Sensory self-care is all about helping to calm your mind. It also helps to boost mood and energy.
When you are able to tune into the details of the sensations all around you,
it’s easier to live in the present moment. And when you’re in the present, you can more effectively let go of resentments related to the past or anxieties about the future. When you think about practicing sensory self-care, consider all of your senses: touch, smell, sound, and sight. Most people are more responsive to one than the others, so ask yourself what that sense might be for you.
In the teachings of Ayurvedic medicine (the sister science of yoga and oldest continuously practiced form of medicine in the world [2-5000 years old]) Prana or life force comes into our systems through our senses. In yoga you will typically hear instructors saying that the breath is prana – and to a certain degree that is true – but in absolute truth – Prana simply rides in on the breath. It is what gives us a sense of aliveness and well being. But prana also enters our bodies and minds through each of our senses – : touch, smell, sound, sight and even taste.
Think about the things you do that make you feel happy and energized – fully alive. As you do – refine your thinking to identify the senses that are in play during that activity.
For example – you may feel most alive in the garden. Smelling the flowers, feeling the dirt in your hands and under your nails, taking in the sights the colors, shapes and natural beauty, perhaps listening to the birds nearby and if your garden grows edible plants – perhaps the taste of the fruits of your labors – fresh and flavorful. That sense of aliveness you feel is prana riding in through all of your senses.
It’s not necessary to find activities that activate every sense. But recognizing the life giving gift of prana in the simplest of activities can increase a sense of happiness and well being –
The following examples of sensory self-care involve at least one sense, but often more.
Sensory Self-Care Ideas
- Cuddling up under a soft blanket.
- Going to the countryside and focusing on the smell of the air.
- Watching the flames of a candle or a fire.
- Feeling the water on your skin during a hot bath or shower.
- Focusing on the movements of your own breathing (/and-breathe/).
- Lying down and listening to music with your eyes closed.
- Sitting in the heat of the afternoon sun.
- Having a small square of the most delicious chocolate.
- Walking barefoot in the grass.
- Having a massage with essential oils.
- Holding a pet in your arms.
Three simple practices for sensory self care
Mindful breathing –
Deep belly breathing helps calm the mind and body by bringing oxygen into the lowest lobes of the lungs. It’s there that the parasympathetic nervous system is triggered. This system is also referred to as the Rest and Digest Response.
How to perform deep belly breathing:
- Put one hand on your belly just below your ribs and the other hand on your chest.
- Take a deep breath in through your nose, and let your belly push your hand out. Your chest should not move.
- Breathe out through the nose or through pursed lips as if you were whistling. Feel the hand on your belly go in, and use it to push all the air out.
- Do this breathing 3 to 10 times. Take your time with each breath.
- Notice how you feel at the end of the exercise.
Massage shoulders Seated in Tadasana (mountain pose) Bring your right hand to your left shoulder. Begin to massage the top and back of your shoulder and the side of your neck. Continue for as long as it feels good then move to the other side.
Make yourself comfortable and relax for as long as you like.
As you rest in stillness you might consider what things in your life bring you a sense of aliveness – energized and happy. Notice what senses you use to appreciate this activity or place. Imagine ways to bring yourself to this place or activity even just a little more often.