rest by not over-scheduling yourself.
I recently realized that in the midst of my busy days and trying to keep this balance I was losing track of consideration and appreciation for my body. Between responsibilities my wellness had too become a part of a checklist, and too often skipped.
So taking my economics teacher's advice, I reminded myself. . .slow down. Breathe. I am more than my productivity. Don't become so fearful that you cannot move forward, don't put your full worth on what you can produce. In response to these "stuck" moments, I like to try out something new, or something old that has gone by the wayside and can again feel new. I remembered how much I had loved doing a regular yoga practice in the past, and quickly signed up for a class. In meeting my mat, taking on the spaces of awareness--whether comfortable or not--I remembered that here I would have to face myself mindfully.
The Yoga Challenge
Becoming mindful of my breathing, racing thoughts, fatigue, and weak spots is always a challenge, but in that space I also began to rediscover the reminders of awe for my breath, my strength that was growing, the fluidity and creativity of my mind, and an ability to get quiet in a day that felt loud with things to get done.
I also remembered by skin.
Oh yes, that good stuff.
Without fail during that first downward dog I looked down to see playful toes, fleshy parts that worked because of this protective, sensitive, strong element. Afterwards, though, I discovered sweat, breakouts, and confusion.
Confusion, when it comes to my skin, too often abounds. As one of those people who's complexion was (for the most part) peachy through puberty, and then for some reason took a sharp turn towards fickle as an adult, my skin awareness is not always appreciation. I was floored to find, however, that sticking with my practice calms my skin nearly as equally as it calms my mind. I integrated a good toner to mist
on after practice and started cleaning my natural rubber mat
on the regular. The improved circulation that comes from practicing yoga regularly, along with the fringe benefits of de-stressing, and perhaps motivating a healthier diet, increased water intake, and a better sleep regimen to feed my need to achieve that crow pose, significantly improved the clarity of my skin. At the very start my acne resulting from stress and lack of good habits cleared up, and as my practice became more regular I was able to integrate different asanas
into my routine to promote healthier skin.
For me, the challenge came as yoga, but if that is not your jam, it doesn't need be. As the days are growing cooler and shorter and our lives are perhaps slowing a bit in the autumnal space between summer and winter holidays, look for ways to be mindful and slow down. Where are there spaces of awareness you can carve out? How can you better bring awe for the incredible work your skin, your whole body, is doing for you daily, and return the favor?
Written by Elizabeth Crammer