Juice Cleanse – Day 3

The magic happens now.

I woke up this morning before my alarm clock refreshed and energized. Per my usual Wednesday routine, I got up and went to teach yoga and felt a lightness in my step. Came back home, drank my first juice (which is just coconut water) and jumped in the shower.  Today was a particularly stress-fill (but not stressful) day. The fact that it was stress-filled but not stressful is in no small part due to the mental clarity and physical euphoria that I felt all day. There was no hunger  (I actually forgot to drink one of my juices so ended up drinking two within two hours), no headache, no body aches, and no irritation. Here are the highlights.

Oodles of Energy: buckets of energy. I was running around from office to office, meeting to meeting, work to yoga, yoga to pick up my next two days of juices, etc.  None of it phased me. I was radiant and energetic.  I actually started bouncing up and down while teaching which never happens; I always try to keep a sattvic and almost stoic disposition, but I couldn’t help myself today.

Mental Clarity: this is the really impressive effect of cleansing. All the muck that stockpiled in your system also blocks the mind. I found it easier to focus on tasks, distractions were not as distracting, I held my morning intention in my mind all day, and people’s actions did not affect me.  This alone is worth the juicing.

Sense of Calm: either I’m calmer or everyone else at work suddenly got less intense. Even through the passive aggression that can sometimes arise at work, and the endless meetings, I stayed calm. I wasn’t getting rattled by other people’s actions or emotions. I was truly turning into myself – being present, mindful and aware – and that felt amazing.

Subtle Glow: I’m apparently glowing.

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Juice Cleanse- Day 2

Ok, so we all knew this would happen.  Day 2 is usually the worst day of the cleanse… though for me, not by much when compared to Day 1.  Unlike Day 1, I felt no hunger today. In fact, by the time 9pm rolled around, I still had one juice left and didn’t feel hungry enough to drink it. I drank it anyways because it’s important to keep the formulations exactly as prescribed.  Also unlike Day 1, I wasn’t as cold. I was physcially chilly on Day 1. I also decided to treat myself to a massage which was divine. So, here’s the summary of the key takeaways.

Heightened Senses: seriously, you’ve never seen colors like these. All of my senses were practically vibrating. The most noticeable was my sense of smell… good and bad. I could smell things from FAR away, but also smell them so well that it was overpowering. Nice scents were magnificent. Cigarette smoke as someone passed me on the sidewalk made me gag. Not sure if my hearing changed but lets just say it did for the hell of it.

Energetic Euphoria: this was felt about 15-20 minutes after I drank each juice.  The energy pumped through my body and as the detox starts to take effect, I can feel exactly what gorgeous, natural, raw foods do to my body. It was glorious.

Calm and Peace: as I do this cleanse, I’m making some big changes in my work life while balancing two proposals and a heavy teaching schedule. Normally I would feel more stress but I’m so calm. We all know that food is medicine… but this really seals the deal. Good nutrition = good life.

Headache: yet, that’s still there but I can feel it subsiding.

Here’s the caveat. I firmly believe that the cleanse as been so “easy” and relatively painless because I am a vegetarian. The body has less detoxing to go through so the benefits were felt earlier in the process. This process really drives home just how much the foods we meet matter. Juice cleanses are not for everyone because everyone’s body is unique and respond to stimuli differently. Try it out and see what it does for you. Don’t write anything off without experiencing at least once. 🙂

Juice Cleanse – Day 1

Oh boy has it been a long time since I wrote a post.  Updates are that I’ve been teaching a lot of classes (yoga, meditation, and philosophy) and volunteering at another organization, all in addition to my day job. So, getting back on the bandwagon and making sure I keep my priorities straight, I am doing a 5-day cleanse — what I refer to as my “spring cleaning.” I get questions about fasting, juice cleansing, raw diets, etc a lot so I thought I would document my experience here for everyone to see. I’ve done a 5-day cleanse before but never wrote it down, so this should be interesting.

Day 1

I have a headache. That should be the end of the post.  As with any detox, the most prominent symptom tends to be a dull, persistent headache. Thankfully, mine is not pounding like some people have reported.

The morning started off well. I’m typically not famished when I first wake up so that was pretty normal. I went to teach my 6:30-7:30 Flow class and came home to drink my first of six juices (coconut water). Feeling pretty good. By mid-morning, I drank the second one (a blend of nut milk) and was still feeling pretty alright. That second juice is pretty dense, not be mention delicious.

