yoga


Yesterday was my first day back to eating solid foods after three days of only vegetable broth. I am now into the third and final phase of CorePower Yoga‘s Seasonal Wellness Cleanse.

The first phase was eliminating all processed food, caffeine, sugar, alcohol, dairy, wheat, gluten, soy, corn, meat and dairy for 5 days.

The second phase–designed to continue cleansing your system, restore the ph balance in your gut, and provide rest to your digestive system–was making and eating several nutrient-dense vegetable broths for three days.

The broth phase went really well for me and I didn’t feel at all overwhelmed with hunger. Unfortunately, the skies dumped almost 20 inches of snow on the Twin Cities so I wasn’t able to get the rest that is recommended for the phase–someone had to shovel the driveway (four times, but who’s counting). Still, I felt good.

Yesterday, as I started Phase III, I was back to hyper-clean eating. In Phase III, we begin introducing the foods we’ve eliminated back in our diets one at a time to determine whether any of them cause discomfort or other issues. Incredibly, I ate very little yesterday despite having not eaten solid foods for more than 72 hours.

I just wasn’t hungry. And, I recognized that.

One of the things many of my wellness clients have shared when we begin working together is that they don’t really know when they are hungry. They either don’t feel it or can’t recognize it. I’ve done a fair amount of reading on the subject, and I believe the lack of hunger recognition has two main causes: 1) We, especially women, spend so much time thinking about how much and what we should be eating, we can no longer separate our brain’s messages from our body’s. Thus we don’t recognize our body’s hunger or cravings; 2) We consume so much stuff our bodies don’t recognize as food (food processed beyond recognition, preservatives, perticides, etc), that our bodies send mixed messages.

When I cut out most processed food several years ago and went back to eating organic whenever possible, I definitely noticed an improvement in my hunger and thirst recognition. It still wasn’t totally clear though. I have often recognized that I need water because of a headache or feeling tired rather than because I felt thirsty.

Since beginning the cleanse, I actually feel thirsty. And hungry. My body’s hunger and thirst signals are clearer than they have been in years. There is no questioning when I feel hungry or thirsty.

So last evening, even though I’d found what looked to be a fabulous recipe for slow cooker chicken chick pea stew that fit the parameters of the cleanse, I had some blackberries and a peach instead. I just wasn’t hungry enough to eat the stew. (Actually, I did take a bite just to taste and it was an amazing recipe–I’ve posted it below.)

The stew can wait. Be well!

 

Slow Cooker Chicken and Chick Pea Stew (from About.com)

Prep Time: 15 minutes   Cook Time: 6 hours

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat, and cut into pieces
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, sliced on the diagonal
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 15-ounce can reduced-sodium garbanzo beans/chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes

Preparation:

Coat a 3-4 quart crockpot with nonstick cooking spray. Combine spices and sprinkle over chicken thighs. Add onions, carrots, and crushed garlic to the crockpot. Lay chicken thighs on top, followed by chickpeas and canned tomatoes.Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Serves 4-6

Something amazing happened yesterday.

Well, actually it didn’t happen yesterday. It’s happened over many years, but I recognized it yesterday. While chatting with someone about the Wellness Cleanse I’m doing, he asked me whether I had lost any weight. At that moment it occurred to me that my weight wasn’t even a consideration in my decision to take on the Cleanse.

And that, my friends, is pretty darned amazing. While my weight stopped ruling my life several years ago, I find it amazing that it truly wasn’t even a factor in my decision to participate in CorePower Yoga‘s Seasonal Wellness Cleanse.

It’s amazing when you consider that for most of my life (I first believed I was fat in 2nd grade), almost all of my choices and behaviors were somehow related to my weight–either directly in an attempt to control or reduce my weight, or indirectly as I tried to manage my obsession with my body and my weight, and my disordered eating. What I ate, what I wore, which activities I participated when, whether I went to social engagements, who I spent time with, you get the picture. So this moment was truly amazing.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d be happy to drop some pounds while on the cleanse. I currently weight just about 20 pounds more than I did just before I became pregnant with Grace almost 11 years ago, and I’d love to get back to that weight. But I’m not willing to compromise my health and wellness–physical, emotional, mental, interpersonal or spiritual–to get there. I have honestly learned to feel comfortable in my body and have developed incredible respect for it. It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s beautiful. Wow, I just said that!

