Practice, Balance, New Years Resolutions and the “Right” Diet

Hello dear yogis and yoginis.

It is beyond beautiful today in Virginia, in that crisp, wintery, soft-light kind of way  I slept in ’til past 7 but even at that late hour the sun had barely peeked over the little mountain to our East.  I stretched a little and drank a bit of water before walking up to the shala to meet FY.  I’ve been waking up very thirsty these days.  Even in humid and mild Charlottesville, winter can be drying.  I’ve also been suffering from a low-grade headache for over a week now (icky…).  Although I doubt dehydration is the issue, I don’t think it ever really hurts anyone to drink more water.

Today was the first day in 3 weeks or so that I’ve done my full practice up to Laghu Vajrasana plus dropbacks too.  It felt rather foreign in my body, but not too unbearably challenging (thank goodness!..coming back after a long break can always be a bit scary).  I definitely did not feel light and floaty, but I think I can blame that as much on the amount of sugar I ate over the holiday to the lack of practice. My shoulder has appreciated the time off, but the rest of my body has really been missing the dynamic energetic of a full Asthanga practice.

For those of you who follow my blog, I think it’s rather apparent from the recipes that I post that I have a crazy sweet tooth.  Sugar is my weakness and unfortunately I think it’s making me weak and hurting my baby (my yoga practice)!  I’m still struggling with inflammation in my shoulder and if there’s one sure thing that aggravates joint inflammation it’s sugar! So, I’m making an early new years resolution to cut out white sugar completely from my diet.  Of course I will break this (always do) occasionally for a special occasion, but in my day to day life that means nixing the bit of chocolate or something else sweet that I normally eat after lunch and then oftentimes again in the mid-afternoon.  I’ve done this before with no problem.  After awhile of little to no sugar, I don’t really miss it at all.  But as soon as I start eating sugar again I start craving it badly – it’s definitely an addiction.

Another intention/goal I have for this new year is to be extra mindful of the balance of energies in my body.  I tend to get vata-aggravated, or in TCM terms, very yin-deficient.  I saw my acupuncturist last week and he confirmed that this is exactly what is happening to me right now.  When I’m in this extreme yin-deficient way, my body can’t recover fully from injury or illness.  I’m depleted, dried up and flaky.  This has been apparent to me in my spaciness recently and the achy crackly feeling in my joints.  All fall I was feeling too wiped-out from my practice rather than invigorated by it, like I used to feel.  Ashtanga is a fiery practice and I love that.  But if I’m out of balance internally, all the fire of the practice can be a bit too much for me.

So I need to be extra aware of my eating and sleeping habits right now.  This, plus the right herbs can help me nourish my yin energies so that I can be healthier and stronger.  I’ve started taking the Ayurvedic herb Shatavari in conjunction with Ashwaganda to help nourish my kidney yin and balance my hormones.  At my acupuncturist’s suggestion, I’m trying to incorporate more healthy fat (most by using ghee, coconut oil and olive oil) in my diet.  I’ve been encouraged to eat eggs a few times a week right now too, because they are so yin-stabilizing.  This is a big shift for me because I’ve been mostly vegan all year and I’ve always looked on eggs as this super “bad” food.  Another shift I’m making has to do with when and how I eat.  This year we have gotten into this routine of having a nice grain-based breakfast (in the fall…in the summer we do lots of raw smoothies instead) and then in the early afternoon we have a big hearty lunch.  Sometimes in the evening I have a tiny snack, but normally I tend to grab something small and sweet, rather than something nourishing).  So that means that I pretty much have been fasting from 2pm to 9am every weekday.  This actually felt really good for awhile.  But, now I think it’s throwing my body off a bit.

I’ve been blacking out a lot more in practice recently  (3 or 4 times every morning, even in sun salutations) so I can tell my blood sugar is way too low.  To help bring my energies back into balance with this yin-nourishing goal in mind, I’ve been instructed to eat a small third meal containing fat and protein.  One more change I’m making – I used to always drink warm water with lemon juice and sometimes a little ACV every morning before I ate or drank anything else.  I did this to alkalize my body and to “detox”.  Turns out, in my yin-deficient condition, this is actually totally wrong for me!  The sourness of the lemon is actually tightening my ligaments and muscles.

