Day 3: Transition Juicing Diet

I woke up with a huge kink in my neck today so I didn’t do my yoga practice this morning. I am having a hard time moving without pain. Not sure why my neck hurts so badly, I figure I must have slept on it strangely. I will keep trying to slowly stretch and massage it and hopefully it clears up.

For the first week of the transition diet, I’ve just focusing on eating whole foods, drinking 1 juice a day, and slowly reducing caffeine consumption.

I use a Keurig to make coffee which has different size settings. I always used to drink the largest size possible, so each day I just choose a smaller and smaller size. This has allowed me to slowly cut my caffeine intake. I’ve also stopped drinking my afternoon green tea. Caffeine is the one thing I have a hard time going completely cold turkey on. I think this is the way to do it.

I’ve been drinking a green juice at night with my dinner. My green juice is usually some variation of the popular “Mean Green” made with whatever greens I have on hand – kale, spinach, collard, chard, etc. It is my goal to drink a lot more green juices this time around. They are much higher in protein and calcium and lower in sugars than mainly fruit juices. I’m finding that I feel very full after drinking my green juice and have a hard time finishing my dinner.

I’m still having a lot of cravings for processed and unhealthy foods. I am still eating a bit of bread and processed foods, but overall am working to slowly reduce these things. I find sometimes the transition diets are harder than the more extreme ones because there aren’t as many guidelines.

Yesterday I went to Costco to pick up some produce. I’ve never bought bulk produce from there before because I’ve never eaten it in such large amounts. I did some comparison shopping to my regular grocery store. I did find that Costco’s price were slightly cheaper and I was able to buy larger packages which is more convenient. I will post some price comparisons at a later date for those that are interested.

I find that these small changes are already making me feel a lot better. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Practice Update: Yoga, Diet, & Juicing

This week I was still trying to get out of the funk that I was in last week. In terms of yoga practice, I’m still working on Surya Namaskara. I can feel myself getting slightly stronger with Chaturaungas, but I still practice them from my knees. The thought of doing them in a plank position seems light years away!

I find that I get very tired during Sun Salutations. I think I just have to keep building up my endurance. It doesn’t seem like it, but I do think that they require a bit of cardio work as well.

Ashtanga Confession: Sometimes I have to switch out Downward Facing Dog for Child’s Pose just because I’m tired and my arms hurt.

In a not related to yoga note (but kind of related), I think I’m going to do a bit of a clean up with my diet.  I have been a vegetarian for 13 years. I was the type of person that never really liked meat, so this wasn’t much of a transition for me. However, I have certainly gone through long periods in my life of not being a healthy vegetarian. During my teenage and early twenties I definitely relied a lot on cheese pizza, grilled cheese sandwiches, and French fries! As I transition to my later twenties, I think in general I do eat a lot better than I used to – but I’m certainly not perfect. Currently I’ve been in a bit of phase of unhealthy eating habits.

Every winter for the past 5-7 years I’ve done some sort of “cleanse” diet. I find that during winter (particularly long Canadian winters) it is so cold and drab and grey out that I get feeling kind of down. Usually for me this translates to a lot of comfort eating. I’m not convinced that these types of diets rid your body of long built up toxins or these other reported benefits. However, I do see them as a useful tool to reset some bad habits and examine relationships with food and myself. This is very yogic in a way, isn’t it?

Last winter I did two juice cleanses – one was 5 days and another at 14 days. I know that there is a lot of controversy about juicing diets*, but I did find them very beneficial and I think I will do one again this time. I don’t have a particular time period in mind, but I know that I’m looking at an extended one – at least 14 days. The one that I’m doing (based on Joe Cross’s Reboot), you do a week of cutting out processed foods and then do a transition week. So really, you have two weeks to acclimate your body before you start juicing. I think that this is the only way to do it. Going cold turkey is too difficult and seems dangerous.

I started the first transition week yesterday.  The focus for this week is cutting out processed foods, wheat, caffeine, and dairy. It is also recommended to work in one juice a day during this phase. Last night I made a green juice. I actually love green juices and haven’t had one in a while, so I really enjoyed it. So far, so good!

