When it comes to self-care, there’s an unspoken expectation that it looks the same on everyone. We often seek advice from our friends, teachers, the media or the wellness community, and while finding the right practice requires experimentation, the truth is there is really only one cook in your kitchen. Genuine self-care implies a willingness to listen to our own needs and respond honestly. Self-care is not a one-size-fits-all practice; one person’s pedicure is another person’s Parivrtta Parsvakonasana. More important than which rituals you choose to practice is an understanding of how those rituals make you feel. Self-care requires self-awareness. Going through the self-care motions is not enough; we must be willing to think for ourselves.
Because so many of us turn to self-care as a form of triage—a desperate attempt to tread water when we’re feeling exhausted or overwhelmed—we may not fully appreciate the benefits of self-care as a daily ritual. Self-care is not only about addressing our physical wellness; it’s about caring for the whole person. Our everyday practices have a profound impact on our mental, physical, and emotional landscapes, and because we’re all unique, our self-care rituals may or may not look the same.
A connection to the why behind our self-care practices helps us stay present and mindful of how each ritual makes us feel. I love to lounge around and sip coffee on my mornings off because it reminds me to abide without agenda. I like to get really, really dressed up—like, really dressed up—and hit the town in a killer pair of heels and a sexy dress because it makes me feel feminine (not to mention it’s also a welcome change from my everyday uniform of spandex and sneakers). I love to stroll through flea markets or browse beautifully curated stores for hours on end because it sparks my creativity. I love deep cleaning my apartment because it clears my head and makes room for possibility. I love entertaining because it’s an excuse to practice bhakti (devotion) by focusing my attention on the people I love. These are all deeply personal practices that make me feel at h(om)e within myself. My yoga practice has taught me to not only discern which self-care routine works best for me, but has given me the courage to follow my intuition and think for myself.
Indulging in a pedicure is another one of the many ways I practice self-care. I’m a devoted regular at Sweet Lily Spa, a mindful nail boutique in Tribeca that has become my urban oasis in New York City. I found Sweet Lily Spa after a long hiatus from pedicures. Once a regular at various salons around the city, I became disenchanted by the entire experience. At first, I found my ambivalence confusing—how could I feel conflicted about being pampered? After all, caring for my feet not only felt like a necessity as a yoga teacher, it was my opportunity to sit back (literally) and receive.
Despite my earnest efforts to commit to this relatively inexpensive and widely-practiced self-care ritual, I had to face the truth about the nail salons I frequented: Almost nothing about the experience felt good to me. I hated the sterile, polished decor; I hated those big pedicure chairs and the feeling of the warm, sticky leather against the backs of my legs; I despised the smell of the body lotions; I hated the general lack of connection I felt, both on my end (to everything about the experience) and from the salon’s end (it just didn’t feel like anyone’s heart was in it). Instead of feeling nourished and rejuvenated, I would leave feeling cheap and dirty, and so I decided to stop going all together. It just wasn’t . . . me. A couple of years later I stumbled upon Sweet Lily Spa on my way to work and I’ve been a loyal customer ever since. In light of the recent New York Times article highlighting the working conditions at many of the city’s nail salons, I feel compelled to share my secret sanctuary with you.
From the moment you step foot inside Donna Perillo’s spa, it feels like coming h(om)e. I love the bright, open space and the shabby chic decor because it feels like the perfect backdrop for a devoted hour of self-care. Donna is often standing behind the front desk, eager to greet you when you walk in; it always makes me smile to see her. You’ll be invited to pick your polish color (they use Zoya, a formaldehyde, DBP, toluene and camphor free brand), and I’m always surprised to find this to be an opportunity to check in with how I feel—do I feel sexy, girly, motivated, stressed? You’ll sit in one of the three huge arm chairs that make up the pedicure station, where they’ll offer you something to drink and a magazine. Your feet will soak in large enamel bowls filled with rose petals, or lemon slices, or whatever homemade concoction is currently on the seasonal menu. I especially love the big couch and the rocking chair in the lounge where I (nap) let me nails dry. Everyone on staff treats Sweet Lily as if it were their own business—their genuine kindness makes you feel like you’re part of a special community. Did I mention that you’ll be offered a glass of wine to sip while your feet are being pampered? I mean . . .
My yoga practice has taught me to get quiet and listen to the teacher within. I’ve learned that I feel better when I stop doing what I think I’m supposed to do and focus my energy instead on the practices that resonate with me. I encourage you to explore self-care without expectation or judgement. Do what works for you. I’ll be hanging out at Sweet Lily Spa if you want to join me.
Sweet Lily’s At Home Lemon Aid Pedicure
What you’ll need:
The Soak: (combine in a small basin or tub) 1 gallon of warm water 2 cups of fresh lemon juice
The Exfoliant: (combine ingredients in a small bowl) ¼ cup organic granulated sugar ¼ cup olive oil 2 tablespoons fresh lemon zest
The Moisturizer: Any pure body oil or quality all natural lotion you might already have in your beauty stash.
Steps: 1. Begin by removing any old nail polish with a soy based or non-acetone remover. 2. Trim and file nails to desired shape and length, making sure to round the edges to avoid ingrowns. 3. Soak feet in the refreshing Lemon footbath for about 5 minutes. (The lemon juice is a natural alhahydroxy great for combating calluses). 4. Gently push back cuticles with a wooden orange stick (you can purchase them in packs of 10 at any pharmacy) 5. To exfoliate—take a scoop of the Lemon Zest scrub in your hand and apply in a circular motion to feet, giving extra attention to heels, in-between toes and calluses. (The lemon zest acts as a natural cleanser and antibacterial, while sugar gently exfoliates.) 6. Rinse feet under warm water, then towel dry. 7. Massage lotion of choice into the skin, again, giving extra TLC to rough patches and calluses. 8. Remove excess oils from the nail with a bit of non-acetone remover on a cotton ball. 9. Apply one coat base, two coats of your favorite polish, and one coat top.