It’s so interesting how we might think that something is “healthy” for us, when in fact it is actually not appropriate for us at all.  That’s why it’s really tricky for people to make claims about one particular diet (be it raw, vegan, paleo, macro whatever!) being the “best”.  I don’t think there is one particular diet that’s right for everyone universally.  We all have different body types and constitutional compositions.  A lot of health-oriented, yoga people are really into raw vegan diets.  I like eating this way sometimes too.  In fact, I was 100 percent raw vegan for awhile.  I felt light and glowing, but I was also really spaced-out all the time and had belly aches and a lot of gas.  For my body, it’s better for me to eat more cooked-food, warming and grounding foods.  I used to be the girl who would always order a salad rather than something a little heartier because I thought it was healthier for me, but turns out, especially this time of year, that is not the case.

A lot of times you hear people say that you should just “listen to your body” and eat what it tells you to eat.  This is a nice thought, but I don’t think it really works all the time.  For example, if you are really pitta-aggravated you might want to eat spicy, hot food when in fact this aggravates you even more!  This has happened to me a lot.  I go though phases when I think it’s best for me to fast, drink lots of juice and eat salads only, but I end up feeling totally off and I can’t figure out why I feel this way when I’m eating so healthily.  It seems that what happens oftentimes is that we actually crave what throws us further off balance, rather than what would actually even us out.  Like attracts like, you know?

Anyways, sorry for the long rambling post about my random little body – it’s still such a mystery to me.  Hope I didn’t bore you to tears.




4 thoughts on “Practice, Balance, New Years Resolutions and the “Right” Diet

  1. You did nt! Reading your blog helps me to think about these things. Sure diet is so important. June/July saw me embark in a short liquid quest. I ate less on the Sunday. Monday saw me leave out solid food and I drink herbal teas and (fresh) fruit juice. Tuesday to Thursday I was taking just water. On Friday I began to re-introduce juices with water and by Sunday I was back to pure juicing (veg & fruit). This continued until Friday where began to re introduced more solid foods.

    The basis of my diet became more raw and vegan influenced etc. Over this whole time I was practicing Ashtanga asana and a pranayama sadhana with meditation as part of a 28 day kriya. The over all experience was amazing but also interesting because while as you know Ashtanga is dynamic I became more aware of pranayama kosha and maha bandhas. Prana & locks. Many many times the ‘I’ was not involved and the witness oversaw. Meditation in movement indeed.

    So I ran my first one week yoga holiday in Poland mid July. The catering & service and food good but the hotel was not really familiar with vegetarian concept. It became difficult to assume and continued my diet as it was.

    In January I am looking to re focus on diet and take it from there.

    Thanks for your writing.

    Regards in Yoga


    • Thanks for reading Vedanta.
      Yes, diet is so important…I’m definitely still on a journey figuring out what works best for me.
      I loved that short stint when I was totally raw,..but I was also at an ashram and once I took that diet back home and back on the road with me, it didn’t fly.
      You definitely get super sensitive to your energy bodies when you eat like that, which is perfect and profound for a life of meditation, but for me as a busy house-holder it’s not feasible. 😦
      I’m impressed that you sustained that way of eating…. I would love to eat like that…so pure and light…but I would faint so quickly if I kept that up!

  2. Frances, we have the same resolution! I have no self control around sugary treats, even though I know how bad it will make me feel, physically and psychologically, after I eat them. To fend off dessert cravings I eat a piece of fruit at the end of a meal, then drink water, and finally tea if I’m still thinking about a sugar fix. I also drink liters of seltzer water all day long.

    I agree with whoever told you to eat more protein—at times where my diet verges toward fruit & veggies exclusively, that’s when I notice my sugar cravings are highest (when, of course, what I really need is more protein). Good luck this year in eating for your body!

    PS- what is ACV??

    • hi clare!
      good luck with your no sugar goal too… so far i’m not 100% but i’ve definitely been more mindful this past week. though i have to say, after working with david all weekend, all i wanted to do was eat….and i didn’t exactly care what… body was sooo wiped out from his workshops!
      acv – apple cider vinegar.
      happy new year!

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