Five Pillars Yoga

Pouring Water From An Empty Pitcher?

Reframing “selfishness” and discovering the magic of simple self-care rituals

Many of us have been taught to place everyone before ourselves. Devotion to family, partner, work, friends, charities… somehow we always can find the time to prioritize these responsibilities, while the first thing to get sacrificed is often our workouts, for example. Or we’re running around so much that we “don’t have time to eat healthy food.” Taking time for ourselves feels “selfish.” We stretch ourselves thinner and thinner, without proper fortification, until eventually we burn out.

“In the event of loss of pressure, oxygen masks will fall from the ceiling. Place the mask over your nose and mouth and breathe normally. Please secure your own mask first before helping others.”

How many times have we heard this? And how many times have we practiced that critical last instruction – taking care of ourselves so that we are able to take care of others. Simply put, we cannot pour water from an empty pitcher. And we cannot help others or contribute to the world without coming from a strong foundation of self-care.

Every now and then I look down at my feet and gasp at how long it’s been since I’ve had a pedicure. It’s not only the fact that I’d rather not have claws where my toes should be, it’s also the ritual of taking a time out to go to the spa, read a book or magazine, unplug and recharge at the same time. I leave with more than a pretty polish job; I enter back into the flow of my life renewed and with more to offer, my pitcher filled by a simple act of self-care.


In Ayurveda the phrase used for self-care is Dinacharya – which translates to daily (dina) routine (charya). Emphasis on “daily.” Not weekly, not monthly, and not only when we burn out. There is a magic to the routine of self-care, it’s something we can count on, and the regularity of it builds that strong foundation from which we can live and give. It’s grounding and centering, and over time also calming to the mind.


Consider how routine it is to brush your teeth. You don’t have to “make time” to do this, it happens pretty automatically. Now consider what else you could add to your morning, afternoon or evening ritual that might be your individual dinacharya


Here are some ideas to get you started…. 

~ Take ten minutes in the morning to meditate or stretch before your day gets started

~ Dry brush your skin before every shower

~ “Check out” at 4pm with a cup of tea and read a chapter of your book

~ Do one beauty ritual each night – moisturize your feet, apply a refreshing face mask, take a long bath, etc.

~ Drink a warm ginger lemon tea first thing in the morning

~ Start and end each day with an affirmation

~ Say grace internally before each meal (even takeout!)


Ultimately self-care is a matter of self-valuing and self-love, which is very very different than “selfish.” So ask yourself how you can value yourself. Ask yourself what areas of your life need support and self-devotion. As yourself what activities you love that you “don’t have time for anymore.” Ask yourself what small rituals you could actually commit to. And then start by adding just one thing and see how it goes.

Let yourself learn to be SELF-ish in all the right ways, because as Oscar Wilde has said “everyone else is already taken.”