Amidst my strong desires to be an independent, brazen woman sits my affinity to the goddess Hestia. Domestic life was Hestia’s dominion; her name literally means “hearth”. As the goddess of the hearth she personified the fire burning within every home in Greece; her priorities being family and community.
A side note: Hestia was one of only 3 goddesses that remained a virgin. Hmm? There’s a bit to unpack when it comes to female archetypes (especially ones who keep the home and give birth to children) being seen as more sacred due to their virginity.
But, that’s another blog post friends!
This post is about the sacredness of a home and the people who make it so. I want to start a conversation about how the home is the foundation health and wellness are built upon.
As an archetype, Hestia inspires us to keep the home fires burning so all who enter may be nourished.
MITIGATE STRESS WITH RHYTHM
Much of Ayurveda and Yoga is about creating daily ritual that supports excellent health to arise. Daily ritual and rhythm are the key; they are calming to the nervous system.
When the body’s nervous system is in para sympathetic mode a person can access the reflection and reasoning necessary to create a less stressful orientation to life; aside from being more joyful, this also allows the digestive system to work optimally.
Conversely, when the sympathetic nervous system is on high alert, everyday life can feel edgy and overwhelming.
The daily rituals of Ayurveda (dinacharya) are based on the rising and setting of the sun and the concept that the body’s physiology is either in sync or out of sync with the cycle of the sun. Circadian rhythm has influenced human evolution throughout history.
Modern humans, living in the fast paced, high production, uber excitable western reality can settle their nervous system into a calm serenity by linking their daily routines with the rhythm of nature.
The habits of Ayurvedic daily routine line a person up with the fundamental nature of human physiology; they’re also about intentionally creating more calm and peace within daily living. A person’s home is the anchor for these routines.
QUE RHYTHM WITH “HUBS”
Personal rhythm and routine are essentially another way of saying, “I have habits”.
I remember when I first started dipping my toes into the yoga scene; the word “discipline” was thrown around as something serious practitioners aspired to have. A disciplined yoga practitioner was someone who had a daily home practice or at the least, a rigorous approach to getting on their mat multiple times within the week.
My inner rebel despised the word discipline from the get go.
Years later I found that rhythm and routine were words that, to me, felt cozy and inviting; I wanted them in my life. Not long after, I declared “daily nurturing habits” as something I would strive for.
Be it discipline, rhythm, routine or habit — pick a word that works and go for it! The inner rebel may not want it but the body thrives within it.
A hub is the center of an activity; it’s the foundation of a wheel; all spokes radiate out from the hub. “Hubs” within a home become the center for specific routines that radiate out from that particular foundation. Foundation based routines allow a person to extend and radiate into the world around them with ease and flow.
Below are 3 of my favorite home hubs plus one habit that stems from each. The location in the home in and of itself, reminds me, ques me, encourages me, to feed the habit daily.
The Kitchen and Water
While the entire home is the fortress that keeps a person strong, the kitchen is the modern day hearth; it’s the fire that sustains the body.
The kitchen holds many possibilities when it comes to self-care prowess. I’ll share one. Get this incredibly basic yet wonderfully leverage-able kitchen habit rolling today: drink water first thing in the morning.
Even minor dehydration results in bodily symptoms such as:
- Feeling tired, lethargic or confused in your thinking? Perhaps you’re merely a bit low on pure water?
- Headaches: watch this one, especially with children and teens. Reach for water before Advil, Asprin or flavored drinks.
- Want lovely, glowing skin? Many women spend a small fortune on skin care products. True hydrated and lusterous skin happens from the inside out. If the skin lacks elasticity or it’s dry it’s a good sign the body needs more water.
- Dizziness or light headed-ness upon standing up: this could be a drop in blood pressure due to mild dehydration. I’ve had many people tell me they experience this in a yoga class; I’ve experienced it myself.
What if the solution to these symptoms is as simple as: “drink more water dammit”!?
In order to get a huge jump start on daily water intake, drink a big glass of warm water first thing in the morning, before coffee, tea or anything else. Ayurveda recommends warm water to stimulate the bowels in the AM. Stay away from cold water; it inhibits the functioning of the digestive system, which is why a lot of disease begins.
Personally, I drink a full quart of warm-hot water first thing every morning and if I’m feeling a bit dehydrated or my bowels feel sluggish, I bump it up to two quarts.
