Seven Accessible Self-Care Tools

by Kelly Ruth Musser

I started practicing yoga in my late 20s. My maladaptive coping mechanisms (staying out late, drinking too much, getting into one dysfunctional relationship after the other) were no longer working. My anxiety was revving up and my metabolism was slowing down. Not to mention that I was working as a musician in Nashville, which didn’t help my somewhat fragile self-esteem and my excessive drive to be more productive. I really needed yoga.

I grew up as a competitive gymnast, so I’ve always processed information and emotions best through movement, but the thought of having to slow down for yoga made my skin crawl. My mom, being a nature-loving, canoe-building spiritual teacher, was always encouraging her stubbornly sad daughter to at least give it a try. She would mail me books—great ones, like The Book of Hours by Rainer Maria Rilke, Lovingkindness by Sharon Salzberg and Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes—which sat collecting dust on my bookshelf. She even mailed me a Kripalu Yoga VHS tape featuring Stephen Cope, which I promptly stowed under my bed.

Finally, the breakup of my longest romantic relationship and my inability to get out of bed because I had lost “the love of my life” (he was not, but I was young, and I forgive myself) forced me onto a yoga mat. That led me to my 200-Hour Kripalu Yoga Teacher Training and to my year as the Kripalu School of Yoga Intern—with Stephen Cope as one of my first mentors.  

Yup, my mom has been manifesting for me ever since I came out of the womb.  

Until you get there, yoga and self-care can seem selfish, daunting, or expensive, especially when viewed through the lens of a perfectly curated Instagram post. However, these practices can, and should, be accessible and affordable. Below are seven ways I approach self-care without breaking the bank.

1. Do yoga.

I started practicing yoga because a Nashville studio was offering a “$30 for 30 days” deal. I signed up and promptly drove myself to TJ Maxx and bought a $12 yoga mat, $9 yoga pants, and a $12 workout top with a built-in sports bra. You don’t need to take out a line of credit to start practicing yoga. If practicing with others makes you nervous, start by developing a home practice—there are tons of free or inexpensive videos online; including our own Kripalu Yoga videos. Don’t let fashion or money stop you from taking care of you.

2. Try a social media cleanse.

How often do you look at your phone over the course of a day, or an hour? I’d guess more than you think or like. Have you ever found yourself scrolling through your Insta-feed and the more you scroll, the more anxious you feel? You start questioning why you aren’t drinking an oat milk maple latte, skiing with bae in British Columbia, or working on that tan with the girls in Tulum. Because you’re not doing that, you start questioning your worth, earning potential, ability to attract a partner … the rumination goes on. Just stop. Turn the phone off, enable an email auto-response, go outside, hike, live your life without thinking of how the mountains might look through a filter and 1:1 frame. Try setting a weekly day and time when you unplug completely. It might feel strange at first, but eventually you’ll begin to look forward to it. Drink coffee with a friend, listen to their stories, look them in the eyes. Imagine a conversation without those awkward moments when you pretend that you’re listening when you’re actually obsessing over a picture of your ex with his new dog that just popped up on your feed. He always said he hated dogs! How dare he get a dog after I broke up with him! … Wait, what was she talking about? Yes, those moments.

3. Meditate daily.

The first thing I do when I wake up is meditate. I keep a set of mala beads on my nightstand, and I repeat an affirmation or mantra to myself 108 times every morning before I get out of bed. Starting the day like this grounds me and helps me move through my day in a more skillful and empowered way. It’s a joke among my friends, because they can tell when I didn’t do my meditation. My mood shifts, and I’m less able to navigate life. If mantra meditation isn’t for you, you might want to try walking meditation or metta meditation, or an app like HeadSpace or Calm. Meditation is a lot like music—you have to find your preferred genre. Try it consistently for at least three minutes a day, and notice what changes.

4. Breathe.

Have you ever found yourself anxiously ruminating on something and then you realize you’ve been holding your breath? Me too. Before my yoga teacher training, I was completely unaware of just how much the breath affects the way you think and feel—just as the way you think and feel affect how you breathe. The breath is your most available and profound source of power. Here’s my favorite pranayama (breathing technique) for self-soothing.

Alternate-Nostril Breath (Nadi Shodhana)

  • Find your seat, on a cushion or in a chair. Allow the spine to curve naturally and the belly to be soft.  
  • Practice a slow, deep Three-Part Breath to gently warm up and get centered.
  • Create Vishnu Mudra with your right hand by curling the index and middle fingers into the palm.
  • Bring your right hand up to your nose in Vishnu Mudra.
  • Keeping your mouth closed, inhale deeply through both nostrils.
  • Gently close off the right nostril with your right thumb, and slowly inhale through the left nostril.
  • At the end of the inhalation, close off the left nostril with your right ring finger and exhale through the right nostril.
  • Inhale through the right nostril. Close the right nostril and exhale through the left.
  • Continue this pattern (inhale left, exhale right, inhale right, exhale left) for several minutes (or as long as feels right).
  • To complete the practice, gradually slow down the inhalations and exhalations. Finish with an exhalation through the left nostril. Release your hand to your lap. Notice how you feel.

5. Buy yourself flowers.

I have a friend who loves Valentine’s Day. Last year she was single, and I encouraged her to buy herself flowers to celebrate the holiday—and to continue to do so as an act of self-love. Now, she buys flowers for herself weekly. Besides enjoying their beauty, she uses them to gauge whether she is being present with her feelings or avoiding her needs when she notices the cloudy water and wilted flowers. By bringing weekly flowers into your life, or whatever else brings you more joy, you are showing up for yourself and telling the Universe that you deserve beauty, abundance, and adoration. As Donna says on Parks and Recreation, “Treat yo self.”

6. Make your own avocado toast.  

You don’t have to spend $15 or more on an order of avocado toast. Here’s how to do it yourself:

Your preferred bread (sourdough, gluten-free, whatever)
1 ripe avocado, mashed
Juice of ½ small lime
Salt and pepper to taste
A few slices of red poblano pepper
Handful of pepitas

Toast bread. Mix lime juice into avocado. Spread mixture on toast. Sprinkle red pepper and pepitas on top. Dig in!

7. Take a bath.

Recently, I spent at least 30 minutes on Pinterest looking at outdoor bathtubs. My friends in California have a sweet one and ever since I dipped my toes in it, I’ve dreamt of the day when I will have my own. Of course, after this, because my phone pays attention to me, every other picture on my Instagram feed was of my friends or complete strangers I follow in exotic places in bathtubs fit for Marie Antoinette. I decided that I, too, can take luxurious baths. All you need are a few tea lights or candles; lavender, vetiver, or peppermint essential oils; the Calm Vibes playlist on Spotify; and at least 20 minutes to yourself. Dim the lights, maybe gather your favorite crystals on the edge of the tub. This simple ritual can help you recharge and downregulate your nervous system, increase your ability to self-soothe, and enable you to show up more fully for yourself and those you love.

Kelly Ruth Musser is a Kripalu R&R faculty member and the former Kripalu School of Yoga Intern. Find her on Instagram at @kellyruthyoga.

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