This yogic lesson on change begins with… food.
I took a food allergy test last October and had been following an elimination diet up until the middle of January. I faithfully cut out all my triggers: cane sugar, coffee, pineapple, cranberries, whole wheat, pecans, sesame seeds, spelt. To add to that, you might already know that I’m vegan.
So cutting out these foods wasn’t such a big deal, because I didn’t regularly eat many of the things on that list.
It was the fact that I had to cut them out that bothered me.
Whenever we perceive that we’re being forced to change, even if it’s doing something that’s good for us, we meet resistance. Some of us are good at flipping the switch and shifting course right away (usually, that’s me) and others take some time to ease in.
Regardless of how we attempt to change, the same thing happens when we fall off course: We stop being aware of our choices.
Our mindless choices
In mid-January, after I steadily added one ingredient back into my diet every 72 hours to see my body’s reaction, I got careless. I was tired of checking ingredient labels and asking servers to verify ingredients. I just wanted to eat, not go through a cross-examination of whether or not my body should have it.
I wanted eating to be somewhat mindless again. Anyone with specific dietary needs knows this battle all too well.
And now, a month later, after seriously indulging in cane sugar and wheat, my face has flared up in an epic breakout I haven’t seen since the first month I eliminated all these foods. My energy is low in the morning. In the evening, I get that all-too-familiar addictive pang for something sugary.
Often, we think we’re solely battling our minds and emotions on a day-to-day basis. If only I had more willpower! we think. We’re missing a key factor: That our physiology informs our mental state, and no amount of in-the-moment willpower is going to make those neurons stop firing.
So two days ago I examined my connect-the-dots face and once again committed to mindfulness. Enough with the inner dialogue about how others can eat these foods and not get the same result as me. This is my situation, and I know how to take control.
So it’s out with feeling restricted and in with feeling liberated from the shame of having done this to myself.
The start is the finish
When we start on our paths of change, it’s not uncommon to loop back to the starting line more than once. We often think the loop isn’t necessary and wish that our changes would be permanent — like, right away.
In the Olympics, speed skaters can’t win the race unless they consistently cross the starting line. Their courses are circular, just as our lives are cyclical.
Eventually, there is no difference in the start/end, except what you’ve done with the distance traveled in between.
It matters not if you take 2 laps or 20. It’s that you stay the course of your change.
When we put our bodies into yoga postures, we tend to notice the differences between our poses and others’. Yet are we not attempting the same posture?
We forget that we have already arrived in each pose, even as we seek to arrive in the “full expression.”
When you reframe each move on the yoga mat as your current full expression, you come to peace with your body and your mind as it is. You take your loop of change in stride, and suddenly you’re not down on yourself for being back at the start. You’re doing the best you can with what you have.
This honoring turns into gratitude and gratitude turns into peace and that’s your happy momentum at work.
So here’s to your change, whether it’s eating healthy, practicing more yoga, or shifting the mental habits you’ve become accustomed to all these years. It all begins when you’re aware of your choices.
Try it: Figure Four Pose, Eka Pada Utkatasana
I chose this pose for our theme of change because often we feel unbalanced and steady, yet get glimpses of feeling solid and capable. Figure Four Pose can be wobbly, but when we hold focus and trust that the earth will hold us, it can feel as if we’ve stood on one leg our entire life.
- Stand in Tadasana with toes together and heels a couple inches apart. Place your hands on your hips and bend the knees into Chair Pose. Reach your hips back and drop the weight into your heels. Keep the upper body lifted here, nudging the navel in toward your spine to lengthen the tailbone.
- Shift the weight into your left foot, find one point of focus in front of you and pick up your right leg. Cross the right ankle above the knee,using your hands if you need to. Flex the toes and bring your hands together at the heart.
- Continue to reach your hips back as you descend deeper into your squat. Optional: If comfortable, keep the navel moving in and up as you fold your heart forward over the legs, allowing the right knee to descend to open up the right outer hip.
- Stay for four (get it?) deep breaths in Figure Four. Inhale to lift the upper body, then bring the hands to your hips and uncross the legs to stand back in Tadasana. Shake out the legs before switching to the other side.