On a side note, I have weighed myself most days of the cleanse. Not because I am concerned with losing, but because during days 2-4 I felt really bloated and was curious as to whether I had gained weight. I wasn’t freaked about it, just curious. I had not gained. And today I’m at the bottom of my normal 5-pound range. I suspect I will lose weight on the cleanse, since I’m just heading into our 3-day broth phase, but I’m not concerned about it one way or the other. I know my body is getting healthier and that is truly my goal.

Speaking of the Broth Phase, I just finished chopping tons of veggies and putting them in the crock pot for the Alkaline Broth. I made the Bieler Broth yesterday. I’m looking forward to giving my digestive system a rest without depriving my body of the nutrients it needs.

In other good news, all of my aches and fatigue have subsided and I’m back to feeling energetic…and happy. For a couple of days there, as my body worked to release and then eliminate toxins, I felt pretty sad. And, perhaps most importantly, I found a morning beverage I like (not as much as coffee, but at least I’m not cursing every sip). Hot water with lemon, honey and a splash of 100% pure cranberry juice. It’s actually pretty good.

But I still miss my coffee. Be well!

P.S. Thanks to my friend Rita at Yum Yoga! for the photo of Bieler Broth.

So here I sit on Day 4 of my Seasonal Wellness Cleanse. Instead of enjoying my usual morning coffee, I’ve got a cup of hot water, lemon juice and raw honey Note I didn’t say I’m enjoying the water, lemon juice and honey. I’ve just got it.

It’s actually not bad, but I can’t say I don’t miss my coffee.

In this first phase of CorePower Yoga‘s 15-Day Seasonal Wellness Cleanse, we eliminate all processed food, wheat, gluten, corn, chocolate, dairy, sugar, alcohol, soy and red meat. (I’ve chosen to eliminate all meat for the duration of the cleanse as well.) No special supplements or herbs, just eating a plant-based, very clean diet. The theory behind the cleanse is that eliminating most of the toxins our body deals with regularly allows the body to eliminate the toxins that have accumulated.

Nothing on that list concerned me much except the coffee (okay, and the alcohol, but not as much as the caffeine). I start most days with 1/2 pot of coffee. And, I LOVE my morning coffee. I look forward to my quiet time with my coffee. It seriously might be my favorite time of day. Hot water, lemon and honey is somehow just not the same.

I paid the price for my coffee love on Monday with a headache that almost took my breath away by bedtime. Despite not being a bath person (I think my last one was just after giving birth 10 years ago), I actually took a bath Monday evening (with epsom salts which is said to help remove toxins from the body) to try to help things along. And it did seem to help.

I have to admit I’m pretty amazed at the results of the cleanse so far, although I’m not feeling the positive benefits yet. Instead I’m experiencing aches, acne and fatigue. This is apparently due to my body releasing toxins and is to be expected in the first days of the cleanse. (I guess it’s kind of like when you clean a closet–you sometimes have to make a bigger mess before you can really start the cleaning.)

My legs and lower back have been especially sore, as well as my right ankle–which I broke last May. And I have been exhausted by 6 or 7 pm. This despite a lighter than usual exercise regimen–yoga, walking and short runs.

There is no doubt that something is going on in my body and I’m encouraged by that. According to the program leads, discomfort typically improves after the third or fourth day and then participants feel loads of energy. I am looking forward to that. Which will be just in time for the broth phase that starts on Day 6!

Be well!

This past Friday, Grace accompanied me to observe a local youth program at which I will soon be teaching yoga. The program serves low income youth, many of whom are new to the U.S. After our visit, I asked Grace what she thought of the visit.

“Those kids were wild. I think it’s going to be hard to teach them yoga,” she said.

She’s right. The kids were pretty wild–probably at least in part due to the excitement of unfamiliar faces (Grace and me). Still, despite their “wildness,” I’m willing to bet it won’t be hard to teach yoga to them.

Over the course of the past year, I’ve taught yoga to a pretty wide range of kids–from girls who are competitive figure skaters to teenagers with EBD to 4 year-olds with no previous exposure to yoga–and what I’ve found is that almost universally they have actively participated in and enjoyed yoga. Although their practice often looks different from adults’, they gain many of the same benefits.

Despite that, I often hear parents and/or teachers comment that their kids don’t have the attention span or concentration that yoga requires. I say, that’s exactly why they should do yoga. One practices yoga to develop attention span and concentration, not because s/he has already achieved those things. It’s just like when adults tell me they can’t do yoga because they are not flexible. I say, that’s why you should consider yoga.

