For as long as BYSJ has been established, I’ve wanted to find and get behind a nutrition routine that I can support and encourage to all of you. There are so many diets, cleanses, supplements, meal plans, and fasts with all sorts of materials, testimonials, and medical studies to attract and support their claims that their program will ultimately lead to better health and a better life. While most of these are very good and do help us awaken to what is real nutrition and to what we each need, I wanted to feel comfortable in offering a realistic food plan and associated cleanse that can work with most lifestyles; one that wasn’t expensive, that didn’t have tight restrictions and yet was delicious and based on real food! The Ayurveda way appealed to me as it follows suit in what we do in our yoga practice: to create balance and harmony with the mind, body and spirit. With yoga, we learn that our body is a storehouse of knowledge and with proper use of the information it gives us, we train our body’s own resources through stretches and contractions to restore balance and maintain optimal health. Food is no different.

Ayurveda, meaning “science or knowledge of life,” is a 5000 year old holistic health care system originating in India that teaches us that food too, with proper understanding of its properties in relation to our own bodies, can work to restore and maintain balance in the mind, body and spirit. Talya Lutzker of Talya’s Kitchen was introduced to me by a BYSJ member. We had Talya cater some items for a teacher dinner that we held earlier this year and the dishes were delicious. We talked about offering a cleanse post 60-Day Challenge giving the students more reason to stick with a newly created health routine and now supplement that with better eating. The yoga encourages us to make wiser choices that enhance our self-growth. What we eat HAS to be one of the single most important choices we make along our path as it directly affects how we feel in everything we do! You are what you eat and in our practice of yoga, as I am sure all of you have experienced, you become more sensitive to foods, noticing times when you are more energetic versus sluggish or more irritated versus when you are calm. It’s not just the yoga affecting you, but it’s also coupled with the foods you choose to eat as they too have consequences on the mind, body and spirit.

The Ayurveda Fast went something like this: we met for an initial free talk to see if the cleanse was for you; once we decided, participants met for about two hours to go through a full orientation of the cleanse which included a meal plan for 7 days and lots of recipes and information in a 60 page booklet prepared by Talya. Giving us a day or two to shop for the necessary food items, we then all kicked off our cleanse on about the same day (give a day or two if needed for some). Each day, we received an email from Talya with words of encouragement, a challenge to complete for that day and new recipes. We were encouraged to email each other – and we did, lots! – with regard to how we felt, what we ate, what was hard, questions, recipes, aha moments, etc. It is clearly a Community Cleanse set up to aid you in difficult moments when it seems hard to continue yet resulting in a new set of friends! Perfect!

The foods encouraged were in season, raw, baked, steamed, roasted or juiced which are ways to keep and digest the food’s powerful properties and doing so in ways that are both flavorful and satisfying. The recipes provided were full of good spices that had a particular benefit to the body’s constitution. Talya was clear that this cleanse was meant to set you up with a “toolbox” full of good things to keep and use in your evolving desire to transform your ways of eating. Talya was super realistic and funny telling us that our cleanse “should meet us where we are at”, meaning to do what we can even if it is just staying off coffee for one week and to use the 80/20 rule: 80% of the time you are following the cleanse/diet plan and 20% of the time you are not (so any occasional coffee isn’t going to kill me – Thank God) In other words, push to do the 7 day as designed to get optimal benefits but don’t get upset or frustrated if you fell off, as just doing something the right way will give you benefit – just like Bikram Yoga! For Talya and her passion for this way of living, she wanted to really instill in us this point – to stay away from these four foods called the “Foul Four”: alcohol, table salt, refined sugar, and canola oil.

Where am I going with all this? It is not meant to be an advertisement for Talya and a promotion for doing a Cleanse. Although members, we are doing it again in the fall and we will most likely as a community studio start to do these as part of our brand twice a year. We will continue to incorporate more and more, such as potluck dinners and cooking classes. Stay tuned to the monitors and our website for more information. Rather, it is a push to get you to look at this component of your life – nutrition. It is that important! Asking yourself, why you eat what you eat? Can I make some small but significant changes that just might enhance my energy and my attitude?

During the Cleanse, the Boston bombings occurred. Devastating, unbelievable and so very sad (among the many adjectives to describe what is incomprehensible). What is significant as it relates to the cleanse is the type of connection to it. Yes, the cleanse can make you spacey (putting my opened Kombucha in the cabinet instead of refrigerator; placing pits in the blender as opposed to the fruit) but it also makes things very clear. For instance, I felt a more concise connection between my mind and my muscles isolating and working with each so I could use or relax according to my practice. And in yoga, that is pretty powerful. Additionally, I felt more symmetry between what I wanted to convey and how it actually was conveyed. I was attentive and able to “catch” creative moments as they flashed upon me. But, mostly, I felt humanity. I am so fortunate to get to do what I love to do and be with people I truly love and admire. While I do appreciate and feel blessed daily, during the cleanse, my gratitude for life and for people became more emotional. As I read about the bombings through my “cleanse filter,” I felt pain seeing everyone suffer and I didn’t understand how individuals could ever get to a point to want and then act out such violence upon other fellow human beings and essentially upon themselves as well.

We are pre-conditioned to act in ways that reflect our upbringing, our environment. For instance as a child, if you were given pickled ginger by your mom in a kitchen that had purple wallpaper and that experience gave you a stomach ache, you might very well feel a stomach ache walking into any room with purple wallpaper even now as an adult! (Funny example, I know, but you get my point). As we grow and mature, we HAVE to move away from reptilian thinking which is to act on instinct and move on to higher levels of thinking which will then abandon more irrational thought processes. There are consequences if we don’t. We will begin to harm ourselves and others with continual unconscious conditioned behaviors AND we will be easily influenced by others that agree with and can help us hold onto behaviors that are not serving our greater good. Reality is a choice. We are responsible for our perspectives that we choose to live by so knowing what is real is the challenge to take. Members, you stretch your reality every time you walk in the yoga room and do your 26 poses. The chance to let go of the daily grind, confront habits and reinforce a shift in the body and the mind with repetition day after day IS an act of kindness to you and others around you. Instead of quitting because it is too hard or because you are conditioned to give up, you welcome the chance to grow and change. It is a non-violent action as you learn to love and not harm yourself or others. As is what we choose to eat.

Sugar feeds adrenaline which can feed anger. Meats have an impact on cortisol production which is our stress hormone. Yet, green leafy vegetables enhance our digestive system where 80% of our immune system lives. Foods rich in probiotics like Kefir and miso paste can relieve inflammation and bloating. Members, if we are on the path to attain enlightenment, it seems necessary to touch upon our habits of eating. I am a believer in moderation. None of this is meant for you to re-create your meal plan but rather to invite some new information so you might create substitutes that promote your higher level of thinking, higher level of living, higher level of being. Imagine who you might influence – your kids. Just the switch to eating raw almond butter instead of Skippy’s peanut butter can spark a shift in how they think about food which just might ignite other, wiser, more “non-violent” decisions they will begin to make in their lives.