Lunch time came around and that’s when my body’s normal patterns kicked in in the form of hunger and irritability (I’m a pitta for those who know Ayurveda, which is the ancient Indian nutrition-health-wellness way of saying hangry). I grab for the third juice which is a light green juice and chug it down. Here’s where the magic of juice cleanses begin. Within 30 minutes, I can feel the energy coursing through my body. It’s amazing how much more in tuned we become when there is less “stuff” in the system to process. However, the “green high” lasted only an hour and then the headache started.

After the fourth juice in the afternoon (another veggie based one), I decided to take a nap and hope that my headache would go away. The nap definitely helped and I managed to teach my evening 5pm yoga class with no problem.  In fact, my meditation was deeper, calmer, and happier.

I met a friend for “dinner” (which meant we met at a juice bar so that she can juice with me) where I drank my fifth juice. This time a fruit-based juice. She also decided to get some chipotle spiced nuts and I found myself pining after them like a ravenous sloth: some cross between cute, pathetic and really slow moving. Finishing the night with the last fruit juice I put myself to bed accompanied by the pesky headache.

Treat Every Morning as Sacred

Mornings are sacred. It’s the start to every waking day. Get up, meditate, love the physical, spiritual and psychological body.

This week in class we are exploring Brahmacharya: the right use of spiritual energy; one of the Yamas. This principle calls for us to experience every moment with wonder and awe. Be cautious of over-indulging; be it food, work, exercise, shopping, or something else. Find the point of “just enough.” Live in awe… And feed your body in a way that is supportive to that.

‪#‎FoodForThought‬ ‪#‎HealthyLiving‬ ‪#‎Brahmacharya‬ ‪#‎Yamas‬ ‪#‎YogaLife‬‪#‎VeganSausage‬ (yes, VEGAN sausage) ‪#‎Breakfast‬ ‪#‎Thankful‬ #RogueYogi

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The Tenets of Yoga: Yamas and Niyamas

Last week in my Dharma-inspired classes at Yoga District, I began a 10-week series on the guiding principles of Yoga. These 10 principles, or tenets, are found in the Yamas (five internal work) and Niyamas (five external work) which form the first two limbs of the eight limbs of Yoga (the other six are Asana = postures, Pranayama = control of the life force/breath, Pratyahara = withdraw of the senses, Dharana = concentration, Dhyana = meditation, and Samadhi = nirvana/connection to the greater self).

Each week, we break down one of the 10 tenets and discuss the meaning. It never ceases to amaze me how much these principles must guide all aspects of life: Crossfit, day job, relationships, etc. I felt compelled to provide them here so that we may all be curious about them.  Maybe you’ll notice how one or a few of these manifest in your lives. May we all be more in present and aware:

Yamas

  • Ahimsa (non-violence)
  • Satya (truthfulness)
  • Asteya (non-stealing; non-judgment)
  • Brahmacharya (right use of energy)
  • Aparigraha (non-greed; non-attachment)

Niyamas

  • Saucha (cleanliness; purity)
  • Santosa (contentment)
  • Tapas (heat; spiritual austerities)
  • Svadhyaya (self-study; study of the sacred texts)
  • Isvara pranidhana (surrender)

I’ll update periodically with lessons from the explorations into these principles.

 

#RogueYogi #Yamas #Niyamas #Yoga #YogaLife #FoodForThought #Ethics #EthicalPractice

To Stretch or Not to Stretch. That is the Question.

It’s amazing how much controversy surrounds this topic. Here is my humble opinion about what I consider effective “stretching.” Begin by considering the purpose of your stretch. Are you:

  • warming up a muscle for activity?
  • stretching to gain flexibility/mobility?
  • trying to release tension or pain? (really important point)

Each of these objectives may be best served with a different stretching technique. Here, I’m using the word “stretching” very loosely. The following are my experiences.

Stretching as a Warm-up

We’ve all heard it before: “stretch before working out or a run.” But what does that actually mean? As I mentioned in a previous post, dynamic stretching is quite a powerful technique for pushing blood to the muscles and getting them ready for activity.  This minimizes the potential for injury, increases oxygen availability, and improves muscle efficiency. With that said, the operative word is dynamic; as in there should be small movements associated with the stretch. Save the static stretching (holding a position at your flexibility limit) for after the workout… unless your goal is to compromise power output, then static stretch before our work out, but then why are you lifting in the first place? I’m rambling. Do you follow?

OK! So we’re dynamically stretching before a workout. Great! Now STOP. Take inventory of how you’ve been “dynamically” stretching. There’s two ways to look at this. First, is the whole body warm up.  These types of dynamic stretches are great to wake up the nervous system, and increase blood flow and heart rate (for more information and examples, see this article). The other is targeted dynamic stretching where you are isolating one or a group of muscles. Here ask yourself, are you taking small micro bounces at the edge of your flexibility or are you taking a larger range of motion and bigger bounces?

