In childhood, weekends were for watching cartoons, playing outdoors and generally enjoying two days without school. As young adults, we may have gone party and bar-hopping regularly on Friday and Saturday nights.
The older we get, the more we realize that engaging in self-care is not just an indulgence, it is the most wonderful and rejuvenating way to spend our beloved weekend.
By integrating the following practices and techniques into our weekends, we can fully rest and recover from the previous work week and recharge our batteries to support our intention for a productive and positive week ahead.
Find & Practice Your Yoga
Whether you come to yoga to stretch and gain flexibility, move and partake in cardiovascular exercise, study yogic philosophy or cultivate stillness in the mind through meditation, the field of yoga is vast enough to contain all of these aspects and many more.
Taking community classes at a studio is a wonderful way to learn the proper alignment and sequencing of poses. Try a variety of classes, as you will surely resonate with the style and moves of some teachers more than others. While group classes are helpful especially at first, developing a home practice is also crucial to living the yoga lifestyle. Even just five minutes of sitting in stillness first thing in the morning can make a huge difference in the quality of your day.
Start where you are. In time, with regular practice, you will gain flexibility, strength, balance and focus. If you delve deeper, you might even have a spiritual awakening.
Find the place in your house that works for you. Create space for sitting meditation and for practicing yoga. Decorate an altar if so inspired, with plants, flowers, relics and/or inspiring images of your teachers and the people and places you love.
Gift Yourself a Massage or Spa Day
Never underestimate the potent healing offered by therapeutic massage. Massage helps to instantly reduce stress and invite relaxation. Massage releases the muscular tension we tend to harbor in our neck, shoulders, back and other areas of the body. By increasing blood flow and sending more oxygen to the tissues, massage improves our circulation and lowers blood pressure.
Additionally, all types of massage stimulate our energy pathways, which helps the body rediscover equilibrium and well-being. Massage offers several other great benefits, similar to yoga, such as increased flexibility, less depression and anxiety and a strenghtened immune system.
Other spa offerings that can quickly bring us into a deep state of relaxation are the steam room, sauna and hot tub.
Don’t have the time or funds for a massage from a professional bodyworker? Learn and implement self-massage techniques using a book, blog post or YouTube video from the comfort of your own home. Self massage techniques may be performed with your fingers, hands and elbows, or simple items such as tennis balls, foam rollers or trigger point tools.
Remember, sometimes pain is referred. For example, when the muscles on the side of your neck are tense, you feel the pain down your arm and hand.
Depriving the senses of stimuli, a float tank session provides gain access to a state of deep mental and physical peace. Profound relaxation and expanded awareness facilitate healing on many levels. Floating in a sensory deprivation float tank removes external stimuli in order to help the body achieve a restorative state. A float tank session leaves the mind energized with joyful serenity and relaxed attentiveness.
The water in float tanks is extremely saturated with a magnesium solution. Almost a thousand pounds of epsom salt is dissolved in a few hundred gallons of water, making it impossible not to float. Magnesium has been found to help balance calcium levels in the body, reduce stress, balance hormones, normalize blood pressure, reduce risk of cancer and other diseases and much more. One study showed increased activity in the visual cortexes of floaters while other studies have reported increased creativity.
Floatation therapy can be helpful at managing or improving condition from insomnia to arthritis to addiction issues. Pregnant women can benefit from the float tank, since floating relieves the pressure caused by the added weight of the baby. Similarities between floating and the womb can also help deepen the connection between mother and unborn child.
Still the Mind
Spend at least 5 or 10 minutes each day of your weekend in sitting meditation. Over time, you can work up to doing 20 to 30 minutes, for best results. Sit up straight and tall but relax your body. Let go of expectations about meditation in general as well as this specific meditation session. Allow things to be as they are.
Be aware of your breath going in and out. Put 25 percent of your awareness on the exhale. Let your breath flow naturally. Each time your mind wanders, which of course it will, immediately and often, treat it like a cute, stumbling puppy. Each time the puppy wanders off (the mind wanders off and hops on a train of thought about either the past or the future), you gently but firmly bring it back to the path (bring the mind back to the anchor of the present moment).
Prana means breath, wind, life, vitality, energy, or strength. Ayama translates to length, expansion, stretching, or restraint. Thus, pranayama is the extension and control of the breath.
Pranayama is both a powerful tool and an end in itself. Through the proper use of the breath, we can eliminate toxins, increase vital energy, relax, relieve or prevent cramps and regulate our emotional reactions. Conscious, deep breathing can improve the quality and even extend the length of our life. Learning to be aware of our breath opens a whole new dimension of consciousness within. Learning to control the breath allows us to control our blood chemistry.
Lie down on your back (it is easiest to learn in the reclined position—later you can practice sitting or standing). Place one hand on the lower abdomen and one on the chest. The more you use the diaphragm when breathing the more movement you will feel in the abdomen.
Try to take your breath down deeper into the lungs so that you feel the abdomen lifting as you breathe in and naturally contracting as you breathe out. If you cannot feel the action of the diaphragm, try sneezing or laughing and you will feel a very pronounced movement of your left hand resting on the abdomen.
As abdominal breathing becomes easier, let your breathing be slower, deeper, smoother, and more wave-like. Relax as much as possible and allow any resistance to dissolve into one smooth, continuous, fluid breath.
Create a retreat for yourself using a combination of these practices each weekend. Remember, it takes time and devotion to build a solid practice. It’s better to practice five to ten minutes of stretching, deep breathing and meditation, once or twice a day rather than wait for the magical time when you will have a whole hour or more to devote to meditation and relaxation. That hour may never come. Don’t delay! Start where you are, here and now. Enjoy.