Jade Lizzie

Sharing the yoga love

Tag: Wanderlust

Things I’m learning about detoxing (without actually doing any detoxing myself…)

I’m sceptical about the idea of detoxing. In my experience, ‘detoxes’ tend to be a socially acceptable shorthand for, “I’m starving myself on a crazy crash diet in a bid to lose weight.” Given my intolerance for feeling hungry, and my genuine love of cake, this is not something that appeals to me. I’m more a ‘everything in moderation (including moderation)’ these days…

Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

But I’ve found myself teaching yoga in a beautiful little detox retreat in Portugal, and I have to say I am learning a lot about detoxing, handily without doing any myself (staff are allowed actual food – I did check that before I arrived!). Here are a few of my observations so far…

  1. People can fast and still be nice, sociable human beings. I’m pretty sure if it were me fasting I’d be consumed by “hanger” (hunger+anger= hanger) and resentment of anyone with food. But the guests here tend to be easy-going and happy. Impressive.*
  2. Detoxing seems to bring with it an obsession with bowel movements. It is nearly impossible to ask someone how they are without them decribing in full detail the way “things are moving”.
  3. Conversations in general become bizarre. “Jade would you cover my yoga class tomorrow? I’m doing a liver cleanse tonight,” is a yoga teacher problem I had not anticipated.
  4. “Breaking” refers to the end of a fast. It does not refer to the physical or mental destruction of a person through starvation as I thought the first time I heard the question, “When are you breaking?”
  5. Detoxing involves a lot of work. You’d think that with no meals to cook, the daily diet would be simple. How wrong you would be.  There are fresh fruit and vegetable juices and broth to prepare four times a day, as well as pills, pastes, powders and supplements to measure and consume. I now understand why people would pay someone else to sort out all the hassle.

Am I tempted to try it? In a word, no. Given my history of disordered eating, I think following paths of thinking which are, “It’s only hunger; it’ll pass,” would not be good for me. But maybe one day when I feel more secure in my recovery I’ll give it a go – if only because I’ve heard that cake tastes sublime after a few days of juice fasting…

*Edit: I later discovered that two of my favourite guests had graduated from pinching apples off the tree to taking ‘detox walks’ to the local cafe for coffee and actual food. I don’t blame them at all. I only wonder how many others were doing the same…

How yoga teacher training changed me

beforeafterIn May 2015, I finished my 200 hour yoga teacher training. During our graduation ceremony, we were presented with a card, which had a photo of our group on the first night of our training back in October 2014. A lovely idea. Except when I saw the photo (it’s the one on the left in the picture!)

I didn’t even recognise myself to start with. Once I realised it was me, I had to fight the urge to confiscate the photo from every member of my group, and erase all evidence that I looked like that. I might be smiling but I look worn out. And the thing is, it’s not just a bad photo. I know that the way I look is reflective of how I was feeling at the time. But I’ve decided not to pretend that it never happened. I’m choosing to share it, along with the photo on the right taken on the last night of my yoga teacher training. I hope you can see the difference…

Back when the first photo was taken, I’d made the positive choice to do yoga teacher training, but other aspects of my life weren’t so great. I’d left teaching, and although I had a better work-life balance, I missed the sense of purpose in my new job. I’d also become a bit obsessive about food and exercise. Although it probably looked as if I was eating “normally”, I was over-exercising to justify eating at all, doing intensive cardio five times per week. Some days I’d run 10km and go to spinning. The week before I started the yoga teacher training, I badly hurt my back when I tried to add a CrossFit class into my already fairly manic exercise regime.

The initial 10 days of yoga teacher training were really tough. I lacked any real control over my diet and I missed running a lot. More than that, when doing yoga (unlike running), I wasn’t able to disconnect my mind from my body. Instead I was forced to notice how I much I was hurting and how tired I was. I realised what damage I’d been doing over the last few months. My muscles were tight and sore. Any attempts to achieve yoga teacher super-flexibility were laughable. Some days my back pain made it nearly impossible even to relax in child’s pose.

But despite these struggles, or maybe because of them, something in me changed during those 10 days. I noticed the pain I was in and sat with it. I found an inner stillness, a quietness that I had been drowning out. And I realised it was okay to relax and let go. I decided it was time to stop punishing my body and practise a bit of self-acceptance and love.

I promised myself that I wouldn’t start running again when I got back. Instead I committed to practising yoga every day, and channelled my physical and mental energy into that. I also relaxed my control over food and began to eat more intuitively (i.e. more!). On a trip to Bruges at Christmas I enjoyed hot chocolate, amaretto mulled wine and Belgian waffles. I remembered how good life can taste.

Later came my decision to travel, which was largely driven by my desire to focus fully on the yoga I was enjoying so much.