Stretching for Flexibility and Mobility

We’ve already talked about how static stretching should come after your workout. It’s also a great option on your rest days after you’ve warmed up. Holding a posture at the edge of your range of motion (ROM) allows the nervous system, muscle, and connective tissue to “soften” or ease into the posture. This is not as simple as it sounds. To do this, you must (1) be in a “comfortable enough” position to stay in it for a while, and (2) stay long enough for all the parts to relax. What we can all learn from yoga is that pushing harder and harder at the edge of your perceived flexibility will only make your muscles tense up more.  Instead, take slower breaths, relax into the stretch and your nervous system will also relax allowing for greater ROM.

Strapped for time? No problem. Modern sports medicine has your back. If you want to increase ROM quickly, try proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretching. This type of stretch, contract, release, and stretch model “tricks” the nervous system to letting go a little more each round.  The immediate results are nothing short of wizardry. Here, again, we see just how much of your flexibility is held in the nervous system and the mind. By tricking the system, we can gain some ROM almost immediately, even if the effects are only temporary. However, when used as a routine part of a stretching or rehabilitation regimen, PNF has been known to dramatically improve flexibility.

Stretching to Alleviate Soreness or Pain

First thing first: if you are experiencing persistent and unusual pain that is not muscle soreness, SEE A DOCTOR. You may have injured something in which case stretching won’t do a damn thing for you. In fact, over stretching areas of inflammation will only increase blood flow to that area, thereby exacerbating the problem. Bottom line: no blog (mine or otherwise) can substitute sound medical advice.

If you’re still reading, I’ll assume there is nothing medically wrong with you :-). Good job! Read on.

Say that you got through a gnarly benchmark workout or some grindy MetCon that had you begging for mercy. Phew!  Then the next day comes and you’re in agony. Do you stretch? Do you workout? Do you throw caution to the wind, eat a giant box of cheezits and drink beer? All valid questions. Post-workout muscle soreness actually stems from micro tears in the muscle tissue. Stretching will not do much alleviate the sore sensation.  However, stretching will help the muscle loosen up and return to its natural length and softness. For sore muscles, it’s actually helpful to do a combination of warmup workout, foam rolling and hot spot massages, and then stretching.  This combination is a powerful tool to reduce soreness and speed up recovery.

#RogueYogi #Yoga #Crossfit #Mobility #Stretching #Fitness #LoveYourBody

Mobility vs. Flexibility

Is there a difference between mobility and flexibility? If I’m flexible, that means I’m mobile right?

I get asked these and similar questions a lot. The answer is out there. Medical doctors, physical therapists, chiropractors, and other professionals will likely have much better answers that are well sourced and backed by scientific evidence.  Here is the opinion and experience of one woman who observes it daily.

Mobility

The way I learned it is that mobility generally refers to as the movement around a joint (think range of motion in your shoulder). In this sense, mobility is affected by all the tissue and physical structures that support proper movement, of which flexibility is one component.  This is particularly important because people tend to either confuse or equate mobility with flexibillity, but they are not the same. Take for example: ME! I am pretty flexible. At the same time I suffer from mobility limitations in my upper thorasic spine, due to poor posture working long hours at a desk staring at a computer screen (correcting my posture as I type this), and in my rotator cuff, due to an old volleyball injury that gets reaggravated in overhead movements.

One of the most compelling explanation of how mobility is experienced in the body was taught to me by my physical therapist, Claire of Rose Physical Therapy. She said that the body alternates between stable and dynamic joints.

  • Stable joints are those that performance moves long one primary axis and with an extension limit (e.g., knees, elbows)
  • Dynamic joints are those that can rotate and hinge in a wide range of angles and directions (e.g., hips, shoulders)

Starting from the ankles (dynamic), you have the knee (stable), then the hip (dynamic), then the lumbar spine (stable), so on and so forth. Claire noted that hyper mobility in one region may be indication of over compensation for limited mobility in an adjacent region. For me, I am very mobile in my lumber spine which may be compensating for my limited thorasic mobility. The ability to test your own mobility and locate areas for improvement will go a long way towards keeping yourself healthy.

Everyone – athletes, yogis, corporate ninjas, power mom’s, the average Joe – should be mobilizing DAILY. Mobility is not only critical for physical performance and injury prevention, it is an essential component of health, well-being, and aging gracefully. I’m a huge fan of Mobility WOD (or the Starrett Method of Movement & Mobility) and the proud owners of both Becoming a Supple Leopard and Ready to Run. These books have become my go-to bible for mobility movements and self-care.

