It's been a long hard winter in this part of the world. Hard on the mind and also hard on the body. Ayurveda (the sister science of yoga) teaches us that the winter is a time of turning inward. Of looking at ourselves. Of doing deep inner work. In the spring, we reemerge, just like the daffodils and start moving outward once again both physically and mentally.
The spring (and fall) is also the time for cleansing. We talk about "Spring Cleaning" of our homes at this time of year and the physical body is ready to do the same. As the heaviness of winter changes to the lightness of spring, we might notice congestion, sluggishness and imbalance. The transition from winter to spring can bring about physical symptoms that keep us from living life at our peak. So now is the time to clear out the cobwebs in the physical body and allow it to lighten up for the warmer months.
It's been awhile since I've done a cleanse. I'm not going to lie, it isn't always an easy undertaking. There's a lot of mental and physical prep before and then there is all the meal prep during. There are the detox symptoms in the beginning that can feel like "Why the HECK am I doing this?". But the lightness that comes when the hurdles have been overcome is worth it.
Yoga is all about bringing attention to ourselves. Our thoughts, feelings, emotions, etc. It's about becoming mindful of our daily workings and bringing them into the light so we can truly see ourselves and, perhaps, make positive change. Next to sleeping, I think eating is one of those things that we can go totally "autopilot" on, because we do it so much! And we MUST do it regularly to survive. A cleanse, to me, is really about bringing mindfulness back to what we put into our bodies and becoming aware of how our food affects our physical and mental state.
"But I just can't drink maple syrup and lemon water for days!" you say. Well, neither can I. There's a lot of debate out there about cleansing and a lot of controversy. I've done full blown juice cleanses and it wasn't for me. What I am embarking on today is the Clean Cleanse. To try and sum it up, this cleanse asks you to have a liquid meal morning and evening (juices, smoothies, soups) and a solid meal in the afternoon, when the digestive fire is at it's peak. The foods you eliminate during the 21 days of the cleanse are known allergens (like corn, wheat, soy and dairy) and certain foods that can be sensitivity triggers for some people (like nightshades and eggs). I like this cleanse because to me it seems to keep modern issues in mind (like how wheat and soy may be problematic because of the way they are raised or engineered) while also following the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda (which recommends having the heaviest meal in the middle of the day).
I've decided to give this cleanse another go for a number of reasons. The first is that I've been experiencing some digestive issues of late (I'll spare you the gory details) and I've been wondering if food sensitivity may be playing a roll. I also have found with my busy schedule these last several months I've been relying more and more on convenience foods to get me through. While I keep a pretty good diet most of the time, busy and tired are my moments of weakness. Out come the frozen dinners or the boxed foods that can be made with little to no effort. And while my selection of these foods is pretty conscious (I choose Trader Joe's boxed Mac & Cheese over Kraft) we all know that this isn't an ideal way to eat.
I bet you're wondering how expensive this is going to be and if I'm having digestive issues, why don't I just go to the doctor. Well, for me to go to the doctor for anything other than an annual checkup costs me around $300. Now if it was something serious, I'd be there in a heartbeat and wouldn't think about it. But this is an area where, unfortunately, traditional medicine tends not to take this seriously and/or would probably prescribe drugs that would mask the issue rather than cure the underlying cause. Call it my personal bias, but there it is for you to see. I'm also strictly vegetarian. Something the general medical establishment doesn't seem to deal with well. Maybe I just need a new doctor. But for now, I choose to explore this on my own. And I still have to eat so I'm really not spending much extra outside of my regular budget.
The Clean program recommends a plethora of supplements. I won't be using them, because yes, that would get extremely expensive very quickly. I may add a probiotic to my normal supplements but that can be done for around $20. This is what I've done in the past with good results.
I also won't be buying ALL organic produce. Again, that would be cost prohibitive for me. But I will do what I can and wash my produce well. To me, this is another part of this program that I like. I can really make it work for me without breaking the bank. Would it be better if I could go full organic? Sure. But will it totally defeat the cleanse if I don't? I don't think so.
There are a few other places I'll vary from the program that's outlined in the book/website, but mostly because of experience and trust in my teacher's. In 2011 I did this cleanse guided by my teachers at Naturally Yoga and we brought in some variations that were more in line with Ayurveda than are outlined in this cleanse. For example, I'll be using maple syrup rather than agave. There's been some doubt as to the purity of agave coming into this country due to it's increase in popularity. With maple syrup I can drive down the road and buy it from the guy who made it. That seems like a smarter option to me. I'll also be using local honey as well. I'll probably describe more of the ins and outs in future posts.
So why put this all out here in public for you to see?
Good question. The first answer is - to keep me honest. I haven't done this in awhile because it isn't easy! Tired and busy, remember? If I put it out there for all to see, maybe you'll ask me about it before class and I'll have to give you an honest answer. Will I probably cringe when I read some of these entries a couple of years from now? Probably. But that's part of the evolution of my experience.
The second answer is - I'm a teacher. I think sharing my experience might help you decide if this is something you'd like to undertake. I hope my journey will help you and maybe inspire you to think about what you put into your body. We are all LITERALLY what we eat. Each bite is an important choice. Are we eating just to get through the day or are we eating to nourish this vehicle that carries our spirit on it's human experience journey?
The third answer is - to start a dialogue about food and how important it's roll is in our lives. I hope you'll enjoy reading these posts and I would love to hear your thoughts and experience, either in the comments or at the studio.
So wish me luck! May 10th really isn't that far away....