I could write some nice clichés here, about how I’ve never looked back, and it’s been all onwards and upwards since then, but that would be a lie. There have been incredibly challenging times – times when I yearned to go back to the familiarity of my old life. I’ve experienced volunteering disasters, dead chickens and nights I’ve been so hot and uncomfortable I haven’t slept at all. But I definitely don’t regret it.

I’m writing this while drinking fresh coconut water in a café in beautiful Chiang Mai, already planning my next trip. I’m wondering which friends to visit in Europe, and where to spend Christmas. I’m embracing the uncertainty because of the possibilities it brings. And if I ever do doubt whether I’m doing the right thing, I only have to look at that photo to know that going back is not an option.

Planning, preparation and borderline panic

SuitcaseReflections on my last week in the UK…

One of the reasons I started yoga was for the feeling of calm it left me with. And since I began practising every day, I have been noticeably more relaxed. Except last week. Last week there were more relaxed chickens in slaughterhouses.

It didn’t help that I left all planning and preparation to the last minute. I had a house to move out of, a car to sell, all my worldy goods to store, vaccinations to arrange, flights to book and that was all before I even thought about packing. I needed to do lists to keep track of my to do lists. Given that I am not the most naturally well-organised person in the world, this sent me slightly mad.

I found myself frantically multitasking, and doing it badly. At any one time I would be emailing a Workaway host, checking travel insurance details, dividing clothes into “take”, “leave” and “maybe” piles, and trying to get a last minute appointment at the travel clinic.  All this really meant is that completing these jobs took ten times longer than it should have.

Unfortunately during this time when I probably needed yoga more than ever, it became just another task to tick off the list. Determined not to let my daily practice slide, I made sure I did it, but in retrospect this may not have been the best decision. I found myself in forward bends, with my mobile between my feet, texting people about selling my car. It wasn’t until I cut my ankle falling out of a headstand because I was trying to grab my sunglasses case from under the table that I knew I’d taken multitasking too far. Quite aside from the mental benefits of being mindful during yoga practice, it turns out it’s downright dangerous not to be…

It was a huge relief to find myself on the plane at last, knowing that although I still wasn’t Montecorto bedroom100% organised, I was on my way anyway. And doing my yoga practice this morning in a beautiful room that looks out over the Andalucian countryside was a very different experience. I even managed to turn my phone off, which I consider real progress!

How I learnt not to take yoga too seriously

Prayer flags Nepal

In 2007 I volunteered in Nepal with the charity TravelAid. Bhola Yogi, the principal of the children’s home where we worked offered to teach us yoga in return for our volunteering.  He didn’t have to ask twice. There was no way we were going to miss out on the opportunity to tell people we’d been taught yoga at 6am every morning on a rooftop in Nepal, by a man whose actual surname was “Yogi”.

6am yoga classes sound pretty hardcore, and in retelling the stories since, I’ve made them sound that way. But actually  in true Nepali style, Bhola-ji’s approach was laid back.  We would practise one posture, maybe two, and then Bhola would instruct us to, “Take rest.” Every minute of effort was followed by one of rest.  We loved it.  Yoga became an excuse to lie on our mats and gaze up at the sky as the sun rose each morning.

He had a similarly undemanding approach to postures that we found challenging. “If you can’t do the yoga, just think about doing the yoga. Same thing,” he would say with a dismissive wave of his hand. I’ve often wondered since whether this principle applies to other activities. When I can’t get out of bed on a bitterly cold January morning for my 6.45am spinning class, will just thinking about it have the same effect? I really hope so.

Bhola-ji did not shy away from directing us about the more personal details of our yoga practice. “Long toilet before yoga, so the stomach is free.  Short toilet after,” was his euphemistic instruction.  And he practised what he preached.  Many a morning we sat shivering on the rooftop at 6am waiting for Bhola to finish his “long toilet” before he would come to teach us.

Our yoga practices like most aspects of our lives in Nepal were seemed hilarious. Perhaps we were giddy from the shortage of oxygen at altitude, or maybe from the sugar in all the mangoes we were eating, but most postures had us collapsed in fits of giggles. Bhola positively encouraged this – one of his all-time favourite postures was Happy Baby, which he urged us to laugh our way through.  This wasn’t something I found difficult given that I was holding a position that made me feel ready for a gynaecological exam. It wasn’t elegant. When you add to that the fact that Bhola’s favourite instruction was to tell us all to “Relaaaaax,” you have a recipe for hysteria.

He had the last laugh. We’d been diligently practising our sun salutations for 4 weeks when Bhola admitted that the “Lion’s Roar” – an open-mouthed, claw-fisted posture that he’d encourage us to hold then loudly roar to release – was just something he included as a joke when he taught children. He never expected us to fall for it.

Being surrounded by such happy people with such an amazingly positive approach to life taught me not to

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