Flexibility

If mobility is the movement around a joint, then flexibility can be thought of as the movement between two joints (think hamstring stretching between the knee and hip joints). During workouts, we constantly flex and extent our muscles to move heavy things (sometimes that that heavy thing is our own body). Flexible muscles mean improved musclar efficiency and blood circulation which both support muscle gain. It also lends suppleness to our muscles that support faster recovery and fewer injuries.

I’ve noticed a lot of people stretching to gain flexibility, which is great. However, mindlessly collapsing into a stretch is not doing your body any good. The inverse is also true. Forcing your body into a stretch that is beyond your flexibility limit while retaining tension everywhere else in your body because you are so uncomfortable/in pain is putting tremendous strain on your nervous system (see great articles from sock doc on stretching for flexibility and its relationship to your nervous system). Here are some tips for stretching:

  1. Listen to your body. I can’t stress this enough.  Your body knows when somethign doesn’t feel quite right. You should feel tightness but never pain.
  2. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. Make sure you modify properly if you are inflexible. If you don’t, you’ll be subjecting yourself to possible injury which defeats the purpose.  Here’s a great resource for some starter stretches.
  3. BREATHE! Especially when it’s super tight, you feel like no blood is flowing there (but it is, trust me), a tingling sensation creeps in, and you start to sweat. BREATHE! In fact, imagine you are breathing into the soreness. It’s a powerful visual.
  4. Dynamically stretch along with your mobility movements before a workout. Hold the stretches for longer periods of time or more breaths after a workout or on active rest days after you warm up the body.

Together, mobility and flexibility is a killer one-two punch. Mobility help to keep your joints healthy so that you can keep training, and flexibility help to keep your muscles limber so that you can recover faster. Both help reduce the likelihood of injury. Hve you done your mobility and stretching today? GO NOW! 🙂

Holiday Muffins

As with most years, I get the unusual urge to bake around the holidays. With my new venture into CrossFit and health, I wanted to start making modifications to my cooking (or in this case baking) that would support my fitness goals. No, I didn’t go Paleo with my baking although I will try this again with a Paleo recipe just because I’m curious how they will turn out.

I brought three dozen to the gym and they didn’t make it through the day. I’m posting the recipe that I modified from one I found on the Land-o-Lakes website. Next up: Paleo fudge brownies!

Ingredients (modifications noted as red italic text in square brackets):

2 cups Gluten-Free Flour Blend [used rice flour]
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar [used Paleo-friendly coconut palm sugar]
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger [used nutmeg instead]
1/2 cup butter, melted [used coconut oil, melted]
1/2 cup mashed cooked pumpkin [used pumpkin puree]
1/3 cup buttermilk [used almond milk]
2 Eggs

Instructions:

Pre-heat oven to 400°F. Place paper baking cups into 12-cup muffin pan cup or grease cups. Set aside.

Combine all ingredients in bowl. OPTIONAL: if you want to make chocolate chip muffins, add organic chocolate chips at this point.

Spoon batter into prepared muffin pan. OPTIONAL: add any toppings at this point. I did four different versions: more chocolate chips (YUM), pecans, cinnamon/nutmeg, and organic unbleached sugar for a crumbly top.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes; remove from pan.
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10 Things I Wish I Knew Before CrossFit

It feels like everyone has a list of 10 things they wish someone had told them before joining CrossFit, or wish to share with people now that they started. Since every experience is unique, I figured why not. Here are the 10 things I didn’t expect about CrossFit:

