I love that I get to introduce you to Jen Birenbaum today. I met Jen while on the yoga retreat she was hosting in the fall of 2022. She has a calm and grounding presence, diverse teaching style, a wealth of knowledge of all things yoga, meditation and breathwork. Jen has a unique ability to hold space to help her students truly turn inwards and connect to the present moment - if you ever get the opportunity to attend one of her retreats, I highly recommend it (and I'll see you there). She's a passionate teacher and life-long student of yoga. She teaches group and private classes in her private studio in midtown Toronto and is currently studying to become a Yoga Therapist. She lives in the city with her husband and four growing kids.
Tell me about your morning self-care routine: Shower! It's best that I don't interact with the world until I have stood under a hot shower. I have little rituals that include essential oils and face serums and guasha that come after my shower, but really I think I'm just giving myself 45 minutes of alone time in my bathroom as an on-ramp to the day.
What is your favourite nourishing breakfast? I don't eat breakfast until about 11 or 12 as I prefer to fast overnight for 12-14 hours. Then I eat a banana covered in crunchy almond butter, cinnamon, chia and hemp seeds.
What's your feel-good beverage of choice? Tea. All day. My favourite is my morning Pluck Yuzu Oolong Tea.
What personal development books have you loved? It's tough to pick just one... anything by Thich Nhat Hanh, The Choice by Dr. Edith Eger, The Heart of Yoga by T.K.V. Desikachar, Rising Strong by Brene Brown to list a few. And I always have a fiction novel on the go. Something with a character that feels like they're a part of my life while I'm reading it. I have a kindle app full of recommendations!
What does your weekly movement routine look like? Yoga is my favourite form of movement! I have my own practice that I tend to do about 3 times per week, plus 2 classes lead by my teachers. I also work with a personal trainer twice a week for strength and variety. And I love to walk in the ravine with my friends!
Name your top values and tell us a little about why they're important to you? Kindness, Truth, and Connection. I think if we are kind first (to ourselves and each other), the rest will fall into place. We would be more honest. We would connect with more ease. As a result, we would be even kinder which would spread further and deeper to apply to all beings and the planet we inhabit. We would stop seeing ourselves as separate from each other and the Earth. We would be compelled to care for, respect, and cherish all, resulting in less suffering and more peace.
What is your number one indulgence? Only one?!?! Ok, chocolate. Depending on the mood/day, it might be Halloween-sized Mars bars or fancy truffles. While I wish I preferred dark chocolate, and I've tried really hard to train myself to prefer it, I am a milk chocolate kinda girl!
What is one feel-good self-care routine that you could not live without? Rose oil on my heart every morning. It's a conscious moment that reminds me that I am loved and I am love. If I said that to my younger self, she would scoff and say "that's so cheesy", but my older/wiser self knows better.
Tell us about a regular appointment that you attend that supports your overall well-being? 1:1 strength training with my personal trainer. It's something I would not do on my own and the benefits are profound. It's the perfect complement to my yoga practice. It keeps me strong in a different way. And we talk through the whole thing so it's a socially connective experience too.
Why do you think self-care has become such a focus? I think it's the evolution we need now. The world needs us humans to care more about each other and the planet. Self-care is the bite-sized place to start. If we can look at ourselves, see what we need, and with reverence and respect, give it, we are cultivating care. It's a way to expand our collective capacity one individual at a time. As each individual cares more for themselves, they feel compelled and able to care for others. And maybe in our lifetime, we will do less harm to the planet, we will have less people going without basic needs, less war, less hate, less suffering and more peace. This is my hope anyway...