Discipline…Where can I get me some??

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One of the most common questions I hear from new and old students alike…. how did you become so disciplined? Were you always this way? I always answer heck no…nor would I consider myself all that disciplined. We all have stuff we could be working on. I may be able to stand on my head and touch my toes for hours on end, however saying ‘no’ to that second (or third) cup of coffee is rarely accomplished in my daily routine. Some things are easy to make a habit, while others habits require a little more tapas, or right effort. During the first decade that I took yoga classes, I generally needed a stiff drink to get me through the door…I hated Yoga! I knew I needed it, so I stuck to it and here I am teaching you to get over the hump…preferably without needing a double martini before class.

How to start forming good habits to replace old bad ones: as a person who is a seasoned veteran in both bad and good habits, I feel I have some insight to share on this topic. One of the oldest written texts on yoga says it a whole lot more eloquently than I ever could, so let’s start there:

“Watch your thoughts; they become your words. Watch your words; they become your actions. watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become your character. Watch your character; for it becomes your destiny.”

~ The Upanishads

Apparently some things never change and a few millennia after this was written the same rules apply. Changing oneself begins by acknowledging what we want to change. Whether you drink, smoke, eat or do nothing too much…first you have to be honest with yourself and own it. Stop with the justifications and excuses. Take responsibility for your behaviour. Figure out what needs to change, and set about a realistic plan.

By realistic I mean be reasonable. Don’t allow unrealistic expectation to sabotage your intention of change. Here are some rules to being realistic when starting a home yoga practice:

#1. Ask yourself ‘is a home practice the best option?’ For students very new to yoga I would rarely say the answer is ‘yes’. Find yourself a good teacher, a time and a place that works with your schedule and come hell or high water don’t miss the class. Add additional classes to your routine when you feel ready for them, you will soon see that you have more time than you think, because the action of doing yoga will soon become a habit. Like all good habits, from time to time you may find yourself straying off the path of discipline, but don’t give up!!! Remember if you are going to do yoga for the next 80 years, you will take breaks from time to time. Always remember that you’re not going to wish you had done less yoga when you’re 85…so get back on track and hit your mat!

#2. For those of you who indeed feel it’s time to start a home practice, well done, for this is when you take over as your own guru. Set aside a time that works with your lifestyle and current habits. For example if you are a night owl, six a.m. Before work is not a good time to schedule your practice. If you’re hoping to achieve a five to seven days a week home practice right off the bat you’re most probably going to fail. Choose a consistent time and day(s) every week, for example every Tuesday and Thursday at 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. right after work. No excuses…go straight home, turn your phone off, and before you do anything, do your practice.

#3. Get material: You may have done a gazillion classes over the years, but put yourself on a mat in your living room and what the heck are you supposed to do??? Ween yourself off group classes slowly and as your home practice takes off you may find only one day a week with a teacher sufficient. I have found students who come to me for a series of privates to develop a home practice specifically for their needs have the least amount of trouble transitioning to a home practice. Generally, in order to memorize a one hour routine, it takes four private sessions over the course of a month with an experienced teacher. If privates are not an option for you, try memorizing a pose per class or studying online videos, then practice that pose repeatedly until you feel you know it well. A few weeks of learning one pose per week and you’ll have a routine in no time.

#4. Stay positive: Like with anything, be happy with where you are at and be gentle on yourself. There is not a human on this planet who is perfect so don’t expect to be the first to attain perfection. Developing a home yoga practice is not an easy habit to create so acknowledge your accomplishments. I personally found writing my intended practice times on the calendar and highlighting each practice after I completed it to be helpful in getting a home practice started. It’s very satisfying to look back over a month and see all the yellow lines symbolizing my commitment to myself. By focusing on the days you did practice instead of the days you missed, you’ll ignite the fire to keep trying. With time you will no longer need the calendar because your practice will simply become a part of your routine, much like brushing your teeth only more enjoyable. How many kids rush to the sink before bed and brush their teeth without being coaxed and yet here we all are as adults brushing daily without a thought of hesitation (right?). Remember before we become truly great at something we must be okay with being mediocre as we learn what is necessary to excel.

