Category Archives: Fitness

So My Cleanse is Over… Now What??

Yesterday marked the last day of my month-long cleanse. Here is a re-cap of my experience…

Week 1 : Eliminated refined sugar and alcohol. Thoughts: Not going to happy hour on a Friday was a change of pace, which was also a good reflection of how our social lives impact our eating habits. Do the places I frequent and the people I frequent them with coincide with the healthy lifestyle I am trying to create?

Week 2: Ended up eliminating caffeine early (wasn’t supposed to happen until week 3). Thoughts: Having the effects of no sugar catching up at the same time as I released caffeine (and, oh ya, started my flow) was not pretty. A two day headache and three days of lethargy indicated that the magic of cleansing was working. Although I was drinking only one cup of coffee a day, I recognize how much I was using that as a vice- a quick fix to ease the 5:30am wake-up-call. But it wasn’t until Friday when I came back from the dead that I realized I didn’t need it.

Week 3: Eliminated all dairy and meats. Thoughts: Overall, this week rocked! My energy levels boosted tremendously and I felt alert teaching my 8am classes. Even my students commented on my energy. I thought that letting go of dairy would be really hard, but it wasn’t actually that terrible. I missed my Lebanese yogurt, only because it goes so well with kitchari! I was curious if eliminating dairy would improve the little bit of sinus congestion I have in the mornings, and it has. Another surprise was how much I didn’t miss meat. I took some time to learn more about meat and it’s effect on our bodies. My conclusion was that unless you have access to ethically raised, high quality organic meats, it’s best avoided. I did eat a small amount of salmon. If you’re curious about what fish to choose to eat, check out Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch.

Week 4: Eliminated any hard to digest foods and focused on small, simple meals. Thoughts: When week 4 hit, my “scarcity reflex” jumped like it did in the beginning of the cleanse. I’ve learned that when I perceive that I won’t have enough food to satisfy my appetite my tendency is to overeat, like I’m trying to compensate for the difference. I call it my scarcity reflex. I’m not even sure where it comes from. I grew up with plenty of food on the table- I even did the grocery shopping for my entire family when I was 12 so I mostly go to eat whatever I wanted (and I wonder where I got my bad habits from!). Besides knowing that I can be one cranky beast when I’m really hungry, I’m still not sure why I perceive and react to scarcity the way I do. I’ll be pondering this one for a while…

So now the big question is, “Now what?”

Although I did have a few visions of cheeseburgers today (which is pretty normal for me) I don’t feel like I need to go “binging” on all the things I’ve taken out of my diet. What is different from my cleanse experience last year is that I can feel my body craving a lot of the good foods I have been feeding it. I feel healthy, happy and overall have nice energy levels. My sleep has been good and it’s easier for me to wake in the morning. So I’m thinking to myself, “Do I really want to change?”

The short answer is: yes and no.

The long answer is that I know how good I can feel when I pay very close attention to what I’m eating. I also know that I love going out to eat and enjoy naughty treats like chocolate and cake. My plan is to slowly introduce some of these foods (sugar, alcohol, dairy, etc.) back into my diet in small proportions so I can see how my body reacts to them. I’m determined to stay away from coffee and other sources of caffeine. I’ve also realized that I plan a lot of social events around eating (out) and drinking. I know I’ll have to moderate that and be creative, like cooking for friends and finding other things to do than go to the bar.

Oh, and if you’re wondering… I broke my cleanse with a (half) sandwich: cheddar cheese, basil pesto and tomato on grilled wheat bread.

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Hump Days are Gone, Week 4 is ON!

Today begins the last week of my month-long cleanse. Here’s the synopsis so far…
Week 1: no biggie
Week 2: shoot me
Week 3: I’m bouncing off the walls with energy
Week 4: dunt, dunt duhhhh (we’ll see)

I was so elated to get out of my hump days of week 2 that by the time week 3 came around I didn’t even care that I was letting go of dairy. My energy levels have increased exponentially. I’ve been sleeping well and waking easily. Even my college students have remarked about how wound up I am in my 8am class. I practiced yoga every day this week and a few people have said that I look brighter, which is actually really great validation because I honestly feel brighter. My body feels strong and my skin is more clear than it has ever been.