The Bathroom and Oil Massage
The bathroom may be the most under loved room in the home but seriously — exalt this hub — because most likely it holds untapped potential for building: an incredibly resilient immune system, optimal gut health and an adaptable, steady nervous system.
Several habits within my morning routine are anchored in the bathroom, oil massage is one. Ayurveda has a lovely word for self oil massage: abhyanga. In sanskrit the same word is used for both “oil” and “love”. Abhyanga is akin to being saturated with love.
Once established self-oil massage is simple habit, not much different than rubbing lotion on your skin. However, unlike lotion, oil penetrates beyond the surface of the skin, nourishing the body and deeply benefiting all layers of the skin.
I keep a jar filled with sesame oil, a pumper lid attached, right on my bathroom counter. Before I shower I massage oil into my whole body, starting at the feet and working upward toward my head.
When you do this loving routine, use long fluid strokes on the large muscles and small circular strokes on the joints. After that, hop into the shower allowing the hot water to help the oil penetrate. Only use soap if it’s necessary. In addition to having a glowing sheen, your skin will feel hydrated throughout the day.
I love this quote from the Charaka Samhita:
“The body of one who uses oil massage regularly does not become affected much, even if subjected to accidental injuries or strenuous work. By using oil massage daily, a person is endowed with pleasant touch, trimmed body parts, and becomes strong, charming and least affected by old age.”
Who wouldn’t want all that?
Self oil massage has a vast array of benefits. Why wait? Plant the seeds for this habit and teach your kiddos to do it too; it’s a wonderful way to nourish the physical and mental bodies while also promoting a healthy sense of self love as well as self acceptance. The bathroom is the hub; now get yourself some oil!
Your Yoga Mat, the Floor and 5 Minutes
At the most rudimentary level an at home yoga or meditation practice can be as simple as clearing a space on the floor, rolling out your yoga mat and sitting down on it. Or the fun and reverence can grow in many ways. Over time you may want to consider adding these features to your at home yoga space:
- A specific place in your home where you can leave your mat set up
- Blocks, a yoga strap, a meditation cushion and a bolster for restorative poses
- A timer
- Essential oils and a diffuser
- Apps or guided classes that you can access via the internet such as: Insight Timer, Headspace, Yogaglo or Cody App
Creating a “hub” for yoga or meditation home practice falls under the category of “if you build it they will come”. In and of itself, setting up a space won’t make a home practice happen. It also takes planning and consistency to create the habit, but again, a specific location cues the practice.
I encourage students to start with just 5 minutes of yoga each day; achieving this unassuming goal is actually no small feat.
Don’t let the short amount of time fool you; 5 minutes per day of yoga poses, yoga breathing or meditation ABSOLUTELY WILL help you to release some tension from your body and some stress from your mind.
A specific hub for yoga home practice is not absolutely necessary but the sacred space serves as a sweet reminder, inviting self nurturing. If you set this up it will inadvertently teach you, the children and the hubby that quiet space and downtime are worth honoring and valuable within a person’s life.
OVER TO YOU
Hestia is described as a kind, forgiving and discreet goddess with a passive, non-confrontational nature. Each city had a public hearth in Hestia’s honor; the fire kindled there was never allowed to go out. The hearth fire in individual households was not allowed to go out by any family unless it was ritually distinguished.
Clearly the Greeks linked every fire in every home to the central fire within the community. This is how I feel about the modern day keeper of the home. Keep the home fire burning sweetly and the community fire will burn brighter.
Many of the women I work with have huge nurturing hearts they often have trouble changing their own routines unless they can get their husbands and children on board too. If this is you, here is my advise — start with yourself first – it’s the only way to go!
When your husband and children get to witness you within your routines, when they see you setting healthy boundaries for yourself, they will likely follow and in the meantime you’ll be more equip to keep the home fires burning with TLC.
In yoga health coaching we always start small when building a habit; we take one tiny action step towards change and stabilize it; after that first step is stabilized we build upon it. Growth happens, habits are established.
Which of these hubs and habits are you most drawn to start with? What’s the one small action step that you can take to build your hub and habit? The home’s fire and it’s people need you.
Hi Sarah, I love reading your blog, there is always something new to learn– or old to reacquaint myself with. I spent time with Hestia many years ago but then plopped myself down into the laps of more dangerous (as I perceive them) Hindu goddesses. Anyway, just wanted to say the older meaning of the word virgin is unmarried–or autonomous. Thanks for the beautiful work you do in our community everyday. ??⚡️??