If you scroll down a bit, you’ll see that we are featuring self care in the months ahead. This wasn’t something that we planned out in a big yogic strategy session; it just happened. But when I saw it all put together, it struck me as a message from the Universe. Yes. Self care. Pay attention, please.

Maybe it’s just the age we are in, or perhaps it’s the Yoga World I inhabit, but there’s a whole lot of chatter (and that’s all a lot of it is) about self care. In our broader culture the topic seems to circle around massages and pedicures and the occasional nap. I do get the distinction that these are not necessarily luxuries, but ways to be kind to ourselves. However, real self care — radical self care — is a whole different ball game.

I don’t have any corner on the market when it comes to self care. In fact, I’m not very good at it a lot of the time. But I continue to work on it because I’ve come to realize that real self care is, for me, not just body and mind care, but how I deal with the world, and how I care for my soul. If all of the components aren’t in balance, I suffer. So here it is, from the ground up.

1: The body. Yes, this is the house you live in. Is it well-tended? Is it rested with both adequate sleep and a moderate work schedule and is it nourished with healthy food taken in slowly and in good company? Are you regularly moving and breathing mindfully, exercising in ways that promote good health and not in ways that feed destructive tendencies around competition or appearance? Body as sanctuary. Body as home.

2: The mind. Whether best or worst friend, it’s your roommate for life in this house that is your body. Is it well-tended? Are you feeding it with inspiration and challenging it with new ideas? Are you engaged in regular self-reflection to keep the wild horses that create your reality in check — and not dragging you into some bizarre reality that belongs to you and you alone? Are you diligent with kind self-talk? The mind can be a dark and wild jungle or a beautifully crafted garden. The latter requires constant attention if your mind is anything like mine.

3: The other humans. Are you making quality time to be with the people you love the most? The ones who inspire you, make you laugh, love you no matter what? In other words, are your primary relationships well-tended? And are your boundaries clear with the rest of the humans so that your tank is full enough to share and offer yourself fully with that inner circle? Or are you so depleted from the giving and working in the world that you’re tapped out by day’s end, giving the best of yourself to things that don’t matter? Connecting in a deep way to those we love is one of the primary fuels for well-being. It’s a must, not a maybe.

4: The soul. Not some airy-fairy, woo-woo notion, but the essence of you, complete with your personal, mainline connection to the infinite. Call it what you will: Grace, the universe, God, source, love, truth, whatever. To me, the name doesn’t matter, but the recognition of that which connects and is in all things is at the core of joy and fulfillment in our life on this beautiful planet. Devotion, inspiration, and creativity are just some of the expressions of the soul. Are they in play in your life? On the sidelines or as necessary, non-negotiable touchstones? Are you creating enough space and silence to hear that small, still voice?

There is so much noise coming at us all the time, and most of it is bunk. I think that radical self care is about learning to both listen to and respond to the voices that come from within. The ones that tell you when to move and when to be still. When to find good company and when to be alone. When to work hard and when to rest and play. And most of all, self care is about the imperative to listen to the voice of knowing that is the voice of the soul, with messages direct from the universe about your next best word or action.

Radical self care is anything but radical. It’s foundational. It’s the beginning and the end. And far as I know, it takes a lifetime of practice.

Take good care.