Thursday, March 27, 2014

NO CARBS, NO SUGAR and feeling great!

I've been on a carb-free, sugar-free diet for over a month now, mostly as a way to get rid of the candida that seemed to have flared up in my gut.  I've had bouts with it ever since my first trip to India, and the holidays with all the sweet squashes, desserts and potatoes always seems cause a flare up.  It's been years since I've done this intense of a candida diet, but I have to say, I'm really enjoying it!   I feel super healthy and I'm sleeping better too!

What I'm eating is mostly vegetables, eggs, nuts and poultry, with a little dairy and chocolate.  I've just added cultured cottage cheese which is a welcome treat and full of good probiotics for my gut.  Breakfast is usually some cottage cheese with sprouted nuts and avocado.  Lunch is usually miso soup with eggs and vegetables, or a salad with chicken, followed by a few pieces of super dark chocolate which is much lower in sugar (I eat the kind that's sweetened only with stevia or beet sugar).  Dinner is usually chicken and steamed or stir-fry veggies, or chicken soup.  I stay away from potatoes as they're high in sugar, and I minimize beets for the same reason.

I immediately noticed that I lost some weight.  I didn't need to lose any, but I had been feeling bloated and so this calmed way down.  I tend to get hungry more often on this diet, so I keep nuts around for snacks, and I've just learned that sprouting all nuts and seeds except pecans and walnuts is recommended.  I like to peel the almond skin off as it's pretty hard to digest.  Soaked almonds are a nice hearty snack.  I'm now staying away from cashews as well as they're also pretty tough on the gut.

I like how clean this diet feels, even with the dairy and meat.  I've heard many people talk about the Paleo diet and how grains aren't ideal for our health, so this is pretty much the same thing.  Sometimes I miss dessert but I find a spoonful of almond butter can do the trick.  I doubt I'll eat this extreme way forever, but I do like the idea of cutting out most grains.  Once the candid is gone, I'd like to integrate beans and lentils again so I'm not eating so much meat.

My naturopath recently told me that for people who wake up around 2 - 3 from drinking alcohol (and I did), it means they're more sensitive to sugar and so cutting out sugars and carbs can be a great way to improve sleep.  It has to do with your stress hormones which cause you to crave more sugars, so if you satisfy those cravings, you are aggravating your system and will likely have sleeping troubles from it.  I haven't fully researched this, but it makes sense and I encourage you to check it out if you have the type of insomnia where you wake up in the night.

This diet seems like a good prep for the Spring Cleanse I'll be leading in April.   I'm already half-way there so I imagine it will be a relatively easy transition.

I hope you feel inspired to consider at least reducing your sugar and carbohydrate intake.  Let me know what happens! 

To your health!  and Namaste,

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Fascial Work, Somatics, Yoga and Ease

I'm in my 20th year of teaching and believe me, I've had my ups and downs,  It's really important to me that I'm enthusiastic about what I'm doing, so I'm always mixing it up, following my passions and bringing them to class.  There have been times, though, when I considered quitting;  when I couldn't muster up the enthusiasm.  But now is certainly not one of those times!   I've found a renewed intrigue in combining fascial work and Somatics with my yoga sequences.  I focus on one main part of the body for the class (and the week).   So even though we may be doing a wide range of postures, I'll choose the poses that most address that area or even modify the pose to address it more.   First we open it gently with fascial work and Somatics, and then we go deeper into it through the postures.  The prep work helps the muscles release so they respond better to the stretching.  (And of course, our style of stretching in Anusara Yoga is safer because it's active instead of passive).

I'm loving the heightened awareness that I'm bringing to one main area of the body;  how it feels, how it breathes, how it responds to attention and deeper opening.  I think the students are learning a lot about their bodies this way, even those who've been coming for several years.   Each class is a whole new exploration, with different poses for the different levels, even when it's the same level class a few days later.   It seems like we're working deeper and smarter and the students are really enjoying it. 

It's funny because even though I've focused on one body area quite a bit in my classes before, and have integrated Somatics and creative sequencing lots as well,  this experience seems really different to me.   And it's not just the addition of fascial work.  I think it's my own familiarity with the body and teaching, as well as a deeper sense of ease within myself.  I find that I hardly prepare the details of the class anymore.  I consider the level I'm teaching and the students who show up and I can effortlessly follow a trajectory for where I want to head in each class:  the poses just show themselves to me with more play than ever before.

