“I love being flexible with myself and remembering that self-care isn’t about being perfect. Rather, I make sure that my habits serve my current state of life and just enjoy the process.”
Gracy – thank you so much for taking the time to connect with us! Self-care is a hugely important part of the yogic philosophy and so we are very excited to share your thoughts with our community. When did you first gain interest in helping others improve their self-care practices? What made you want to commit to this level of personal service?
I’ve always loved self-care. I remember finding a book on basic yoga and Ayurveda when I was just 12 years old and being fascinated by the practices and lifestyle it created for the authors. Back then, my family was not practicing a lot of self-care — we were dealing with addiction and undiagnosed mental illness — and I felt the damaging effects of that ongoing personal neglect.
It’s taken me years to put it all into words, but connecting to that book gave me my first insight that perhaps there was another, more healing way of being in the world. It’s message inspired me and so I have always tried to point myself in the direction of greater self-care.
My life has taught me that whenever I choose self-care, I empower both myself and the people around me. Increasingly, I’m understanding that there is no other authentic path forward for me and, I believe, for our world. This gives me ample inspiration to uphold my self-care as sacred, every single day!
Tell us more about ‘Self-care with Gracy’ and the services you provide.
When I started my business three years ago, my intention was to teach my clients more about Ayurveda. Although I had studied yoga for years, which helped me on so many levels, when I began practicing Ayurveda everything changed dramatically. For the first time in my life, I felt really grounded and powerful.
Of course, I wanted to share this with others! I created a 10 week course called Self Care 101, which is a group coaching format that can be done mostly online with an in-person retreat in Washington, DC. Together, 20 women learn how to create nourishing self-care routines and actually practice them on a daily basis.
Although I was successful in teaching my clients about Ayurveda, their experience in my course has taught me so much about the deeper reasons for why we DON’T take care of ourselves. Understanding these complex internal blocks and creating the space for a deep healing at the root of the issue is essential if our self-care transformation is going to be sustainable.
For example, the issue isn’t just that we eat a daily brownie at 4pm, the issue is why we feel like we need to escape our lives every afternoon. Are we overwhelmed by our jobs? Not wanting to go home to our partners? Bored in our lives? Authentically asking these questions is the key to breaking through self-defeating habits and making space to create a truly happy life for ourselves.
What does the first meeting with a new client look like? What is the first thing you tell (or ask) them?
I always start with a free 30-minute phone call. During this call, I invite a potential client to get real with me. I tell her that I’ve heard it all before and that I am comfortable listening to her whole truth. I ask her where she feels stuck in her self-care and her life. I listen for habitual self-defeating patterns and offer a few ideas/practices to help her break through these blocks. If it sounds like she is ready, I tell her more about joining a program. Usually we can both tell if it’s the next right step.
Even when women decide not to sign up to work with me, they often tell me that our conversation helped them in important ways. So many of my clients are outwardly very successful and most people in their lives would never think they were stuck. I give them lot of space to talk about the inner turmoil behind their success and to talk about their deeper dreams. Opening up about the hard parts of life and the vulnerability of wanting more can be very freeing for us all. Telling the whole truth to another person is a brave act and I admire every person and learn from our conversations. I know that taking the first step toward making a change can be extremely difficult. This is why so many people stay stuck in their lives.
There are so many ideas and opinions out there. We find self-care tips all over the place! In your experience, are there any widely applicable self-care practices that you would honestly recommend to anyone and everyone who walks through your door?
I agree, there is a lot of information out there and much of it is actually conflicting! Some people tell us to eat 5 small meals a day, others say to fast for 14 hours between meals. Who is right?
I think self-care is an extremely personal process. What works for you won’t necessarily work for me. Ayurveda has taught me a lot about the importance of tailoring our lifestyle to our specific constitution and then honoring how that changes throughout the seasons and our lives. Our culture teaches us that knowledge is on the outside but Ayurveda reminds us that we are the only ones that know what works best for us. When someone asks me if she should eat fewer carbs or go to boot camp class, I always ask “how does it make you feel?” I doesn’t matter what any expert thinks — the issue is whether or not it works for your body and your life.
However, I believe that a few aspects of self-care habit change can be universal. I teach my clients how to make extremely small changes in service of working toward a bigger goal. Most of us want our “biggest loser” moment and try to do too much too quickly. Our systems can’t handle so much change at once and this is why we revert back to our old ways. We think we have “failed” and then develop a mentality that we are lazy or broken in some way. No one has ever told us how to truly change a habit.
Thus, I encourage my clients to go slow, be intentional and to celebrate their successes. Especially as women, we are so hard on ourselves! Self-care is about creating a joyful life experience and we are allowed to enjoy ourselves in the process of figuring that out.
Why do you think so many yoga instructors struggle with maintaining and prioritizing their optimal lifestyles?
This is a great question. One aspect, I believe, is that the yogic lifestyle hasn’t had much time to translate from India into the west. There are huge cultural differences that make living a truly yogic life difficult when we are managing busy modern lives. Most ancient sages never had to pay their our bills or walk their dogs in the morning! Still, we hold ourselves to a high standard that isn’t always supported by our current culture. This creates tension, especially when we are hard on ourselves for not being perfect.
