Eating again

30 August, 2005

I’m eating regular food now; I was back to eating what everybody else was having Saturday night and it’s wonderful to savour the tastes. Having said that this afternoon I was craving the fresh fruit and salads that I enjoyed earlier in the week and so that’s what I took for lunch – greens, cucumber, carrots, radish from the garden and a fresh apple from the bunch we picked up last week at Chudleigh’s down the road. Tonight it’ll be a bit more decadent as we’re having the birthday cake we put off last week in a short while. (They’ve considered my new sensibility to eating right and it’s actually a fresh fruit flan). Although I only lost a couple of pounds I look incredibly lean after the fast – yesterday I got into a 30 waist pair of shorts I hadn’t worn in years.

It’s nice to get back into my normal routine; for example I strength-trained again today. But I’ve been a reluctant yogi the last couple of days; I’ve really had to battle the urge to skip – maybe the new moon’s coming in early for me. Today I got up at 6:00 am, but I lay in bed for half an hour before dragging myself to the mat. Once I start, I’m ok – I know I’ll carry through…and I did. I’ve seen subtle but real progress this week. Very close to binding Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana for the first time, whereas I was miles away just a couple of months ago. I’m delighted with the changes that I’ve seen over the last 4 months that I’ve been practicing daily – they’ve come so fast.

I’ve got an easy week ahead of me. I’m in the office for one more day and then on education Wednesday. I’ve got Thursday off, Friday’s a floater holiday (my company has these on long weekends to give us a 4-day weekend – nice eh?) and then Monday’s Labour day – so that means a 5-day weakend!

Executive Leadership Forum – that’s what the training’s called this Wednesday. It’s a chance to get away from the tactical day-to-day considerations of executing projects and spend some time talking about the firm, the business and strategy. It’s starts with cocktails and dinner at a country club tomorrow night. I’ve gotten a lot of this lately; last February I was sent down to Durham for a week on a leadership course with colleagues from across North America. That’s one great thing about working for a firm with global reach – the opportunity to meet and work with so many people from all over the place.

I use to have a bit of a hard time reconciling my practice with my career – you know, the notion that true yogis renounce the world to live in the forest living and live off berries between asanas. The Gita’s cleared me up on that but more on that some other time. I’ve got an early morning tomororw as I’m in the office tomorrow (before heading of for that Country Club) and that of course means a 4:00 am practice…if I set my alarm correctly.

Fasting – Day 5 & 6

27 August, 2005

I’ve had a couple of great days of practices but inspite of still struggling with sloth. Both Friday and Saturday I really struggled to get onto the mat – pure laziness. This morning I even wandered around the mat for a few minutes doing everything I could to procastinate. Eventually I got onto the mat. Some of the subtle breakthroughs that I’ve registered this week were still there; I’m carrying a bit less baggage after the fast and it’s making it easier for me to get my head own – or at least that’s my theory. Hopefully some of the inches’ll stay off. Practicing daily should make that easier.

This has been my best fast. Generally, not eating is the easy bit. Breaking the fast is tough and often I haven’t broken it properly in the past. This time I’ve been solid; from Wednesday through to Yesterday all I had was fresh, raw fruits and vegetables. Yesterday evening I had my first ‘cooked’ meal – plain warm soba noodles, steamed peas and a baked sweat potato. This morning I had fruit for breakfast and for lunch real cooked food – Khichri.

I can ease into my regular diet with tonight’s meal. This fast could change things for me. I was surprised that once I started eating again, I wasn’t craving at all seasoned food. I was pretty satisfied with eating simple or even raw food. When I cooked, only steamed or baked – and never seasoned my food even with just salt or pepper. I think I’m going to try to keep some room in my diet for more of this.

What else did I do today? I watched my daughter at swimming. Between asanas and football (playing not watching), I don’t usually make it in time for this lesson. I last saw her swim over a year ago and was amazed with her progress; she was still pretty apprehensive about being in the water back then, now she can swim the length of pool with one of those foam tubes – and she can swim a fair bit without them as well.

After coming home I took a nap. It was one of those nap-inducing Saturdays – dark with clouds and threatening rain. Apparently it rained a whole lot while I slept. It’s past 8 now and I haven’t done anything remotely resembling work today. I would have done the ironing but somebody tackled even that while I napped. Ah well…heh. After all the visitors we’ve had we’re just chilling this weekend.