  1. You will see immediate results because your body is so unfamiliar with this type of workout that all the things that get activated will result in some quick changes. For me it was stamina. I’m still never going to run a marathon but the dreaded metcons have become less and less… dreadful. Dare I say even enjoyable.
  2. But you will also hit some plateaus which are expected and completely fine. I had to learn to let my body rest so that it can rebuild and break through these plateaus. Taking a page from climbing, it was also important for me to remind myself that tendons and ligaments develop four times SLOWER than muscles. Your whole body has to function has one machine to do CrossFit, so be patient and all will come in time.
  3. Everything else in life will seem a little easier. The mental toughness that you build each time you push yourself through another grueling WOD permeates through every aspect of life. Perhaps it’s a form of resilience?  When you get used to repeating mantras to yourself like “3 more seconds,” “1 more rep,” and “just don’t stop! Don’t stop moving,” suddenly everything seems a little more doable.
  4. You will be calmer which I know sounds counter-intuitive. The stigma associated with CrossFit is that the athletes  are all super intense. This is not entirely wrong; CrossFit is an intense workout so  you have to bring your intensity in order to conquer it. But then a sort of zen sets it. I figured it may have something to do with the conditioning that slows our resting heart rate, but whatever it is, I can definitely feel the difference in my meditation. In general, things just don’t bother me as much.
  5. Humility is more important than the results because while there will always be someone better, faster, stronger than you, that’s not the point. Here’s where I find another intersection between Yoga and CrossFit: santosha. Santosha is the yogic philosophy of being content with one’s best effort. It requires us to try our best no matter the result, and definitely not the result as compared to others. In this way, I find CrossFit very humbling.
  6. You will amaze yourself. Sure you will like the physical results but that’s not even the best part. The more subtle things amazed me more; I never thought I’d come to love the barbell, become a stickler for technique, or take scraped shins as a point of pride. And like everyone else, I am also amazed with how much more my body is able to do than I previously thought possible.
  7. Others will be worried about your physical and mental wellbeing, and that’s ok.  You will be the worst sales pitch for CrossFit for at least a few months as you walk around sore, bruised, and maybe a little grumpy on days you didn’t feed your body right. Which leads me to my next point.
  8. Being sore and in pain actually feels good! In fact, you will miss it when you don’t feel it. I wear the pain like a badge of honor. The sore muscles serve as a reminder of what I conquered, and also keeps the rest of my life in line. Personally, I wouldn’t want to eat poorly or make bad decisions after working so hard!
  9. You will talk about it constantly, for a little while, but you will get over it. As with anything new and exciting, the novelty effect will keep CrossFit on your mind. I found myself talking/thinking about it pretty much whenever I had a moment free. It may get a little annoying to people who don’t care about CrossFit, but take a moment and relish in how good it feels to have that child-like enthusiasm again. It’s exciting.
  10. Not all gyms are created equal/Community is EVERYTHING. I’ve tried several CrossFit gyms and each has a different culture. While everyone will give you a great workout, I decided to stay with CrossFit Praxis for the community.  The coaches are nothing short of amazing. The athletes treat one another like family. The programming is intelligent. All egos are checked at the door. My gym also uses the Wodify platform where we log our performance so that nerds like me can run analytics on our past results. Other athletes can also “like” or comment on your posted results. The supportive environment and warm personalities is what keeps me going day after day. There are so many factors that go into your choice of a gym so figure out what’s important to you (e.g., big gym with huge membership base, location, Olympic lifting centric, etc).

‘On’ and ‘Off’ Days

The day has finally come!  My friend Angela and I had planned months ago to take a yoga retreat at Yogaville in Buckingham, VA (this is awesome. I’ll say  more about this retreat in the next post). Knowing that I would be away from my gym for three days, I had a thought: instead of three days on and one day off, what if I went seven days consecutively and then took the three days off all at once?! Hey, I never claimed to be smart.

As it turns out, on and off days (or rest days) are designed to be spaced out. In retrospect, this sounds so logical and simple that I now feel myself growing sillier as I write this post. I should have know better! HAHA. So what happens when you go hard at CrossFit for seven straight days and try to clump together all your rest days into one weekend? Here’s my experience:

  • Days 1-3 (Thursday-Saturday): CrossFit – feeling pretty good with the usual soreness but nothing out of the ordinary. Also climbed on Thursday night.
  • Day 4 (Sunday): CrossFit – Open Gym – did a bunch of squats to work on form and climbed in the afternoon. I could feel my muscles reaching fatigue faster than usual and my body using its mobility to compensate.
  • Day 5-6 (Monday-Tuesday): CrossFit – Not bad. I felt surprisingly spry so went hard at the workout. Even climbed Tuesday night.
  • Day 7 (Wednesday): CrossFit – BRING ON THE PAIN! Every inch of my body screamed, but it was single-leg deadlifts day (my jam) so I couldn’t resist. That was a mistake.

By Thursday, my body started to twitch and ache in ways that just did not feel right. My glutes hurt in just about every position, calves are cramping in both directions and shoulders are starting to roll forward because I didn’t give my chest a chance to rest. And I was HUNGRY. Like insatiably ravenous, all day. It was explained to me later in the day that your metabolism does not simply slow down on off days.  The workouts have amped up my metabolism which stays that way regardless of whether I worked out. By now my body is so torn down that it’s crying out for food to replenish and rebuild. I ended up eating poorly on Thursday and Friday because of these cravings.

Lessons I learned from this experience are:

  1. You cannot bundle workout days and rest days. The body doesn’t work that way. Regularly spaced rest days are very important for the body to repair itself, which in turn impacts performance.
  2. Diet is very closely tied to physical activities. Overworking the body will only aggravate the precarious balance between nutrition and training.