The Practice of Self-Care

New Yorkers are always on the go, seamlessly moving from the office to after-work events, endlessly searching for the next best restaurant, apartment or gallery opening. The opportunities are endless, leading us to fill our calendars with as many concerts, trips and dates as we can manage. Surrounded by ambition, we never cease to find inspiration from our co-workers, partners and friends who keep us on our toes. In a city where we are always moving to create the absolute best version of ourselves, it can be easy to get lost in the midst of it all – particularly when it comes to practicing presence, gratitude and self-care. The concept of self-care is simple: find something you love and make time to practice it when needed, consciously working it into your daily  life in order to restore and recharge. As a generation that expends an incredible amount of energy interacting, sharing and comparing with others, it is critical for us to take a moment for ourselves.

One of the best parts of self-care is that there is no right way to practice it, and how its carried out depends solely on the desires of the individual doing it. Extroverted people may find that being around people in a social setting is soothing for them, and therefore they seek out opportunities to be in groups, be it volunteering or taking a language or dance class. For others, rest is an important component of self-care, and they ensure to get at least 8 hours of sleep each night. I typically find myself most at peace when I am solo, writing in a journal, reading or tuned into an amazing playlist and therefore I carve out at least an hour daily to do so – I can sense a negative change in mood when I go a day without music. I also find joy in working out and pushing myself physically, especially in small group settings led by women – which explains my obsessions with Pop PhysiqueY7 and DanceBody. Whether you value silence and solitude (solo meditation, sleep), group settings (concerts, fitness classes, book clubs), creative forms (music, writing, cooking, learning a language) or a physical expression of yourself (running, dancing, yoga, etc.) make it a priority until it becomes habitual.

Self-care also relates to protecting your mental state by developing and strengthening your boundaries, which includes learning to say yes or no and standing firmly in your decisions. This is particularly relevant in dating where we can get so wrapped up in another individual that we forget to take a step back and look at the situation objectively, asking ourselves the important question: Is this person adding to my life (and vice versa?) Is this dynamic (casual or otherwise) working for me? Do I feel good with this person? Self-care demands that you scan your relationships and make sure you are feeling fulfilled and secure within them. It also means abandoning fear of perception, trusting your instincts, and walking away if you have articulated your needs and they are still not being met. Possessing a strong sense of self and wants/desires is extremely powerful and pretty sexy, too.

It is more important than ever to focus on what drives us as we make our way through this world so we can take our newfound energy and use it to bring selves forward every single day. Know that is is perfectly fine to unplug and allow yourself let yourself go. Be good to yourself and know that you are allowed to change your mind, to run the emotional gamut from ecstatic to depressed and back again. As with all practices, self-care is not about achieving perfection. Find what fuels you, embrace it and trust the process.

Click here for the basics on the self-care movement and how to get started.

Y7 Yoga Studio

If you have been following me for even a short amount of time you know that I am admittedly a fitness junkie. A good sweat session is one of the few things I genuinely get excited about when I wake up every morning outside of tacos. After graduating from college I fell in love with high-intensity interval training (HIIT) as a way to kick off mornings before heading into the office or sweating it out after a stressful day. HIIT, while extremely effective, is also incredibly taxing on the body. I found it difficult to recover after back to back classes, my body sending signals that I needed to care for and stretch my muscles outside of the brief warm ups and cool downs that were offered during these sessions.

Yoga was something that I had never tried but I had preconceived notions about – mainly that everyone sits in silence in a room playing Caucasian elevator music for an hour or more while pretending to be zen. The idea of straying from my routine and the fast-paced nature of HIIT and bootcamp was unsettling, and anything that was not going to help build muscle and/or burn hundreds was not of interest to me. I was also on autopilot everyday beginning my career at a top talent agency with no desire or perceived need to slow down or recharge. While I was physically fit, this was likely one of the unhealthiest times of my life.

Around this time a friend of mine introduced me to Y7, a hot vinyasa yoga class founded in New York. I was terrified at the idea of yoga itself, even more so of doing it in a room heated to 90 degrees. My prayers were answered when I discovered that Y7 is a first of its kind hip-hop yoga studio, featuring a specialized hip-hop ONLY playlist each session and a themed playlist every Wednesday and Sunday. It was almost love at first sight: immediately upon entering the studio I was greeted with calming aromas and Nas playing over the sound system.The room itself was pitch black with candles scattered throughout the space and, as advertised, hot as hell. Instantly I was calmed, having finally found a refuge high above the bustling streets below.

Y7 has put a modern shift on the ancient practice of yoga, and it is not difficult to see why people are hooked. The 60-minute session consists of a savasana (rest) and three separate guided flows which are practiced twice with the instructor followed by once on your own. Now if my mentioning of “savasana” had you confused AF, please note that going into my first formal yoga session my knowledge of yoga terms started at child’s pose and ended at downward dog – aka I knew nothing. I followed as best as I could while being the least flexible person ever and also dripping with sweat, but I left with an understanding of the fundamental positions (not to mention feeling extremely badass!) This is not a intro-level class but it is as basic or advanced as you need it to be. Bonus: the room is black so you can worry less about looking like a clumsy literal hot mess and instead focus on you and your practice, which why you came.

It is a luxury to be able to take the time to focus inward and block out the many thoughts running through our minds each day, but it is incredibly important that we make that time even if it is for five minutes each morning. Since starting my practice at Y7 and studying yoga closely I have noticed a complete positive shift in my mindset – I am conscious of my breath and use it daily to keep myself grounded and present, I have uncovered a mind-body connection that I did not know was possible and my flexibility has improved beyond my wildest expectations. It has taught me me that my body is an amazing force that can be challenged and stretched, but above all must be taken care of. For so long I associated yoga solely with white elitists of the Western world (a community that I did not belong to) but the welcoming nature of this studio feels safe and inclusive. Having a judgement-free zone to come to that fosters self care is invaluable to me and worth every penny. Thousands of dedicated clients around the country agree.

I urge everyone, particularly women of color, to try yoga at least once. I say at least once because it may take a few tries to find the teacher and style that works well for you. There are various styles of yoga that are offered so you can find your fit. You do not have to be thin, “in shape” or adorned in expensive workout gear – and if you feel that way going into a space, find a new community ASAP. While many classes carry a price tag, there are just as many donation-based classes out there for you to explore. Men and women alike can reap the benefits of yoga, so bring your boo. (Does your man think he’s too macho? Let him know Ace Hood and his partner do yoga too!)

My friends never hear me shut up about Classpass, so see if Y7 is available in your city. You can also try one month of Classpass to discover other yoga and fitness studios in your area. You will not regret it.

Back at it

After a day off, back at it! Lots of cardio today. It is almost swimsuit season after all!👙 #fitness #gym (at Miami University Rec Center)

Kale Chips

Gave kale chips a try today since I found some in the fridge. Seasoned with lemon juice, salt and pepper, and baked for 10 mins. Turned out pretty well!