BIRD SEED ON MY MIND

I used to hate dinner time. Frustration would build up as I looked through my kitchen cabinets with anxiety over what to prepare.

You see, as a Yoga practitioner and a teacher my options were pretty limited, or so I thought. Quinoa with greens? or tofu and greens? or greens and greens? Was mustard okay? Would coconut oil add more flavor? Digging through my fridge to find something with flavor became a nightly chore.

I rationalized, I pondered and then I told myself as long as it came from Whole Foods then it must be okay, right?

I had completed my Yoga teacher training and saw most of teachers and fellow students munching on mostly greens followed by a splash of Kombucha so I knew the drill. In an effort to become more like them I nixed meat from my diet, ditched dairy, and said good bye to my beloved desserts (I LOVE chocolate). Next I went and stocked up on greens, chia seeds and nut butters.

I even acquired a taste for the very fermented Kombucha drinks, which I actually still like today.

A few months into my new diet I noticed my skin looking paler, hair a little dull and my sleep cycles were off. I used to doze off minutes after my head hit the pillow like the sound sleeper I have been my entire life, but now I would toss and turn waking  at night staring at the ceiling.

Its no biggie I told myself as I noshed on some Ezekiel toast with cashew butter the next morning, longing for my days of a yogurt smoothie or caramel macchiato.

Sigh.

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What’s a girl to do? Drink more green juices? Yes – that must be it. I probably wasn’t getting enough greens. Nevermind that my stomach always seemed a little bloated afterwards. It was good for me. At least that’s what all the articles said and everyone around me drank them constantly so back to Whole Foods I went to stock up on more green juices.

More is better. Right?

Fast forward another month. I was at an Italian restaurant with my boyfriend at the time and I had a bite of his steak. He did the little incoming airplane move and I’m pretty sure I stopped him midair with a giant chomp. I even took a few more bites until guilt made me stop. I was actually afraid someone might see me. So I made a deal with myself that I wouldn’t eat any more meat that night but I would indulge in a little dessert.

My sweet tooth has never been sweeter. I inhaled tiramisu and even allowed myself some gelato. This must be what heaven is like I thought as I sipped an after dinner espresso in taste bud bliss.

So I fell off the wagon once. It happens.

I rationalized all the guilt away with promises to myself of more green juices and seeds to come. The only problem was my body refused to comply with me. My willpower was nowhere to be found and my taste buds had developed hulk like strength.

I was having such a hard time trying to figure out what to do that I found myself absentmindedly going through the McDonald’s drive thru for a hot fudge sundae. How did I get here? It’s like my body had been hijacked, but it demanded dairy and there was no way around it. So more guilt piled on along with more promises of a better tomorrow.

If you have ever been on a diet then you know how exhausting it is to have to think about food, portions, labels, organic, cage free, grass fed, gluten free, free free free.

I was sick and tired of thinking about it. I wanted sushi, pizza, and ice cream damnit.

So I gave in.

My jars of nut butters, chia seeds, and wild grains sat in my pantry collecting dust for weeks while I indulged in exactly what I wanted.

Chocolate – Check

Jif Peanut Butter and Jelly – Check

Oreos – Check

Twizzlers – Yes please!

I can’t pinpoint exactly when but I woke up one morning realizing I had slept through the entire night and felt rested. My energy was up and my muscles felt a  less achy than usual.

More importantly, I wasn’t thinking about food. In fact my entire eating schedule had changed without me even orchestrating it. I was barely hungry in the morning, usually satisfied with coffee until about 11am, after my daily practice, when I would have some yogurt and honey.

If I felt really hungry by 2 or 3pm then I would have lunch and dinner might be a hot soup and some toasted garlic bread. I was satisfied and my cravings were gone along with my bloated tummy.  I discovered that what I really liked were cooked vegetables, not raw.

Yoga is supposed to be about listening to your body. It took me months of a lot of humble listening to restore harmony in my system. I am in no way mocking a healthy diet and I absolutely understand the importance of food labels especially when it comes to food allergies. I’m allergic to almonds so I still have to pay attention to ingredients especially in certain baked goods.

Balance is a tricky thing. The best advice I have gotten when I find myself out of balance is to slow down and pay attention. Your body has infinite wisdom so if you slow down and pay attention it will let you know exactly what it needs. It may not come packaged in what current trends are advertising but you will be a lot happier and healthier by following your truth and acknowledging your  body’s needs.

Love your body and it will love you back. Namaste.

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Autopilot for Dummies

Where do you live in your body?

It was during a yoga class several years ago that my teacher asked this question. When you are in the middle of Downward Facing Dog with sweat running down your face and sliding all over your mat, the answer seems like a no-brainer.

My arms. Duh.

Except once I relaxed in Child’s pose several breaths later with my arms by my sides I realized that’s not true. It was only true for that moment but now my arms felt fine, my back felt great and my legs were relaxed.

My head, however, was hot. All I could think about was the next pose we were going to do and how I couldn’t wait to go upside down. I love to invert and handstands and headstands are by far my favorite. The entire class sequence was leading up to these poses and I couldn’t wait to execute them.

So back to the teacher’s question. Where do I live in my body? It hit me in that moment that instead of feeling every movement and allowing myself to be fully present in each pose, I had been anticipating the next pose in my head.

Handstand is not the goal of Yoga.

My head and thoughts were projecting so far ahead into the future that I forgot to simply breathe, to just BE.

So long story short – I live in my head. Lots of us do. If you take about 20 seconds or so and take a full deep belly breath you’ll see what I mean. You might notice that your fully deep belly breath doesn’t extend into every single inch of your body. Most of us only breathe into the upper half of our lungs throughout the day while we are commuting to work or sitting at our desks.

Many of us can live with chronic pain for months on end tucking it away into that corner of our minds along with all the unread mail and to-do lists that never seem to get done. We’ll deal with it some other time, right? Some of us can do this for years until your body gives you a serious wake up call.

This brings me back to handstand. Why do I love it so much? Because I can’t think. It’s the one pose where it is almost impossible to think because if you do you will probably fall on your head. Every inch of my body is hyper focused on staying aligned and stacked in handstand so that I am balanced.

I am forced to get out of my head and it’s such a relief. Looking back it makes sense that I am naturally attracted to a pose that helps me get out of my head and into my body.

I circle back to this question each time I am faced with a challenge, whether it’s mental or physical. Where am I holding? Where is there tension? Where am I blocked?

Your body will tell you.  Your body has so much wisdom and is always working towards healing itself. Give your body the credit it deserves by sitting with yourself and exploring where you live in your body.

You might find a tethered knot in your shoulder, a kink in your neck or a knot in your belly. Sit with it. Acknowledge it. And then give it permission to let go. It may not happen spontaneously but by giving it a little oxygen and TLC you are mindfully working towards letting go.

Letting go can be painful but your body will thank you for it.

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