Fasting – Day 4

26 August, 2005

For the second time in as many weeks I’ve screwed up my 4:00 am practice by goofing up my alarm. Idiot. I set the alarm on my chronograph wristwatch and basically I had the small hand pointing to the wrong notch (five instead of four). I didn’t realise it right away. So I got to my mat and started my practice and then 40 minutes later, halfway through Mari A I glanced at my watch and did a double-take – “Does that really say 5:50 am?!” I got up and went into our bedroom to see that my wife was just about ready. So I ended my practice then and there, unceremoniously halfway through — without any of the closing poses. I didn’t even go back to roll up my mat. It’s still lying out on the floor upstairs.

What there was of my practice was good though – I was pleased to see that I was able to bind in Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana both ways. I’ve been able to bind my left limbs for ages, but I was only able to bind my right limbs for the first time in an evening practice just this week – rather suddenly; without any hint that it was imminent – I reached around my back with my right hand and to my surprise grabbed my right foot. I was please though that I repeated the feat this morning – it’s one thing to bind at 7:00 pm, it’s another thing entirely to do it at 5:30 am.

So no full practice for me today then. Oh well. Some practice is better than none. I do prefer to know up front that I don’t have the full 90 minutes though; that way I can purposefully choose my asanas and close properly with at least Sirsana and Savanasa. Unfortunately that didn’t happen this morning.

I continued the breaking of my fast today with fresh fruit. Tonight and tomorrow I can have salads. And tomorrow evening something more substantial – maybe some steamed vegetables with soba (buckwheat noodles). I have felt fantastic the last two days; as though I had just got back from a vacation. I’m not feeling jaded or tired anymore and I feel incredibly content. Somebody told me out of the blue that I looked good today. Radiant I think was the word they used. I blushed a bit as a guy would and I thought to myself ‘sure – for the past 4 days all I’ve drunk is purified and filtered well water and on the rare occasions that I have eaten – which is exactly twice – it’s all been fresh fruit. Of course I look great.

It could be the fast that has me feeling so good. But I’ve slept longer through the days of my fast – since I wasn’t eating supper I could go to bed anytime. One night I just went to bed early just so that I wouldn’t have to feel hungry. And the cooler weather has meant better quality of sleep as well.

Tomorrow I’m home working from home again and barring a catastrophe – a hurricane or something (which is highly unlikely in these parts) it’ll be a full 90 minutes.

I’m listening to The Stone Roses (not unheard of as they are my favourite) – Tears. What a song. How do some songs last the ages and sound as good to you as they did when you first heard them…despite having heard them a thousand times?

Fasting – Day 3 (and Birthday)

24 August, 2005

It is maybe too austere to have spent one’s birthday fasting but I have had a fine day nevertheless. I got up feeling pretty weak and wondered how I would get through the day; and I felt cold again. But eventually I was fine and had a good day at work – sharp, focused and productive.

I took a 90 minute break for a practice at 12:30 that was in keeping with the way the day was turning out – excellent. I wanted to practice relatively early, anticipating my early morning tomorrow (a 4:00 am practice as I’m driving into the office). I practiced in the warmest room in the house; it gets sun through the day and I sweated buckets. For all my acceptance yesterday of where I was in my practice, I had real breakthroughs today – for example binding both ways for the first time in Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana; taking my forehead to the mat in Upavishta Konasana; and a decent (if not world-class) Chakrasana. My vinyasas were excellent – with fine controlled jump forwards. Before my asanas I took a walk through my trees and meadow – it was pastoral and indescribably fine – the butterflies dancing in pairs, the clear blue sky. I swung my daughter on her swing and walked through the vegetable patch. I thought what a fine day I’m having and how lucky I am to have all this.

After work I watched a sumptuous Arsenal beat Fulham 4-1; a nice comeback from the unlucky loss to Chelsea on the weekend.

I started writing this blog making full use of my wireless outside under my gazebo enjoying (again) the blue and green all around me. Then in the evening, I finally broke my fast with some pineapple, watermelon and grapes. In the end the food always tastes…well…like it always does: Good. You’d expect it to taste unbelievably good after three days of fasting, but in the end it was just plain good.

Now I’m sitting in front of the TV to wrap up the evening. I’m watching Octopussy – the Roger Moore James Bond movie and I just saw my mother-in-law a little while ago – a rather young-looking extra in the movie (funnily enough she just called from London to say happy birthday – it must be 3:00 am over there! What’s she doing up?). Of course the movie’s cheesy but that’s what makes it entertaining. But, I’ve got better things to do – sleep; as I’ve said, it’s an early morning tomorrow.