#5. Start Now!!! One thing I know for sure about Yoga is that nobody else is going to do it for you. Use the space you have, wear the clothing you own, and if you don’t have a yoga mat use a rug like they do in India or take it to the grass and start now. When you are 80 you’ll be so glad you did.

Good luck on your path to discipline!
Michelle

Ten Top Tips to Cleansing

  1.  BE REASONABLE ~ being extreme is very rarely in ones best interest, keep in mind you have the rest of your life to change; in my experience slow and steady wins the race… Starting off with a 12 day master cleanse as your first cleanse experience is not a great option. Research and find a user friendly cleanse.  The Wild Rose Detox split with a friend for 6 days works great. Another option people new to cleansing tolerate well is giving up sugar, wheat, booze, cigarettes, dairy & caffeine for 6 – 12 days. For rookies with strong addictions, pick just a few key items to eliminate, remember Rome wasn’t build in a day, so be sure to set your self up for success.  I remember trying to give up smoking while doing the master cleanse…. Not pretty and completely unsuccessful… by day four of just lemonade I broke the cleanse by eating a wonder bar while smoking a cigarette.
  2.  TIMIMG ~ set your self up to succeed: Family holidays are not good times to cleanse. Best to start a cleanse after the holidays, when you’ve had your fill of junk. Don’t choose the apple cleanse when apples are not in season. Try to cleanse in good weather when fresh produce is available. Choose a time when work and life stress are manageable, as you will not be functioning at 100 %.  I generally feel that simple things are hard to remember while cleansing… For example in class the other day I couldn’t remember the name of a pose, that pose was table.  Most cleanses will also leave you feeling more tired than usual, and if you are not a veteran to cleansing you may feel flu like symptoms the first few days.
  3.  RECRUIT OTHERS ~ the more the merrier! Particularly people you live or work with. The more you surround yourself with positive influences the easier it will be. Being social while cleansing can be a real challenge, and is made easier with a cleanse team.
  4.  WATER ~ assist your body in elimination of toxins by drinking as much water & herbal tea as possible. Flushing the system is a major function of a good cleanse. You’re going to pee an unconceivable amount while cleansing, so make sure your outings are bathroom friendly.
  5.  ASSIST ELIMINATION ~ by using a laxative tea or a salt-water flush you will get more benefits from the cleanse and clean out your digestive tract. Most cleanse kits have included herbs, etc. for elimination… Personally I like Senna laxative tea or a salt-water flush. Be sure to consult an experienced yoga teacher or holistic health practitioner before you attempt a salt-water flush.
  6.  STOCK UP ON FRIENDLY FOOD ~ A trip to the grocery store hungry is just asking for trouble… not only will the desire to cheat be incredibly strong but your decision making process is challenged when you are hungry, particularly on a cleanse. Before starting your cleanse, stock up on cleanse friendly foods that you like.  I find having a big pot of soup around lowers my chances of cheating!
  7.  SWEAT AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE ~ be sure to take the time to hit a sauna and/or steam room. I find that a good sweat gets me through those first few days of discomfort caused by detoxing from addictive things like caffeine and sugar. I particularly like contrast therapy, which is going from hot to cold repeatedly (sauna to cold shower to sauna to cold shower…) helps to pump toxins out of your skin.
  8.  AVOID EATING OUT ~ leave the house prepared with snacks, even when visiting a friend. Best to avoid restaurants all together… Even if you go to a restaurant for a tea and plain salad the temptation is too much for the mind to fight and chances are you will justify a cheat.
  9.  IF YOU CHEAT DON’T GIVE UP ~ or beat yourself up. The old saying goes: ‘If you fall off the wagon, pick yourself up and get back on.’ Follow this motto to creating new positive habits. Don’t allow the expectation of perfection to sabotage your goal of making healthy changes.
  10. COME OFF SLOWLY  ~ going for pizza or a burger to break your cleanse, though tempting, is not the best way to reintroduce your favorite foods back into your diet. Start slow with small amounts of the foods that were eliminated and keep 80% of your diet still cleanse friendly. Take a week to build up to your regular diet. Often the desire for certain foods will be reduced from having taken a break from your dietary routine. Try to maintain some of the good habits you have created on your cleanse. Be mindful to not overeat the items you had the most trouble eliminating. Were you addicted to coffee? If so, instead of your usual three cups a day, be present by drinking a big glass of water before savoring each sip of one cup of coffee.

