Today is Easter, which to my adolescent self meant seriously over-indulging on the one thing I gave up (usually chocolate) the previous 40 days. Spoiler alert: Cadbury Mini Eggs were my kryptonite.
Those days ended when I became a writer in the natural foods industry about four years ago. My whole worldview changed as I learned about health and nutrition – and with it, my diet. I’ve since been vegan, eating a diet free of artificial and unclean ingredients and cooking food from scratch about 80% of the time.
I came to veganism for health reasons; specifically, because I learned that it could clear up cystic acne. Turns out my daily Greek yogurt meant bad news for my complexion.
After the first six months of going vegan, my “diet” turned into a lifestyle starring kale and quinoa. I watched food documentaries that opened my eyes to animal suffering, and read books such as The Mood Cure that explain how nutrition affects our brain chemistry.
And this whole time I showed up on my mat thinking yoga and yoga alone was what healed my unending cycle of sadness. It’s more accurate to say that yoga is the catalyst for a mindfulness that creeps into every aspect of one’s life, often creating a sea change for health.
As you make over your mind with yoga, it won’t be long before you rethink the food that’s fueling your body or the people who are influencing your life.
Being mindful about your health
Now, I’m not perfect when it comes to food, and I’m certainly not here to persuade you to do things my way. All of us have our own temptations and struggles with food — or rather, the stories we create around the foods we choose to eat.
I struggle with sweets, and can go for long periods barring certain foods from my diet, yet invite them back without a second thought (oh, the gluten guilt). Also, a few gene mutations make it hard for my body to get rid of toxins and, not surprisingly, can play a role in depression and acne.
I never would have known all this had I not tuned into my body on the yoga mat. Because of asana practice, I got curious about what was going on beneath the surface of things. Beneath the surface of my skin and inside my brain matter.
It seems like such a simple notion — that what we put into our bodies matters — but most of us get so used to feeling dull and tired that we attribute it to our life situation instead of our dinner plate.
On a good day, we simply want to hurt less and have more self-esteem. What you eat and think can either add to or detract from that goal. It all starts with a desire, a selfishness and the question: What do I most want for myself?
But it’s not enough to get curious and have the list of “I want’s.” You have to do the work to turn them into reality. Case in point: Because of my gene mutation (sounds fancy, doesn’t it?) my doctor recommended that I supplement with B vitamins, but I often forget and have a hard time swallowing pills.
The solutions can be right in front of you. The trick is to motivate yourself to do them.
Give yourself 40 days
The next 40 days can be training ground for your rebirth this spring. No matter how you celebrate Easter, make it a new start. Rather than focusing on sacrifice or giving up, instead invite something in. What do you want most for yourself? Start small with:
- Drinking a green smoothie every morning
- Walking for 30 minutes with the dog
- Meditating for 10 minutes before bed
- Practicing yoga 3 times a week
Schedule it, set yourself reminders, create the space in your fridge or bedroom and put the dog’s leash by the door.
Create your happy momentum by putting one foot in front of the other, no matter how you feel in the moment. (tweet it!)
There is no more waiting for the ideal conditions for you to feel better about yourself. The time to be mindfully selfish is now.
The funny thing is, once you get on the vibration of health and wellness, instinctively you begin to want the same for others. From this perspective, wanting to live your healthiest life isn’t so selfish after all.
What one thing will you commit to doing for the next 40 days? Leave it in the comments and we’ll make it happen together.
Try it: Baby Grasshopper Pose
Think of this low to the ground version of Grasshopper as the baby step you’re taking for the next 40 days. In order to bloom into the full version of a yoga pose, it’s necessary to open the body incrementally — not only physically, but also mentally. Before coming into this pose, I recommend Sun Salutations, seated twists and forward folds to open your hamstrings.
- Sit on the mat with your legs straight in front of you. Bend the right knee and place the foot over the left thigh. Hug the knee in to the chest with the right arm and prop yourself up with the left arm next to your left hip.
- Inhale to lengthen the spine and exhale to twist toward the right knee. You’ll roll onto the side of your left leg, and as you do so bring your toes to face the side of the mat. Take your hands wide in front of you, bending into elbows like Chaturanga Dandasana with elbows beneath your shoulders. Lean some of the weight into the palms and plug the shoulder blades together, descending the heads of the shoulders away from the ears.
- Reach for the inside edge of the right foot with the right hand (bending your knee if you need to) and snug your left arm into the left ribs. Keep your gaze down to elongate the neck. Breathe smoothly as you tip your chest forward, supported by your left palm and right foot. Lift and engage up through the low belly, your mula bhanda root lock. As you lift here, use the press of your right hand into foot to lift the leg.
- Stay for three deep breaths, then rock your weight back to come down to the ground. Unwind the legs and give yourself an inner high five before practicing on the other side.