I know, this time of year has so many pleasing foods and options to indulge. I am not against having joy from our food. There is something truly important about sharing our time with others and experiencing nourishment. I like to be able to accommodate and participate. Let me share some of my thinking on this:
As yogis, we want to avoid choosing an extreme practice later to make up for decisions now.
In the United States, people sometimes get into the habit of doing things that lead to feeling bloated, exhausted, or otherwise feeling bad after the holidays. Sometimes people decide they will make up for it by “Doing a cleanse” or getting a gym membership in the new year and then really pushing themselves to burn off the extra pounds.
Ayurveda says there are several reasons it is a bad idea to plan practices like cleanses, sudden pushing the exercise, and generally pushing new practices to try to “fix your health” after bad choices over a short period. I can think of eight reasons not to do it right off the top of my head, but I will try to make this more brief than that.
We don't need to go extreme:
Ayurvedic reasons not to choose to cleanse or hit the gym with force after the holidays:
- It can create a sense of lack in the system (removing excess can also remove the supportive good stuff) and leave the immune system with fewer resources to keep ourselves healthy. The result can be more colds or flus, or even just more exhaustion, hunger, and feeling like indulging.
- It leaves the body in a new position. The body likes to adapt to what it experiences. When we do a cleanse we may have radically disrupted the adaptation process. We have effectively bored down deeper into the system, removing layers of protection built up to handle our normal habits. If we return to eating the way we did before, it can sometimes create unexpected reactions. The body likes a gentler approach in most cases. We want to adapt to feeling better and being and eating healthier, not create wild swings in the body that the body will react to.
- Big swings create reactionary systems, not strong stable systems. We know that how we eat, not exercise, stabilizes weight. We also know that sudden pushing at the gym can weaken ligaments and risk tears and injury. We can go gently and bring the system into strength and balance.
Ways to be gentle now:
1.Let yourself have lots of cooked veggies now.
2.Have some kitchari or other really supportive foods for your digestion intermittently during this season.
3.Let yourself get some cardio in right now.
4.Begin a pacing of love, self love and love those in your life right now.
5.Take your time.
6.Enjoy it all.
Doing any of these practices can help the body to have a sense of adaptation, gentleness and to allow the body to handle a few sweets and late nights without too much trouble. We can treat ourselves kindly and enjoy being in the body throughout this time of year.
Next time: Ways to enjoy the body and fall in love with our yoga practice again, especially during the holidays!
Ayurvedic note: When traditional cleanses are done in Ayurveda, they are generally encouraged to be done in a retreat, away from normal daily life, and with constant care, in consistent prayer and meditation so the body is deeply soothed. During that time we are asked not to engage with normal day to day stressors. These centers take our phones, limit chatter, and provide lots love massages, solitude and no televisions, computers or even reading (besides spiritual reading). This is done particularly because the period when the cleanse is happening can be hard on the system, and the body needs really great support.