The more you cleanse, the better you feel. Personally, I cleanse twice a year in the spring and end of summer. I like short, easy cleanses that bring my body back to balance. By curbing my addictions regularly, I am more conscious of what I put into my body. When I feel my habits rearing out of control, I take a few days off to cleanse.

Check out my selection of easy and tasty cleanse friendly recipe ideas on my blog. Good luck with your next detox cleanse!

Antioxidants

What do you really know about antioxidants? They’re good for us? They prevent disease?

Sure, but how about really getting to know more about it. There is a huge amount of scientific data available on the subject, so I have tried to find a handful of well-written articles on the subject, and specifically how it relates to Michelle’s Cleanse that Cures.

The Cleanse That Cures  ::  Antioxidant Smoothie

A good place to begin your understanding of Antioxidants is with Free Radicals. I have found a particularly easy to understand, peer-reviewed article which offers a great introduction to the topic. If this topic is of interest to you, there are lots of great further reading suggestions at the bottom of this blog.

“It is a paradox that oxygen, which is considered as essential for life, is also reported to be toxic. Its toxicity is because of the process that unleashes the free radicals. The term free radical seems to appear a lot lately in everything, from vitamin brochures to cosmetic advertisements. Free radicals are unstable highly reactive and energized molecules having unpaired electrons.

Generally free radicals attack the nearest stable molecules, ‘stealing’ its electrons. When the molecule that has been attacked and loses its electron it becomes a free radical itself, beginning a chain reaction. Once the process is started, it can cascade, initiating lipid peroxidation which results in destabilization and disintegration of the cell membranes or oxidation of other cellular components like proteins and DNA, finally resulting in the disruption of cells. Oxidation caused by free radicals sets reduced capabilities to combat ageing and serious illness, including cancer, kidney damage, atheroscelrosis and heart diseases.

Some free radicals arise normally during metabolism. Sometimes the body’s immune system’s cells purposefully create them to neutralize viruses and bacteria. However environmental factors such as pollution, radiation, cigarette smoke and herbicides can also generate free radicals. Thus free radicals on one hand can produce beneficial effects but can also induce harmful oxidation and cause serious cellular damages, if generated in excess.

Antioxidants neutralize free radicals by donating one of their own electrons, ending the electron-stealing reaction. The antioxidants do not themselves become free radicals by donating electrons because they are stable in either form. These act as scavengers and play the housekeeper’s role by mopping up free radicals before they get a chance to create havoc in a body. Thus they may well be defined as the substances that are capable of quenching or stabilizing free radicals. Antioxidants have also been suggested to have a well defined role as preservatives. These have been defined by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as substances used to preserve food by retarding deterioration, rancidity or discoloration caused by oxidation.”

From Charanjit Kaur and Harish C. Kapoor. Antioxidants in Fruits and Vegetables – The Millennium’s Health. International Journal of Food Science and Technology. July 7, 2008.

For further information and reading, check out some of these articles:

How do you get your Cinnamon?

When I think of how to use Cinnamon, it usually comes down to not the healthiest foods. Pastries and other deserts, in cream of wheat in the morning, in my Mexican black beans, and these days – on my citrus fruit. This is a great cleanse-friendly snack:

Cut up some fresh citrus fruit, top with powdered cinnamon, and voila!

“Evidence suggests that cinnamon has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, antitumor, cardiovascular, cholesterol-lowering, and immunomodulatory effects.” (Joerg Gruenwald, Janine Freder & Nicole Armbruester. Cinnamon and Health. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. Volume 50, Issue 9, 2010)

Cinnamon has been studied for it’s health benefits, including anti-cancer, anti type II diabetes, and as an anti-oxidant. Here are some excellent references for more information:

 

“Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity.”

- Hippocrates

To Life,

Steven