Another aspect of self-care as a yoga teacher is that we are always caring for other people! When I first started teaching yoga, I taught at 8pm one night and 6am the next morning. My schedule was different every day and I couldn’t establish a solid rhythm of sleeping and eating so that I felt nourished. We often aren’t paid very much for our work, which makes us have to overload our schedules. This leaves less time to reset between classes. Again, these are more cultural issues around valuing healing work, rather than character defects. We need to look at what we value as a culture and begin truly compensating our healers so we can do our best work to help others.
Why do you think it’s important?
It’s important for us to care for ourselves so that we can continue to do our work for a good long time. More than ever, the knowledge and practices of yoga are desperately needed in our world. So many of my students have told me that my class was the one hour of the day where they could let their guards down and relax. We have been given an immense privilege to carry this ancient wisdom into a cultural that is suffering. If we don’t care for ourselves, we will burn out or at least not be able to offer our full attention and open-heartedness to our students. But we can’t do this when our well is always empty. Caring for ourselves is vital in this equation.
A yoga instructor’s schedule can sometimes mean long, hectic and fuel-less days. When you experience days like this, what do you do to prepare yourself for your job and ensure that you’re able to give from a full cup? How do you prioritize *your* self-care?
Again, I emphasis small changes. If you only have 10 minutes to yourself before you go teach your first private client, use those 10 minutes to nourish yourself. Many of us say we don’t have time but still manage to scroll through Facebook first thing in the morning. Instead, see if you can use that time for your own self-care. Five minutes of meditation and five minutes of stretching can go a long way. And Facebook will still be there if you need a checking-out break between classes 🙂
I prioritize my self-care by remembering that nothing works without it. This isn’t just intellectual but is very experiential. When I go a few days without tending properly to myself, I notice myself losing focus or bickering more in my relationships. This is the sign to me to get myself back on track. Remembering my self-care habits helps me to be kind to my loved ones and more available to serve our world.
Can we ask, what are (2-3) more personal self-care practices that keep you feeling centered and ready to serve others?
I think each of us has keystone habits, or habits that help us organize everything else. For me, they are 1) scraping my tongue and drinking warm water in the morning, 2) eating regular meals, most of which I cook at home (cooking is so grounding for me), 3) at least a little quiet, reflecting time in the morning (meditation, spiritual reading and stretching), and 4) getting in bed around 10pm. If I do these things, generally my life flows pretty beautifully.
Also, being supported and supporting in my relationships and community is a vital form of self-care. I make sure to have satisfying interpersonal connections every day. This is a form of self-care we don’t often talk about but my life doesn’t work without it.
Have those practices always worked for you, or have your tactics changed over time? Do you think they’ll change again in the future?
These habits have generally worked well for me, mostly because they are so simple and keep me in alignment with nature’s rhythms. They build upon one another in a great way. For example, if I go to bed by 10pm, I can wake up around 6am with energy and excitement for my day. Being well fed at my meals means I avoid mindless snacking.
But yes, they do shift a little with time. I’m pregnant right now which means I eat a lot more than normal and sleep in a little later (because I am waking up more in the night.) I love being flexible with myself and remembering that self-care isn’t about being perfect. Rather I make sure that my habits serve my current state of life and enjoy the process.
Now, as the curators of a large music catalogue, we’re curious… does music feature at all in your practice?
I love music and need it to be happy in my life! I always do yoga to music in the morning and have it on in the background while I am doing my work. It inspires me and gives me the fuel I need to keep going on my self-care.
Finally, do you have any words of wisdom for a person looking to begin prioritizing self-care with very few tools in their self-care toolbox?
First, I think it’s so great that you are thinking about your self-care. This is a powerful first step! My main wisdom is that self-care isn’t about fixing anything in you (trust me, you aren’t broken) but rather about caring for yourself so beautifully that you fall in love with your own life.
We all think we should love ourselves already but no one teaches us how to do it. Consistently imperfect self-care helps us build the trust we need for authentic self-love. When we have self-love, we can open our hearts to the world around us and begin to really serve others. We all want to help other people, but if you are leaving yourself out of the equation, it’s never going to work!
Self-care isn’t selfish but rather completely necessary so that we have the energy to help others. Focus on yourself, enjoy your life and know that everything else will fall into place.
Gracy is an acclaimed yoga teacher, retreat leader, and self care mentor in the ever-stressed Washington, DC. She is a recovering perfectionist who now understands how to live a life of self care and self love.
Her speciality is working with successful but overwhelmed women to help them slow down and enjoy their lives. She knows once we enjoy our lives, we live our way into our true purpose with ease. Her thoughtful and practical application of yogic and Ayurveda continue to evolve and transform many lives. Gracy is a 500-hour registered yoga teacher and has studied Ayurveda since 2011 through Lotus Palm and Cate Stillman. Since 2009, she has received over 125 hours of formal Thai massage training, domestically through Lotus Palm, Jen Yarro, and Vanessa King and Nha Ja in Thailand.