Although we often tell our children to calm down or focus, we rarely teach them how to do that. Nor do we actively provide them with ways to cope with and reduce stress. Yoga provides kids (and adults) with tools to help them learn those skills. The blend of breath, movement and body awareness helps kids learn to look within for calm and peace rather than always being influenced by external stimuli.

Yoga obviously has physical benefits as well. It improves flexibility, strength and coordination, and can help children maintain a healthy weight. Research supports the many benefits yoga provides.

Studies have shown that yoga:

  • Improves symptoms of many illnesses and ailments including ADHD and Autism;
  • Increases muscle tone and control in children with Down Syndrome and Cerebral Palsy;
  • Increases academic achievement;
  • Improves self-esteem and decreases behavioral issues;
  • Reduces aggression; and
  • Increases attention span.

Another huge benefit of yoga is that it is accessible to children (and adults) at all levels of physical fitness. Thus it’s a great activity for entire families.

Sharing yoga with youth was one of my main motivations to teach yoga. I feel incredibly blessed to be able to share something that has made such a positive difference in my life with others–especially young people. I hope you and your family can join me for Family Yoga sometime soon.

Be well and namaste!

Family Yoga: 1st Sundays 12-1pm Moe Bodyworks, 3541 Lyndale Avenue S

Through a fun and challenging 60-minute class, families will be introduced to yoga through postures (asanas), breath (pranayama) and mental focus (dharana). Yoga’s unique accessibility and ability to challenge individuals at all levels of fitness builds strength, flexibility, concentration, balance and stamina. Individual and partner poses. Adults pay regular class price, kids are free!

na·ma·ste [nuhm-uh-stey] –noun a conventional Hindu expression on meeting or parting, used by the speaker usually while holding the palms together vertically in front of the bosom. Commonly interpreted as “the light in me honors the light in you.”

Ever had a day or even a single moment when you knew you were exactly where you were meant to be? I’m a firm believer that we are always where we are meant to be, but that doesn’t mean it always feels that way. I was recently blessed with that feeling for three days in a row!

Last week I had the pleasure of teaching yoga to some amazing middle and high school students at The Lab. The Lab is an Arts & Wellness-based special education program of St. Paul Public Schools serving students (grades 7-12) who have emotional behavioral disorders (EBD). Through mentorships and group experiences, students at The Lab engage in arts and wellness activities that help them develop social skills, healthy strategies to manage emotions, and discover new and creative ways to express themselves–all of which are integral to school success.

Since I started practicing, yoga has been an incredible gift to me in terms of finding calm within myself, learning to accept and appreciate my body, and developing strength and flexibility (physical and mental). There is no question that yoga has improved my life off the mat. My one and only regret is that I didn’t come to yoga sooner.

I am passionate about sharing the gift of yoga with others, especially young people. If yoga can help even one young person develop his/her inner strength, flexibility and focus–and thus, feel better about him/herself–my efforts will be a success. More than one, and I will have contributed to making the world a more peaceful place.

Big thinking, I know. But when people are at peace with themselves, big things happen.

Although many of the students at The Lab–okay, most of them and even some of the teachers–were skeptical at first, almost every single student (and teacher) gave yoga their best effort. And, by the end of our third class together, quite a few of them told me they would like to practice yoga regularly. Success!

I am so grateful to The Lab’s founder Mary Tinucci and to my pal Anne McInerney who works as a social worker with St. Paul Public Schools for the opportunity to work with students from The Lab. A yoga practitioner herself, Mary was open to my ideas about sharing yoga with students and graciously made time in her own schedule and the students’ schedules to make it happen. A dear friend of mine since high school, Anne has been incredibly kind and supportive of me through the years and was willing to connect me to Mary and The Lab. They both rock!

I am especially grateful to the students at The Lab for sharing their time with me, for being open to what I have to share, and for continuing to be open to new ideas and activities. Although I was there to share with them, they shared so much of themselves with me.

Be well. Namaste.

The Lab provides student services via several modalities, including Spoken Word Poetry, Technology, Visual Arts, Experiential Wellness, Leadership, Performing Arts, and Recording Arts, and is open to volunteers. For more information about The Lab and volunteer opportunities, visit http://www.thelabspps.com.