I’m not quite sure how this will affect my yoga practice. From experience I know that I’ll be tired in the first couple of days, but it will be interesting to see how things go after that. I debated about posting this because it’s not directly related to Ashtanga. However, this blog is not only about my yoga journey, but my journey towards health as well. I do see the two as being interrelated.  I will try to post everyday on my progress for anyone that’s interested.

*Side note/disclaimer: I think that juice cleanses CAN be done safely if you are properly informed and knowledgeable going into it. I have the unique benefit of having a B.Sc degree in Nutrition and Dietetics, so I am going into this with a thorough understanding of physiology and what my body needs. If you are interested in doing a juice cleanse, PLEASE do your research and be safe about it. Not everything you read on the internet is true, try to find reputable sources and look at them with a critical mind. If you’re interested, please feel free to email me at ashtangabeginner@gmail.com and I can help direct you to the information that you need.

I also do not have any illnesses and am not on any medications. If you have any health conditions, I would seriously recommend that you consult a health professional before undertaking any major dietary change.  

Practice Update: Not Feeling It

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This week I’ve been still been practicing 5 Surya Namskakra A’s and 1-2 B’s. My arms were so sore this week I only ended up practicing twice. The Chaturunga’s are killing me! I was reading this week that the purpose of the Sun Salutations are to build up enough strength and endurance to complete the rest of the series. However, sometimes it feels like I will never progress past them.

This morning was a bit of a dud of a practice. I know technically that there is no such thing, but I was feeling so unmotivated and lazy. I don’t know if it’s just the wintery February weather getting to me or what. This laziness has spilled over into many other areas of my life – the dishes are piling up, I’m ordering take-out, my laundry pile is overflowing. I don’t want to do anything but lay on the couch. I feel grouchy and tired.

I’m trying to combat my laziness by focusing on the positives of my practice. Even though I didn’t too much this morning, I still felt more centered and calm. The stiffness in my back was gone. The reason why my arms are sore is that I’m getting stronger. I just have to keep reminding myself of these things.

Here’s hoping that the next week is a more positive one!

 

 

Ashtanga Yoga & Journaling

When you are starting out with any sort of journey, journaling can be a very useful tool for keeping yourself accountable and tracking your progress. There are hundreds of studies that show the numerous benefits of journaling (this website lists 100 benefits!).

I highly recommend that anyone starting out in Ashtanga start documenting their progress in some way- whether it be pictures, video, journaling, or blogging. Progress can seem to take so long and it can be easy to get discouraged. Being able to look back and see how far you’ve come can be a major motivator to keep practicing.

For me, I am a lazy daily journaler. I can usually keep it up for a week or so, but then I get bored with it. I do find it to be time consuming. A great little tool I’ve found is this little journal:

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It’s called the One Line a Day Five Year Journal. I think they are available at quite a few bookstores. I got mine at Chapters (Canada), but I’ve also seen them on Amazon. Each day has a page and there a few lines for each year. When completed, you can see what you did each day for the past five years. Every day after my practice, I just jot a few quick notes in it. It takes less than 5 minutes. Potential things to include are:

  • Where you are in your practice
  • How you felt- Are you tired? Happy? Had a hard time getting out of bed?
  • Any aches & pains
  • Poses you’re struggling with
  • Any breakthroughs
  • Major life events

I’m finding that partnering this daily journaling with blogging more in-depth a couple times a week is working for me at the moment. Even after a few weeks, you can look back and start to see patterns and small breakthroughs. I can’t even imagine looking back after five years of practice!  If you are a lazy journaler like me, I would highly recommend this tool*. You don’t even have to buy this particular journal. You could very easily just buy a regular notebook and dedicate each page/half page to a day.

*Side note: This would also make a great daily gratitude journal!

When to Take a Day Off

In the Ashtanga yoga tradition, there is a strong emphasis on six day a week practice. Kino MacGregor explains the reasoning behind this:

In the Ashtanga Yoga method it is recommended that you practice six days a week. Traditionally the six day a week practice was meant to be done in what is known as “Mysore Style”. In this method of practice you follow your own breath and movement not the guidance of a teacher leading a class through the same movements. Named “Mysore Style” after the city called Mysore in southern India where the Guru of Ashtanga Yoga, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, lived and taught for his entire life, this method of practice is the safest and best way for students to practice. Memorizing the postures allows students to focus internally, which is the real goal of yoga. When you do not know what you will be doing next your attention will always be on your teacher rather than within yourself. Once you memorize the sequence of postures that your teacher determines is right for you the entire practice transfers deeper into the subconscious level.

