However, as we’ve seen every time I have a, “So I was sick this week…” post, I just can’t help myself. Yoga (and blogging) is such an intensely personal practice. That’s why I love it and was drawn to it and in my opinion, you just can’t be a teacher without sometimes letting your life leak into your teachings.
The original plan for this week was to do a book report on Deepak Chopra’s The Seven Laws of Spiritual Success. I’ll probably do that one at some point, but it was trumped this week by some personal stuff. Hence my prolonged preamble.
Due to some personal health stuff (vagueness deliberate – I do have to keep up some boundaries!), my doctor has urged me to go on a ‘trial’ of being gluten-free for a month.
For some, this would be no big deal. If you were a yogi who’s used to an austere attitude towards food, someone who has gone no or low carb in the past, or are just very intellectual about your food rather than emotional, this could be a simple scientific process of just swapping out and cutting out a few elements of your diet.
For me, however...
This is a HUGE deal. I am very much a slave to my tastebuds. I do eat sensibly – most of the time. I feel like I’m moderately educated about what a healthy diet is and I always try my best. I’ve made some healthy swaps over the years, drastically reduced some of the junk I used to live off of in my childhood and teen years, and discovered that fruits and vegetables are actually not the enemy I thought they were.
However, I’ve always had one very strict policy. I NEVER deny myself something full stop. Nothing has been eliminated from my diet. For example, I hardly ever eat Cheetos anymore, but the few times a year I’m at a party where there’s a bowl, you will be hard pressed to keep me away from it for more than a few minutes at a time.
Yet I’ve also always craved dietary discipline just as much as I crave buttery, salty popcorn. As a ballerina when I was younger (and now as a yogi, which, you may know, is a community rife with vegetarians and vegans), I was immersed in a culture that had its own special relationship with food. When I was younger I used to fantasize about being the perfect ballerina, who got up at the crack of dawn to practice and stopped only to nibble on the occasional salad. Think Natalie Portman in Black Swan with out the extreme dark creepy elements.
Although that's what I wished I could be, I never really gave it a try. Partly because when you're a kid, you eat what you're fixed, partly because I do have such a genuine love of all kinds of amazing and terrible food, and, perhaps most importantly, I was attached to my identity as a junk food junkie. I still am. I have a reputation for being a choco-holic, among other things, and I wear the badge proudly. People always react when you change something about yourself, and the way we eat is a pretty big identifying characteristic. Anyone who's ever gone vegetarian or vegan can attest to the intense barrage of questions and judgment rained down by close family and friends, who themselves are attached to their idea of you as someone who eats burgers (or whatever the case may be).
In general, it's easier to go with the status quo than to make a change. It's easier to act on habit than mindfulness. It's easier to fill your established role than to create a new one.
If it seems strange or melodramatic to you that I'm making such a big philosophical point out of the news that I have go to gluten free for a month...it only serves as further evidence that food is a very, very big deal for me!
But - in my yoga teacher brain, I know that it is just food. It doesn't truly define me. Despite all the marketing and despite the many ways in which we've engineered food to taste like little rich pieces of heaven, it truly is only supposed to exist to fuel and nourish our bodies. To keep us alive, and better yet - keep us healthy! There is value to the pleasure that food can give us, but our health trumps even the most delicious chocolate truffle. (In my choco-holic brain, I can't believe I just said that, but it's true.)
I've gotten the initial few days of freaking out under my belt, and now is the time to be a grown-up about it. I'm choosing to view this as a liberation rather than a limitation. I'm choosing to view this as an opportunity to make a big leap and embrace something resembling that healthy diet I fantasized about as a little ballerina. Though I plan to eat more than just salads.
And besides - It's an experiment. A trial. A month. We'll see how it works out and if we get the results my doctor and I are thinking we will from this. Even if in a month's time I'm back in an Italian restaurant, glorifying in garlic bread and glutenous pasta, I plan to take some lessons with me from this month. Thoughtfulness, moderation, detachment, and health above all.