In this edition of #SelfCareSaturday, the incredible mindfulness coach, counselor, yogi, Reiki master, and Nike trainer, Dalia Halabi, discusses her personal method for self-care which combines yoga and Reiki, or “yoki”, for truly connecting with your body and your mind.
Something I observed last year was the huge spike in anxiety cases, and with everything that happened in 2020, it’s not surprising. However, it’s not productive to blame everything on the external events that occurred. I see the spike in anxiety to be more symptomatic of a collective consciousness that glorifies habitual business and uses it as an excuse to disconnect from themselves.
During the anxiety support groups I host, I ask people when was the last time they sat with themselves and really introspected and took the time to understand what’s going on inside of them. More often than not, I’m met with shifty eyes and silence. You see, B.C. (before Covid), we always had something to do, had some place to be, and that made it easier for us to sweep our S.H.I.T. (sadness, hurts, insecurities, and torments) under the rug. So, when s**t hit the fan, S.H.I.T. really hit the fan. The reason I’m sharing this with you is to tell you that self-care isn’t just about bubble baths; it’s about being mindful and waking up to your own inner workings so that you can literally give yourself care.
Self-care isn’t just about bubble baths; it’s about being mindful and waking up to your own inner workings.
I’m going to illustrate this point by sharing my own self-care ritual and how I stay low-key with a practice I like to call ‘Yoki’.
I love to begin my day with some yoga. At first, I just sit on my mat and practice pranayama, or breathing exercises. One of my favorites is called alternate nostril breathing. It’s where you inhale through one nostril and exhale through the other. This is a great technique for balancing the left and right side of your brain, and releasing stress from the day. Try it for yourself and see!
I use my breath to anchor me to the present moment, which allows me to create a space of awareness as to what’s going on beneath the surface. Once I am fully mindful and embodied, I can set an intention for my practice. Having an intention or a theme to come back to when my mind wanders is my way to stay mindful. Now, the first thing they teach us in mindfulness-based practices is that we store all our issues in our tissues. So if you want to get a good read on your emotional state, a good place to start is to check in with your body.
If you want to get a good read on your emotional state, a good place to start is to check in with your body.
We walk around with these aches and pains which are mere physical manifestations of our emotions. After all, there’s a reason they are called ‘feelings’. This is your body’s way of communicating to you that something requires your attention. The problem is that most of the time we’re not embodied, so we don’t listen.
My yoga practice involves tuning into an emotion as it arises, and noticing how and where it shows up in my body. For instance, if I’m feeling emotionally stuck, I’ll focus more on hip openers in my practice, because I know that’s where I store my heavy emotions. If I’m feeling overwhelmed, I’ll go for more back bends or heart openers to open myself up to that emotion. You see, the thing most people don’t fully appreciate about yoga is that every asana has an intelligence and works on both our physiological and emotional bodies. It’s not just a random assortment of poses — each one is designed with an intention in mind. That’s why intention and mindfulness in something that is perceived as just physical is so important.
The Bhagavad Gita says, “Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self.” So every asana, or physical posture, becomes a tuning fork that combs through your body looking for the knots. I can’t tell you how many times I’ll have little breakthroughs during my flow, because when you tune in, and you allow yourself to feel your emotions and become aware, it’s a healing in itself. That’s how yoga can become self-care — when you actually use it to journey to yourself.
I hope you are seeing a pattern here: just like mindfulness is the difference between a self-care yoga practice, and just another yoga session, it’s also the difference between a self-care bubble bath, and just a bath. Trust me, I’ve been on both ends of the spectrum. I’ve practiced yoga just for the heck of it, or just for the exercise and its external impact on my body, and I’ve practiced yoga with intention. I call only one of those practices an act of self-care.
Any yogi will know that after the physical practice comes ‘savasana’, or corpse pose. For me, this is the most important pose in all of the asanas, and it’s the one where you just lie there with your eyes closed doing nothing. Granted, the name is a tad disturbing, but it’s not actually about dying; it’s about being reborn.
Take a second and ask yourself: ‘What am I unwilling to feel and what are the ways in which I run away from those feelings?’
As a teacher I always notice that without fail, in every class, there will be someone who doesn’t allow themselves to surrender to this pose. They’ll keep their eyes open staring at the ceiling, or they’ll start to fidget, and some just straight up leave. This shows me that a lot of us just don’t know how to be still with ourselves, and if we can’t do that, how will we develop awareness? This tendency to run away from ourselves is again symptomatic of a people that have been conditioned to focus outwardly instead of inwards. Take a second and ask yourself: ‘What am I unwilling to feel and what are the ways in which I run away from those feelings?’ The answers might surprise you, but the first step is of course awareness. Once you know how you avoid them, you can learn how to tune into them. Remember: What we resist persists, hence the rise in psychosomatic ailments.
That is why I use savasana, as an opportunity to practice Reiki on myself, hence the term ‘Yoki’ (yoga+reiki, clever right?). I appreciate not everyone has Reiki training, but the same principles can apply if you use your savasana to do a mindfulness body-scan meditation because it’s not really about the Reiki – it’s about the principle of self-awareness.
First of all, what even is Reiki? Reiki is an ancient healing modality that utilizes life force energy to release any blocks stored in our chakras, or energy bodies. The things that we experience in our daily lives – whether they seem significant or negative or not – all carry a certain energetic frequency. So, if those events and the emotions that they bring up are quite negative, our energy centers will vibrate at a lower frequency, leading to a whole range of psycho and somatic issues. That is why awareness is the key, because once you shine the light of awareness, it dispels the dark.
For my Reiki savasana, I send my awareness to every single one of the seven major chakras that line the spine. Every chakra will hold different types of emotional blocks or issues. For instance, we tend to hold feelings of insecurity in our root chakra, while our communication issues can be held in the throat chakra. As I work through my chakras, I pay attention to the things that surface. Sometimes, it will simply be a memory that I recognize as the root of a certain pattern that I can release with conscious awareness, or maybe it’s an inner child that needs comforting. I tend to whatever arises with patience, compassion, and true self-care.
You can achieve the very same results with a body-scan meditation, as long as you are doing it mindfully. That means paying attention to what comes up, accepting that it’s there and allowing yourself to feel it, investigating where it’s coming from and what it needs in order to heal, and learning how to give that healing to yourself. Trust me, a lot of times, healing is merely an “Aha!” moment; you don’t need to be a Reiki master to attain it. As Carl Jung says, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” All you really need is awareness — and that’s a conscious effort — but it’s the difference between self-care and self-indulgence.