Week 4 begins the week of healing. This week I’m eating very simple and easily digested foods. Oats, rice, lentils and an assortment of soups will be a few of my staples. There are two ideas about this…

First, if our bodies use less energy for digestion, they can focus their energies where we need them the most. This provides the body with more energy to heal rather than focusing on chomping our food. I can already say that if I wasn’t doing this cleanse right now I would surely be sick. The weather has been up and down- sandals one day, snow boots the next. Everyone around me is sick and hacking. I’ve had this faint cough at night just before I go to bed that I can feel my body overpowering. It’s amazing to feel an impending sickness and know that when I’m taking care of myself I can choose to stay healthy instead.

Second, simplifying the diet after eliminating food “triggers” like refined sugar, alcohol, caffeine and dairy (to name a few) sort of “resets” the digestive system. The idea is that once the body is “reset,” you can reintroduce foods into the diet and see how your body reacts. I’ve already begun to notice subtle reactions to foods. This week I realized that the whole grain bread and pita I was eating didn’t really make me feel too good. Although I decided not to experiment too much with gluten on this cleanse, I remember someone once describing how gluten “gums up” the digestive system. That’s exactly how I felt, gummed up. One night my partner and I shared rice noodles in broth and both woke up with sticky mouths and bad breath. Ick! These little nuggets of body knowledge are the real reason why I choose to “cleanse.” It gives me information about myself and about my body that no book or doctor could ever tell me.

I’ve also noticed my mental and emotional states around food are slowly improving. I’m learning to keep my body relaxed even when I’m hungry and fight the desire to just put anything in my mouth to satiate myself like I used to do. I find myself having a little more willingness to wait for food if I know that what I will eventually eat is wholesome and what my body needs. This is by far the slowest piece of the learning curve for me. I’m working on it…

 

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Here We Go. Again. Cleanse.

A year to the day, my partner and I decided to give up refined sugar for a month. I had no idea that such a seemingly small goal would completely alter the way I eat and view food forever. Here we are, a year later, returning to that same goal to once again bring some heightened awareness into our diets. This time, however, our cleanse will be a modified Ayurvedic Cleanse, inspired by Deepak Chopra’s Perfect Health.

Over the period of a month, we will be eliminating refined sugar and alcohol (week 1), red meat (week 2), caffeine, dairy, all meat (week 3) and all sugars (week 4) to begin my Candida cleanse. Each time a food is eliminated, a more nutritional food or healthy practice gets put in its place (take out the bad, put in the good). In my experience, the first and the last week are the hardest. The first, because energy levels are low as your body is looking for that sugar rush it’s used to getting. The last, because the diet is so simple (and, ok, a bit boring really) that it becomes incredibly hard not to satiate the appetite with all the amazing foods we have available to us. And that desire to satiate myself with foods of all kind is EXACTLY why I’m doing this cleanse again.

I’ve had an enormous appetite since I was young- a true Pitta by nature. I once had eight jumbo tacos as a teenager and didn’t even bat an eye. After surfing for an afternoon, it wasn’t uncommon for my friend and I to share a gallon of Rocky Road ice cream before having dinner. During snack break in high school, my diet consisted of three chocolate chip cookies followed by a bag of cool ranch doritos to compliment my cup-o-noodles and lemon-lime Gatorade. And I wonder why I had acne? My skin was begging me to stop!

Gaining knowledge about the food/body/mind experience is an amazing process, but it’s not the primary goal of this cleanse. This time I’m focusing on my mental and emotional connection to food. One pattern I recognized during the last cleanse was my tendency to be completely unhappy and unsatisfied when I had wholesome, albeit boring, foods in front of me. At times I was so “over” eating rice and beans (the staples of week 4) that I would even not eat them. With a little perspective on the situation, I realized how privileged I am to have a plethora of delicious, organic foods at my fingertips. Being able to cleanse and negotiate what I can and cannot eat is in itself a privilege. On any given night I can eat Thai, Italian, Indian or whatever my taste buds desire. But when I strip my diet down the bare essentials, I never feel satisfied…

I force myself to think about how many people on this globe would bend over backwards for a small, healthy meal. People who dream of rice and beans but stare at empty plates at night. And yet I shun it, because I can. I guess I’m just not OK with that. So this time around, I want to do things a little differently. I’ve set intentions to begin a meditation practice. My goal is to meditate every day in the fourth week. I’ll be focusing on slowing down around eating practices (instead of my normal inhaling tendencies) and gratitude.

