Thursday, July 16, 2015

Mid-Summer Cleanse

Yesterday I wrote about and about how it's working for me at this point in my life. In addition to being a useful resource when I'm tired or feeling uncreative, it's also mercifully convenient. I have a yoga room (well, technically it's a sewga room) with all the bells and whistles so it's very easy to grab my laptop, shut the door and practice. I find it difficult to conform to studio class times because they aren't necessarily aligned with my schedule and I hate waiting around for a late class. I'm pretty-well couch-bound by 7:30 pm and I have to eat something before (light) and immediately after I practice, especially if it's moving into the dinner hour. Futhermore, and I can only speak for downtown studios in TO, but I'm fairly horrified by how they consistently overfill classes - with latecomers, no less. I do not like crowds and I particularly hate being shoved into an over-crowded corner because I am respectful enough to arrive at a class before it starts. Finally, as mentioned yesterday, I'm enjoying shorter, frequent practices lately. 90 minutes of hardcore vinyasa, starting at 7 pm, is just not doing it for me.

No doubt there are detractors to online yoga platforms: If you don't know what you're doing, you're not really going to learn the way you would in a class environment. There's not much teaching going on - it's more about class leading. This increases the opportunity for injury. MyYoga, specifically, under-represents certain methodologies (Iyengar), and over-represents others (Ashtanga). The teachers are not exactly relatable. They're generally buff and excessively photogenic - which may inspire or irritate. There's no class-energy to benefit from. It's an isolated medium.

I've been asked how I've continued to practice yoga regularly lo these many years. The answer is that I've adapted it to the life I'm living and I prioritize the activity. Mr. Iyengar used to say that you don't live to do yoga, you do yoga to live. Life comes first and yoga facilitates it. But that doesn't mean that I haven't had to draw some deep lines in the sand. When my kid was young, I'd pick her up from daycare, we'd walk home - I'd change and make her something to eat (or my husband would) and then I'd go straight to my mat. I couldn't wait till 9 pm (at which point I was effectively comatose from fatigue). I'm sure that one of M's enduring memories will be of me saying: Could you turn down that sound?? Mummy's practicing. (She's always listening to something on the computer / radio / TV.) I cannot allow myself to settle in before I do yoga or it doesn't happen. Sure, I've been known to bring my props to the living room, at 9:30 pm, while my husband watches TV - especially if I'm in a pain loop. But I don't really consider that yoga. (Mind you - it's better than nothing and it reinforces my commitment to my practice, even when things conspire to keep me out of the yoga room proper. BTW, there is nothing in my house that I haven't used as a prop :-))

I've also gone through phases when, frankly, yoga has taken a back seat. 25 years is a long time. I've rarely gone more than 2 weeks without it, but there have been times (when my kid was an infant, when I became apathetic in my early 30s) where I'd go through a couple of months without yoga (and even when I did practice, my head wasn't in it). Whatcha gonna do?

Intriguingly, at the moment, MyYoga is conspiring to facilitate a summer goal - and just by dumb luck. See, it semi-regularly hosts these things called "challenges" which are like mini-programs you can sign up for to learn, for example, how to develop elements of your practice. A new one started 3 days ago (though I believe anyone who's a member can start doing it at any time), called "Conscious Cleanse". Two of the MyYoga teachers have written a book by the same name and this challenge is pure cross-promotion. The format and hosts are a definitely plastic but there are very good resource materials and it's organized to bring one gradually into cleanse-mode over 2 weeks. There's nothing abrupt about it and one eats daily. This isn't a juice fast.

Basically, the program indicates that one does a pre-determined, cleanse-oriented yoga class daily, drinks a 32 oz green smoothie (ingredients and recipes suggested) and removes all the processed foods, gluten and refined sugar from the diet. One is also advised to drink water at the number of ounces equivalent to at least half of one's body-weight, daily. There's a heavy emphasis on overcoming functional dehydration which, as I like to harp, has really negative long-term implications.

Natch, I am modifying the rules to suit myself because there's no way I'm living without eggs, meat, dairy and caffeine (in the form of 2 shots of espresso per day). I also reserve the right to drink a glass of wine if I feel like it - but I haven't much felt like it cuz I'm drinking so much freakin' water (and smoothies) that I have no more space left for booze. Plus I eat dark chocolate as often as I like because really, if you don't, you're doing it wrong.

For me this is more of a state of mind than a hard reboot. And, because the challenge is heavily yoga-oriented, of course it's big on "intention setting". Gist is that participants are urged to determine their conscious or unconscious motivations before they undertake the cleanse. I can do that.

For what it's worth, my intention is two-fold: Improvement of my health to continue to reduce pain (my omnipresent goal, which is going pretty well, btw) and using optimal health as a means by which I can reframe my current body-image. I will not continue to reinforce body-criticism simply because I don't look as I did 2 years ago. That's such a waste of time and energy - not to mention that I have a very palatable figure, even if it isn't the one of my youth. One of my biggest struggles for the past year has been with bloating (nature's perfect way to make you feel fat!), partly because my digestive system is in a really strange place, partly because of overindulgence in sugar and salt and partly because of stress (predominantly of the work variety but life's thrown some curveballs).

The best way to feel good about how I look is to know that it's the product of my healthiest, sustainable lifestyle. This cleanse lasts only 2 weeks but that's long enough to modify some deleterious habits. Most certainly, part of my best lifestyle is indulging my well-developed hedonism so I won't be fucking with that. But it's once again time to refine things (ain't it always?), and I'm hopeful that this challenge will motivate moderate change.

Today's questions: What are your thoughts on fitness challenges or cleanses? Have you done an online challenge such as this or something similar? What were your intentions in taking it on? Let's talk!

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