I just ended a 10 day Yoga (asana) fast. Yep... here I am a yoga teacher fasting yoga? I also fasted eating out and it has been really such a blessing! I posted about this on my Instagram and so many of you wanted to know what and why that I thought I'd share my experience. I am by no means a doctor, a physician, or a dietician. This is just my experience. As with all my blogs, take what you like and leave the rest.
I began reading a few months ago a book on the brain (I'm always reading books on our brains) and how it functions to make us more effective in our daily activities. Our brain creates these patterns or "loops" of how we think and what we do, all to try and make us more efficient. Although this is a good thing, it can also become a very bad thing. For example, if you sit at a desk all day typing, your brain will send a message to your body telling it to form in the shape that curls your fingers and hunches your shoulders. It is trying to help you become more efficient in what you do. Yikes! Who wants that?
Or perhaps you have a certain belief system that someone or something is "bad" or "good" and that makes you feel safe and protected. Your brain will continually think in this "loop" so that it keeps you feeling that way - safe and protected. This happens so often in the world when we are told a certain thing, we accept it and then years later we find out it was actually really terrible for us. It takes awhile before we can just "break" the idea or pattern that this belief is bad and change our thinking. Our brains will help us even in abusive situations by sympathizing with our abuser. In order for us to deal with the trauma of what is happening, we start a pattern of thought that explains the behavior of the person that is hurting us. These thought patterns can actually be some of the hardest to break! The more emotions we have toward a certain idea or thought, the more hard-wired they are in our brains. Our brains are so fascinating to me!
The brain's main job is to avoid pain & make things efficient so that you are happy or at least give you the illusion of feeling secure. The book I was reading suggested metacognitive strategies to help you "think about thinking" - to literally break the pattern of your thoughts. These strategies make you question why you think certain things and also to help you better understand the "loops" of thoughts that go on in your brain. The book was called Wired for Healing by Annie Hopper if you are interested in reading it.
One day I was scrolling around on the internet and came to this documentary on our brains and food, which obviously, I am totally fascinated with. I would tell you the name of it if I could but I didn't write it down and I can't find it now so, I'm sorry. I will keep looking for it for those that asked but for now, maybe just "google" and see what you find. It was talking about how statistically, we have higher rates of all chronic illnesses and diseases if we don't cook our own food. It mentioned how we need to care about our food. It wasn't just about the nutritional components but actually about caring. This got me thinking about the book I read and my own brain patterns. I began to think about how I have had this tendency to "hate cooking" and also that "I can't cook"... which, the book I am currently reading called Remembrance, Pathways to Expanded Learning by Barbara Bullard (my college professor) talks all about "Self Talk". Her book details how our left brain doesn't know the difference between what we tell it and what the truth is. It basically sends a signal to the body about whatever you "think" or say as the "truth". So, putting all this together in the bath one night (some of my best thinking is done in the bath lol), I decided it was time to fast it all.
I took 10 days to fast of yoga and eating out. Yoga for me is my job, and I often feel like I "have to" do it or I will not be able to do my job if I take more than 2 days off. This thought, although it has some relevance, isn't really true. Being a teacher doesn't necessarily mean that I need to use my body so, maybe it was more than that. Maybe this was a "loop" that I created in my brain. I always desire to challenge myself more in my mind than in my body, so I felt like this fast would be good for me.
My husband, the sweet and most amazing human ever, helped me tremendously by offering to cook for me on days I just didn't want to. The first few days were okay but I noticed that I started to feel like I was loosing my identity a bit - as crazy as that sounds. The food was not a big deal the first 3 days but the not practicing yoga was. I started to recognize that I felt very attached to this idea that I may "lose" all that I had worked for physically. This idea, even though as a certified trainer and teacher, I know it takes 2 to 6 weeks to actually start to lose muscle mass, would just rattle around in my mind. I also know that even if I did lose a little muscle mass (which clearly I wouldn't) it would only take me 3-4 weeks of consistent practice to gain it back. So, why was my brain having these thoughts? Oh, yeah... those "loops". Ok, I was on to something so, I persisted.
The "loops" for lack of a better word, are just hard wired thought patterns that may or may not be true or good for you. Fasting from things in your life that are "habits" can help reveal and help break some of these patterns. At the very least, it can help you have better metacognition.
By day 5, I was now fine with not practicing but the food was starting to get boring. I decided that I needed to find my "passion" or "care about it" in order to make this work. I looked in the fridge, saw what we had, and googled recipes. PRESTO! I made some really amazing, easy meals that inspired me! I felt empowered and honestly, really proud of myself. I'm the girl who "can't cook" remember? I guess that was a lie that I was just telling myself for all those years. Someone once said to me:
"If you want self esteem, you have to do esteem-able things"
That statement is so TRUE! If you want to feel good about yourself, doing things that are out of your comfort zone, for your own good, will give you self esteem.
After this 10 days, I feel amazing and ready to get back on my yoga mat. Even though I love handstands, core work, and advanced yoga postures, I'm actually thinking that for this time in my life, less is more. I am going to start over with my practice and move my body the way that it is asking me to, not the way "I think" I should. I am going to find more time for reading, writing and yes, cooking. :) I am also inspired to start sharing more about my food journey and ways to make it at home because, maybe there are people out there like me who feel like they just hate to cook? Or maybe they just feel like they don't know how and need some inspiration? Feel free to leave me comments if you would like me to share more on that!
I have been blessed by my Instagram platform to be able to connect with so many and I don't think it is just by chance. I am not anything special, meaning I have no special degrees and I'm not claiming to be an kind of expert but, I am a Mom, a wife, and I have a story to share.
I, like many of you, am just trying to find my own way through this amazing experience called life.