When you are starting out, it can be a difficult balance to know how often to practice as it can be very hard for many people to start out at six days. In one way you want to push yourself a little bit, but you also don’t want to injure yourself. In her article,  Kino recommends starting out 3 days a week and slowly building up from there.

For me, I don’t have a formal schedule of how many days a week I practice. When I wake up, I ask myself  – can I practice today? This morning I woke up with significant muscle pain in my shoulders and upper arms. I know that with this soreness I wouldn’t be able to stick to proper form in Chaturunga, so I chose not to practice. A little soreness is okay and very natural, but any sort of significant pain will be a hindrance to your practice. Poor form will lead to further injuries.

In the beginning it can be exciting to start an Ashtanga practice and hard to take a day off.  On the days that you don’t practice, still stay committed. Wake up early. Do a few poses that avoid your sore areas (or just do Savasana). Meditate. Read a book or articles on yoga, spirituality, or mindful living. Remind yourself that you will get stronger and you will progress. All of these things are still furthering your yoga practice without hurting your body.

 

Practice Update: Know Your Limits

I will post an update on my practice once a week on Sundays. The purpose of these posts is to share my  personal journey and to inspire other beginners in their practice.

This morning I did 5 rounds of Surya Namaskara A and 3 rounds of Surya Namaskara B. My transitions are about as far from graceful that you could get. I had to sub Child’s Pose for Downward Facing Dog a few times. Towards the end I struggled to maintain my breath. I collapsed into Savasana.

It’s easy to get discouraged when  things seem so unattainable. With Pinterest, Instagram, and Youtube,  we are flooded with images of yogis doing complex poses in exotic locations. In those moments these things feel so far away from me, but I have to remind myself of how far I have come. Everyone (even these seemingly superhuman beings) started somewhere and were beginners once.

I feel pride that I listened to my body and stopped when I reached my limit. Could I finish Surya Namaskara B and do the first bit of primary series? Probably, but who am I trying to impress?  If I did it would be in a half-assed manner and I would struggle to maintain my form, breath, and focus. Listen to your body and know your limits. The beauty of ashtanga is that there’s always tomorrow!

Respect Your Yoga Practice Space

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For the home practitioner, the yoga practice area becomes a deeply personal space. Especially for someone who practices ashtanga, as we spend a lot of time there. If you ever have the honour of being in someone’s practice space (as well as many yoga studios), there is a peaceful feeling present that can only come from many hours of spiritual and physical practice. You can’t just throw a couple of Buddha statues in there and call it a day – this is something that grows over time.

Having a beautiful space is often half the battle when trying to  maintain a consistent home practice. If a space is welcoming and reflects who you are, you’ll want to spend time there.

When we purchased our house almost two years ago, we knew we were buying a fixer upper. The basement was our first area of focus. In the listing is was called “finished”, but this was a huge exaggeration. If I had to describe it in one word, I would say “scary”. It was dark, neglected, musty, and very dirty.

However, we could see the potential. We ripped everything out down to concrete walls and have building it up ever since. When we were working on the floor plan, I knew that I had to include a space for me to do yoga. In the end, this room ended up being a home office/yoga/exercise room.

Our basement project is now in its last stages and my room is about 90% complete. However, at this current moment the room has become a stockpile for tools, building materials, and junk. I have about just enough room to put down my mat. Not very zen. So often it’s our own personal spaces that suffer and lay stagnant.

My first plan of action is to get all of the junk out and then to beautify.  I have this vision of  a clean, spacious, and minimalist space to practice yoga. I will update on the progress.

The main takeaway? Honour your space – whether it’s a tiny corner of your living room or a completely dedicated yoga room. Clean out the clutter. Keep it clean. Decorate with only your most treasured items. Let others know this space is important to you and fight for it when they may try to impose on it. If you respect  your practice space, you respect yourself.