Do me a favor – remind me about gratitude in about two weeks?

P.S. I was thinking about my cleanse while driving on Flatbush Ave. and looked up and saw this sign. I laughed and thought to myself, “I know.”

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YogaWorks

I’ve been thinking about a lot of things in ex-girlfriend analogies lately. This is one of them…

Since moving to New York I have been exploring new yoga studios because moving also meant breaking up with my girlfriend called Vital Yoga in Denver. I was spoiled by this girlfriend. She was fun, top-quality, reliable, just the right medicine for whatever my ailment was. Oh well. We’re over.

I decided to check out YogaWorks (for everybody). They have five studios in Manhattan and a sweet $1 for week of yoga deal. The first studio I went to was their Soho location (pictured above). The place is more like a spa than a yoga studio- three big yoga rooms, a huge locker room with slick mirrors, digital lockers, big showers and fresh towels. I have to say that showers are a big plus for me since it’s a long, sticky ride home that I don’t necessarily want to do covered in yoga sweat.

My first class in the Soho studio wasn’t that impressive. I got a few good instructions on pelvic adjustment but the teacher was a bit snooty. She even bossed her “assistant” around and told her who to adjust and how. Seemed strange that she wouldn’t just do it herself. I did, however, get a nice little tour of the place from a cute boy at the front desk who also walked me through the schedule to recommend good classes (which I obviously needed).

The next studio I visited was their Union Square location. This space was a lot more down-to-earth than the Soho location- two restrooms (and long lines waiting to get in) and a few curtain rod dressing rooms. Apparently there is a shower in the back of one of the restrooms but they don’t really want people using it unless there is no line. There were two studios- both with big windows and one with cool Union Square views. How I got the SAME teacher at this location, I have no idea. Maybe the universe was trying to teach me a lesson. I enjoyed this class better than the first, but was still determined to find someone better.

Since it was now the last day of my $1 week trial I decided to do some research on the teachers before just popping into a class. I found a woman named Elisabeth Neuse. Ok, anyone who does a nine-month, 1,100 hour training has my respect. I decided she was worth my last go at it.

Her class was full but she moved graciously around all of us, offering clear adjustments and excellent cues to keep us breathing as we moved. She played some music, which I love. I was in the back in the classroom so I could soak in the whole room and at one point this sweet, electronic-esque song came on a bit louder than the rest. Her soft voice faded a little from behind the music and I found my groove. I felt a little choked up, like maybe I had found a new girlfriend, or at least someone I’d be willing to date.

Later we returned from savasana and sat quietly with our palms touching in front of our hearts. The room was silent, peaceful. Then from outside came the sounds of loud, long New York style honks. I let out a little giggle just reveling in the irony of it all. Here we were all zen, sending good vibrations out to whoever and getting quite the response in return.

When I left class I made sure to say thank you to my teacher. She was talking with another student but I said a quick thank you. She turned her head so she could catch my eyes and gave a soft “you’re welcome.” After I walked out I realized that she had these bright, beautiful eyes that I had not noticed until then. Yogi eyes I call them. They are those sweet, inspiring eyes that come from someone who has a beautiful soul. When I came across her website later I saw them again.

She’s one I’ll go back to…

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Yoga To The People: All Bodies Rise

Yesterday, Stacey and I got the hell out of Long Island and headed to the East Village to get our first dose of New York City Yoga- Yoga to the People. When we got to the subway just outside of Penn Station a woman came up to us and asked where we were going. I guess yoga mats get you a little extra attention in NYC. Once we were on the subway, however, other yoga mats started to appear. First one, then two, then three. Then we’re all getting off at the same stop. Since this was our first time at the this yoga studio, we just started following the mats. As we turned on to St. Marks street the yoga mats were flowing down the sidewalk- a class had probably just let out. I turned to Stacey and said, “I’m home.” We both smiled and laughed.

The entrance to the yoga studio was right next to a restaurant facade. The street was bustling with pedestrians and the sounds of clinking dishes from nearby patios filled the air. We followed the train of people through a large door and down a long hallway. At the end of the hallway a woman was standing outside the door of the studio on the first floor, but directed us upstairs. On the next floor was another studio that I couldn’t get a real glimpse of since we were again directed up the stairs. The room on the third floor was full as well so up and up we went. When we reached the fourth and final floor we were finally able to go inside. We threw our shoes on a rack, popped our $20 donation into a tissue box that the teacher was holding and joined the other forty or so people flooding into the room.

