Something about spring has always made me feel like cleaning.
I had a playhouse at age 6 or 7 (how cool is that?) and once the weather got warm enough to go outside I would head to the back yard. I remember the musty smell as I opened the door of the playhouse for the first time of the season and I remember spending hours cleaning. As an adult, I have a very hairy dog and two sloppy teenagers so I have a different smell that greets me at the door and for the most part, I have pretty much given up. I figure I’l give my house a good clean when the teenage boy grows up.
But this spring the urge hit me again and I decided to dip my toe into the pool of Ayurvedic cleansing this time. In Ayurveda (the Indian system of wellness), its thought that we humans need to detox on a seasonal basis. I registered for an online program called “The Yogi-Detox”. In really traditional Ayurvedic detoxes there are some cleansing practices that we would consider – well – extreme. This cleanse was not extreme but it presented a pretty full range of options and practices to choose from.
Here is what I learned
Its not all about food.
My goals had more to do shifting some bad habits and learning to take better care of myself.
Getting a mentally clear picture of who you want to become next is key to the process. Doing some directed writing and reflection exercises gave me a chance to see this person in my mind’s eye and also see what I needed to get there. Detoxing can be a process of clearing out the mental clutter too and simplifying.
Cleaning out my closets, walking more and making my meditation practice more stable were a big part of this cleanse for me. Other things I want to keep doing are; organizing my time. This is a work in progress for me but I have started using my calendar more and even scheduling in self care. I have an alarm reminder on my phone when its time to start getting ready for bed (I know – its geeky) but it helps me wind down (i put some oil on my feet with some lavender and socks) and I have a better sleep. And I know it sounds like the most tedious thing in the world but meal planning really works. I could do healthier meals with less stress and I wasted less food.
It is a little about food.
I was overeating. I was snacking late at night. I was relying on wine to wind down. This cleanse gave me the break i needed to see these things clearly. I am not saying these things are the worst things in the world, i’m just saying they affect my weight, my sleep, and my digestion. I tried the mono-diet (kitchari), the juicing feast, and the green smoothies for one week. I learned to distinguish physical hunger from emotional hunger or boredom. I learned that I was ‘self-medicating’ a little and that when those crutches were removed – watch out. (more on being a hungry, menopausal woman in another post) I learned that I just don’t need as many calories after menopause. I learned I did not wake up in the night if I did not have a glass or two of wine.
I learned that I actually like chia porridge and green smoothies become delicious when you know how to make them. I learned eating late at night is not because of hunger. I got to experiment and see what worked for me with the goal of good energy and just generally feeling great. I like the Ayurvedic concept of three meals a day, snacking not encouraged. I like the practice of really asking myself- what will really nourish me today?
There is a lot of scientific research now into habit formation. Writing this blog post and sharing what I want to keep doing with you is part of a sticky habit strategy. Peer support/pressure is one of the best proven ways to keep yourself on track in a new habit. People used to rely on religion and the congregation to keep themselves in line. Having a group or a buddy keeps us accountable; we are social animals.
Another habit change strategy is monitoring and tracking yourself. I recently got a movement tracker to see how much I was moving and i gotta say – its pretty motivating. They say what can be measured can be changed. I am walking more for sure.
Taking advantage of the energy of the season and taking stock once or twice a year can give us a great chance to push the reset button. Spring is the season of Kapha in Ayurveda (more on this in an upcoming blog post) which means that it is a time to nurture yourself. I don’t want to be feeling just ok. I want to feel full of energy in my body, peaceful in my mind and clear in my intentions. I want to contribute to my community, have meaningful relationships and help my students live their best lives too.
As Aristotle said … “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Here are two resources on changing your habits.
“Willpower” a book by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney
This blog by James Clear – habit guru