I look forward to sharing more about this new sense of ease I'm experiencing and how it's showing up in my life in very cool ways.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Self Esteem and Commitment

I think having a dedicated spiritual practice can generate self-esteem.
Here's how:
Self-esteem is a feeling of confidence in oneself.  And to me, it's related to commitment.  The more I make commitments to myself and then follow through on them, the more I generate a feeling of trust in myself.  It's this trust, generated over repeated experiences of following through on my commitments, that builds a sense of confidence, and therefore, bolsters my self-esteem. 
I'm thinking of my meditation practice here:  I have a commitment to myself to meditate every day for at least 30 minutes.  The more I follow through with this, the better I feel about myself.  And it's not just about what happens on the cushion and after, which is of course why I choose to meditate, but it's the actual act of following through; making it to the cushion day after day.  When I do, I feel a sense of ease and knowing in my body.  There is something that softens in me, like I've just received a hug.  I know I'm "for" myself.   When I don't, I feel a niggling in my body, like a kind of tension that reminds me of somebody poking at my side.  It's like a subtle angst saying, "I have not honored myself today."  (And relating to spiritual practice, this is in addition to the little voice that says, "I have not connected to my Self today.")

Our commitments may be about getting to the gym or yoga class, studying, writing, practicing an instrument, or eating healthy food, and I think it's all the same:  any regular actions that fulfill our personal commitments are going to foster trust in ourselves and increase our self-esteem.

In my February newsletter, I wrote about how taking consistent action in spiritual practice over a long period of time is called abhyasa in Yoga.  It's related to discipline and the idea that to see results from our spiritual practices, we must practice consistently over the long-term.  So I'm appreciating how not only can we experience spiritual results from consistent spiritual practice, which would probably be the goal for most who practice, but we can also generate self-esteem, simply by showing up for ourselves again and again.  So this is a great side-benefit of abhyasa.

More on how yoga and self-esteem are related in my upcoming book! 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Come Home to Yourself

This is my new tagline for Inner Freedom Yoga.  It feels so aligned with what I'm up to in my teaching.  To me, this is ultimately what yoga practices are about.  They're about resting into who we truly are, the heart or essence of our being.  And when I come home to me, I feel present, calm and peaceful.  I feel at ease and connected to myself.  And these are exactly the qualities I'd like to support people in through their practice at IFY and as a coach. 

Tantrik yoga teachings say that we are already perfect and whole, and yet we don't tend to experience ourselves in this way.  We tend to feel inadequate and incomplete.  The teachings say that we're born with this fundamental feeling of incompleteness, a kind of ignorance called Anava Mala, and that shaktipata (a potentially subtle or intense revelation and the beginning of opening to a greater sense of who we are) is required for uprooting it.  Then for most of us, we need daily practices to support this new opening, to help us deepen into knowing and experiencing ourselves as whole in every moment. 

For me, my asana and my meditation practices help me to come home to myself and touch into this sense of wholeness at my core.  And I practice regularly because I consistently forget the feeling of being home in myself.  So I practice to remember on a daily basis with the idea that over time, there will be a thread that connects these experiences of resting in my wholeness and it will carry off the mat and into my relationships and interactions with the world.  I can already see this happening in small ways. 

So here's a simple meditation practice that works for me:

I sit on my cushion and I reflect on this concept:   I am Divine, I am whole.  (Shivo'ham would be a great mantra for this as it means, I am ShivaShiva is a name Tantra uses for Supreme Consciousness, the perfect Source of all.  If you're using a mantra, repeat it super quietly to yourself about every few seconds, or with your breath, so it's like a whisper in the back of your mind).  Then I drop into my heart or solar plexus area and I feel my body breathing and I sense that behind the breathing, behind my thoughts and all the busyness of my life, there is a place where I am simply quiet and present.  There is a stillness in me and I rest in that stillness with the mantra.  When I notice my mind wanders or hooks onto a thought, which is often, I come back home to my mantra and bodily experience and this sense of resting in presence, being home in myself.

I'll share more about these profound philosophical teachings and more Coming Home practices in my upcoming book on yoga and self esteem, as well as in this blog.  Stay tuned!