My mat found its home in the back of the room right by the door and snuggled up next to one of the studio’s big brick walls. The place was already packed but they managed to squeeze even more people in the room- there were at least sixty of us at this point. We were mat-to-mat (or mat-to-brick). I could feel the temperature of the room rising from the heat of our many bodies- bodies of different shapes, colors and sizes.

When we were all settled, the door was closed, containing the room’s vibrant energy. Our teacher, a young woman in a loose plaid shirt, short shorts and a wrist full of bracelets grabbed her ipod remote, turned on the first song of the class and then said, “Let’s get started, Childs Pose…”

For the next hour she embodied the mantra of the studio:

There will be no correct clothes
There will be no proper payment
There will be no right answers
No glorified teachers
No ego no script no pedestals
No you’re not good enough or rich enough
This is yoga for everyone
This sweating and breathing and becoming
This knowing glowing feeling
Is for the big and small weak and strong
Able and crazy
Brothers sisters grandmothers
The mighty and meek
Bones that creek
Those who seek
This power is for everyone
Yoga  to   the   People
All bodies rise

There weren’t many alignment cues. No “inner spiral,” just a couple “shoulders on the back.” Mostly she just showed us how to move and then we did it on our own. She would talk us through a short series, then give us the reigns. “Find your flow,” she said.

There was a lot of emphasis on breathing and letting go. I have never heard such uninhibited, “Aaaaaaaahhhhhhhh’s,” and “Mmmmmmmhhhhhhhh’s” as people let their breaths be audible. No one seemed to be looking around, just moving. Half the students had pretty scary alignment but then I realized that this class wasn’t about alignment. It was just about us, in this space, moving together…

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We Are Always One Step Away From Transformation

Dear Mojo Readers,

It’s been quite some time since I have written you. So much has happened since we last spoke. I completed my Vital Yoga teacher training and am now headed to New York City to spread my wings. Currently, I’m somewhere in Middle America enjoying some much needed downtime. It is so nice to just sit and reflect on the amazing journey I have been on. It’s warm, humid and I’m surrounded by trees – perfect combination for some outdoor yoga.

I have realized three passions that keep popping up in front of me: yoga, nutrition and communication. Yoga gets the body opened up and moving, nutrition keeps it pumping, working, productive and communication lets us utilize that space of openness to connect with one another and build relationships.

Those of you who know me or who have taken one of my courses know that I am a big proponent of building confidence and self-esteem. Confidence in ourselves and in our gifts and abilities is the essence of a sweet, meaningful life. This is the life that I desire everyone to have…

I am constantly reminded that we are always one step away from transformation. And when you’re ready to take that step, Mojo is here for you…

With love and kindness,

Jojo

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Trust the Process

It has been nearly a month since my last post and so much has been going on. I’ll fill you in…

First and foremost, I started a 200 hour yoga teacher training at Vital Yoga. It’s physically, mentally and emotionally challenging- not to mention it costs a pretty penny. But honestly, I couldn’t be happier with this decision. The transformation is so completely worth it. Speaking of transformation, little did I know that my one-month goal of not eating refined sugar would bump right up to an Ayurvedic Cleanse that began my training. My body had already changed drastically from not eating refined sugar. I’ve lost weight and have grown stronger from all the yoga I’ve been doing. Yeehah!

The cleanse was an ass-kicker. I made it 6 out of 7 days. This was my first time doing a cleanse and I really didn’t know what to expect. I certainly didn’t anticipate being such a cranky hag. My partner was doing the cleanse with me and decided to forgo it after a few days becuase we were constantly bickering. Man-oh-man does diet affect the moods! At one point I even had a little bit of a melt down – my partner told me my hair was greasy (which it was) from lathering myself in coconut oil and I got, let’s just say, a little sensitive about it. I’ve been trying on so many differnt habits lately that sometimes I feel (and look) like a different person. Part of that is amazing, but part of it is strange and frustrating. So much change in so little time is a bit overwhelming, but it’s times like these that you just have to trust the process…

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