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.”
The 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.
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.
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.