Archive for June, 2009

Re-United: 11-Day Yoga Cleanse, Day 7 Update

I’m now a week into an 11-day yoga and nutritional cleanse. Physically I’m having fun with the experience overall, although it hasn’t been without challenges.

Finding a “generally healthy” by mainstream American culture standards meal in most restaurants is difficult enough. Dining out and staying “cleanse-friendly” proved almost impossible Thursday at a post trail-running group dinner at a great local restaurant in town, The Courtyard. It has a huge and diverse menu, with most items prepared from scratch. I chose the best entree I could find, grilled shrimp with sauteed tomatoes, onions, rice, and guacamole. I focused on the shrimp, veggies, and guac, and left most of the rice. The problem was I did not stay strong. Very hungry after running twice, teaching pilates, and lifting weights that day and surrounded by fellow runners enjoying beer, bread, and french fries, I allowed my resolve to weaken and partook of the Simple Carbohydrate-Laden Trifecta. Rather than beat myself up I resumed eating according to the cleanse guidelines the next day, but I felt sorry that I had given up a chance to reap benefits from food.

The other difficulty occurred on today’s 15-mile run. Though I normally avoid high fructose corn syrup when possible, I do drink Gatorade on warm long runs because it is the most common sports drink served during marathons and I like its taste. I usually fuel with breakfast before running, but keep an emergency gel handy. Though they are used by the body immediately for energy when taken during exercise, both of these ergogenic aids are high in simple sugars and therefore high on the 11-day cleanse “avoid” list. This warm morning, I replaced Gatorade with a no-sugar electrolyte supplement made by Alacer and never felt my hydration was off. But again I ran into problems. Despite a good breakfast of steel-cut oats with organic peanut butter and a little stevia, I had gnawing hunger pangs by mile 7. I tried mind-over matter for another 2+ miles before breaking into the “in case of emergency” monosaccharides.

Again, I didn’t beat myself up. I ate cleanse-approved foods for recovery fuel and the rest of the day. I told myself this is all  new and whatever I choose to integrate long-term from the cleanse eating plan, it will take some time to re-pattern and re-learn. Sports nutrition in particular requires a lot of trial and error and individual experimentation.

On the plus side, I’m having a great time discovering some delicious recipes, foods, and resources that I might never have tried since starting the cleanse and will definitely incorporate into my long-term diet. Last night we had colorful peppers stuffed with lean ground turkey, sauteed veggies, and a little brown rice. I found the recipe in the great new magazine Clean Eating, a slightly more relaxed and more “realistic” nutritional lifestyle than a detox cleanse.  Huge creative salads have always been my favorite thing to prepare, but I never experimented with additions like chopped kale, snipped fresh basil, and homemade garlic balsamic vinegrette dressing. I found out that unsweetened puffed brown rice cereal also goes “snap crackle pop” and sampled refreshing coconut water, a natural sports drink high in electrolytes. Tonight I savored a glass of Our Daily Red organic red table wine that far surpassed my expectations of a $9 bottle.

It goes without saying that without a consistent personal asana practice for about a year, returning to my yoga mat has been physically challenging. The power yoga style emphasized and expertly instructed at Cleveland Yoga is the most physically challenging activity I’ve experienced other than marathoning. Deconditioned aching muscles shake, balance is wobbly, and poses that used to feel freeing now serve as an opportunity to realize all the tight and weak places in my body. My poor Upward-Facing Dog is doggone tired. Like nutrition, yoga can detoxify the body, and some poses like twists and hip openers are notorious for releasing toxic emotions. I’ve been surprised at some feelings that have come up this week. Even though I understand the process and can step back and recognize that moods pass, in their present moment they aren’t exactly a party!

Looking on the very bright side, on the fifth day of yoga I could already feel more openness and suppleness in my body as it more easily remembered Upward-Facing Bow, Seated Forward Fold, Eagle, and Double Pigeon. It will take longer than five days to come back to the calmer mindset I arrived at after a regular daily meditation practice and long to return to, but I feel certain that renewed enthusiasm for practice will motivate me in that direction.


Re-United: 11-Day Yoga Cleanse, Day 2

Pain and steak. These were two unexpected parts of Day 2 of the 11-day yoga and eating cleanse I’m doing.

The pain came first. First thing in the morning. I woke up and for a moment couldn’t lift my head up, turn, or lift my body from bed. It seemed my trapezius muscle had been replaced in the night by firey soreness and stiffness. Hmm, I remembered trying especially hard to find comfortable neck positions in some asanas in yesterday’s yoga class, but otherwise couldn’t pinpoint the vice grip on the back of my neck.

Physical pain was almost immediately overshadowed by mental pain. As always, my day began with a long, meticulously scheduled mental to-do list. First item on that list was an easy 5-mile run, to squeeze some miles in the only available time to do them. Seeing how nodding my head was causing something to roughly grab me by the scruff of my neck, I knew I wouldn’t be running today. Luckily my week’s meticulously scheduled training plan has room to swap today with a scheduled rest day, but my half-awake reaction was that my day was already off to a lousy, run-free start.

I tried to meditate, another part of the cleanse. But it hurt to hold my head up, and as soon as I got sort of comfortable the phone rang. Discouragement. Now I had to scurry to get ready for work, anyway. Tuesday happens to be my Monday, and though I’m very grateful for a good job that I actually like much of the time, I admit I’m struggling with a bit of burnout the first summer of my teaching career where I’ve taught a full load rather than had complete freedom. So I downed Advil and drove with a stiff throbbing neck and thoughts that throbbed worse. I despairingly hoped the 11 days would also result in a cleanse of my attitude!

Now for the steak. No, I didn’t follow the “natural” remedy of placing it on my hurting neck. A small cut of lean steak was prepared for dinner by my boyfriend, who bought it because he kindly did all the grocery shopping this week and wasn’t aware of the 11-dafruit salady cleanse requirements. Animal protein isn’t on the “avoid” list, but the suggestion is to stick with organic lean poultry and fish. But, I figured a small lean portion prepared with love couldn’t be too toxic, so I enjoyed it with a large side of veggies sauteed in olive oil and the company of my partner.

Despite, or maybe even including the pain and the steak, Day 2 of the cleanse went well. After work I took an inspiring yoga class from an instructor who’s obviously a gifted teacher and devoted student of yoga with much wisdom to share. My appetite was still very strong all day. Other than the steak it was no problem to stick with the cleanse program, except I again couldn’t believe how hungry I was!

The cherry on top of Day 2 was this divine fruit salad I mixed up. All the gorgeous colors and flavors we get to enjoy for the next few days make me feel both decadent and blessed.

Re-United: 11-Day Yoga Cleanse, Day 1

First in a series.

Eighteen months ago when I created this blog, I thought I’d write more about yoga than I actually have. My yoga practice, in the various forms it’s taken, has been an invaluable stabilizer and teacher for me. I’ve been practicing – and teaching – yoga longer than I’ve been dedicated to running, the subject of probably 99% of my posts here.  In The Distance’s description even mentions “a yoga journey.”

Sadly, in the last year, I would describe my yoga journey as a journey away from all the wonderful physical, mental, and spiritual practices I’ve discovered since I walked into my first yoga class 12 years ago.  I can make the excuse that the lapse was the result of demanding new job stress and relocating and setting up and keeping a household in order and the wonderful and welcome change of going from living alone to living with a partner, but the plain truth is I didn’t properly take care of my yoga practice. I let it go. I still taught my beginning yoga classes to college students and enjoyed that, but with yoga if you aren’t walking the walk, it’s impossible to effectively and authentically talk the talk to your students.

While I felt bad short-changing my students, the one who suffered most was me. Cracks started emerging. I replaced morning meditation with another cup of coffee. I noticed I was getting more “reactive” and letting emotions control me. My energy level ebbed big-time, and I struggled with regular cravings for unsupportive foods. Or another glass of wine. Or both.

So yesterday, I made movement back toward the place where I must have wandered off the course of my yoga journey. I began an 11-day yoga and eating cleanse offered by a studio near work, Cleveland Yoga. The most common English translation of the word “yoga” means “union,” so I am calling this 11-day experience my “Yoga Reunion.”

vegetablesThe 11 days combine daily yoga with a nutritional cleanse. Unlike more “legislative” type cleansing programs, this one offers a list of food substances to avoid for the most powerful cleansing. A second, more detailed “to-do” list of foods to include each day reads like a beautiful, pure grocery list: whole fresh foods like green and cruciferous veggies, citrus, berries, eggs, foods known to support liver and colon function, good oils and fats, friendly carbs, lots of filtered water, and optional extras including (thankfully!) a daily cup of organic coffee. As long as you avoid the “cleanse-blocking” foods and check off your “to-do” list, you can eat as much or as little as you like of anything else. The emphasis on awareness and doing your best each day is empowering rather than prohibitive. It is an excellent mindset for anyone who eats, whether or not they are following a cleanse program, so will be a powerful practice to keep after the formal program ends.

Day 1

This morning I woke up excited to start new. I had my coffee with stevia rather than hazelnut Splenda and copious low-fat half and half. I won’t lie; it wasn’t nearly as delicious. But, I was willing to give the cleanse a chance. Breakfast was steel-cut oats (instead of instant oatmeal for my impatient tastebuds) with raw almond butter and blueberries. The texture and flavor were both much more interesting and very appealing. I also drank about twice the water I normally would in the morning.


Mid-morning I ran 8 hilly miles and it was Hot and Humid and not shady enough. Somehow I felt strong and energetic the entire way. I didn’t whine to myself about the muggy weather or fight feelings of lethargy.

After running I enjoyed lunch: lean chicken with a little brown rice, and veggies sauteed with olive oil, garlic, and onion. Plus two big glasses of water to rehydrate.

I thought that would hold me until a pre-yoga snack. Usually it would. But all afternoon at work, I felt hunger pangs. It took an apple, and orange, more raw almonds than I would normally eat at once, some dried edamame, organic green tea, and plenty of water to take the edge off. My appetite was crazy! I was still sort of hungry when I went to yoga, but luckily the sweat-triggering practice tamed my rumbling tummy.

After yoga I got home as excited as Snoopy for suppertime! Lloyd and I made an amazing huge green salad and shared some lentil soup. For dessert I savored a frozen whole fruit bar.

snoopy suppertime

I enjoyed the first day of 11 and feel great, although I suspect at this point the good feelings come from knowing I’m taking better care of my body – and spirit – again, rather than from being scrubbed and polished from the inside out.