Fasting – Day 2

23 August, 2005

Day 1 was pretty easy. The hunger I felt was more what I might expect to feel if I hadn’t eaten in 3 or 4 hours, not 24 hours. There were no headaches – which was a surprise as I usually get them when I fast. Maybe it’s because my diet has generally improved since I last fasted. I stayed well hydrated, drinking lots of water all day long.

I also had a pretty good practice in the evening with lots of heat and much better focus than usual. Lately there have been no new breakthroughs to report. My primary series is generally pretty competent and I’m not worried about progress or any lack thereof. I’m just doing my asanas without thinking too much of where I will be with them next month or next year. I’ll just keep doing them day after day and see where they take me.

After watching everybody else eat, I spent some time reading with my daughter and playing her favourite game Trouble before getting to bed at a very yoga-respectable 10:00 pm

Day 2 of the fast has been ok as well. I’m hungry of course. I have a slight headache and I’m feeling a bit cold; the A/C hasn’t been at all today as it’s been a cool 16 degrees and I’m feeling it because I haven’t eaten in some 48 hours. In spite of all this I’ve had a productive day. I feel really focused already and am looking forward to a good practice tonight.

The kitchen’s filled with fresh vegetables my Dad brought in from the Garden – zuccinni, tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers today. It’s hard to look at it all. I just want to pop one of those fresh cherry tomatoes in my mouth. Last night the rest of the family had a meal that was completely from the garden – saag made with okra from the garden with bhakri and tomato/cucumber salad. It looked good. Mind you everything looks good right now. But I’m practically through Day 2 and then one more before I break the fast with some fruit on Thursday.

Fasting – Day 1

22 August, 2005

I’ve decided to fast this week. Usually I start my fast in the evening – skipping supper but we took our visitors to dinner at relatives last night so that was not going to happen. So instead I’ve started today in the morning with a breakfast that I did not break.

I have fasted once or twice a year for the past two or three years. My last was just before Christmas (after Christmas would have been a better idea!). The first day or two is tough – the occasional headache and pastiness in the mouth are particularly unpleasant. After that it’s ok and the way I feel after day 2 makes up for it. It’s hard to explain but basically my focus, alertness, energy levels and general well-being seem to increase. Essentially I feel content. I don’t think you need to fast to feel this way – just stop eating the crap out. But fasting gives the digestive system a break and make sure that no junk is going in. My desire to improve my diet and make it simple and cleaner is reinforced by what I feel during my fasts.

The unexpected fringe benefit that I discovered when I first fasted was the extra time I had – it’s amazing how much time we spend cooking and eating. Also, it makes me appreciate all I have and brings perspective. In comparison to the real deprivation some people suffer, what I subject myself to amounts to a small discomfort – and yet after my fast I come again to appreciate how fortunate I am to have what I have, and how good it is to have something, anything, to eat.

My fast is based on the Sivananda approach to Yoga. I’m going to abstain from food completely for three days and follow with a day of fresh fruit/juices (no citrus or bananas though), a day of salad vegetables, and finally a day of steamed vegetables and millet/buckwheat before easing back into the my usual diet. Let’s see how it goes.

It was a late night again and no practice this morning but I can practice this evening anytime after work as I don’t need to worry about the two-hour gap after eating (since I’m not eating). I’ll practice Ashtanga style for a day or two and see how it goes. I may need to tone it down to Hatha. Strength-Training is obviously out of the question for the next week.

Practice on Sunday morning was strange as I’d practiced Saturday evening – to be on the mat for two 90-minute sessions in a 12 hour span felt like a lot of asana. My session that Saturday evening was poorly focused. A decade ago, I had a hamburger a year or so after becoming a vegetarian. I reacted immediately – I broke into a sweat and my throat felt rough. I also remember feeling a kind of buzz – like you might get from caffeine. This episode was the catalyst making me a vegetarian for good. The shock I felt about the way the burger made me felt has kept me off meat for 9 years. Now that isn’t even a factor – after not having had it for so long, I just don’t want to eat it.

Anyway, something similar happened to me this weekend. I had a pre-natal class on Saturday with my wife. A half hour into the class I was close to falling asleep. So during the next break I went across the road to a Tim Horton’s get coffee. I got a large, black no sugar – my first since December. 4 sips into it I was wired – my attention and energy levels were now sky-high. But 9 hours later I was struggling harder than ever to maintain focus for my asanas – I was all over the place mentally and my concentration has never been so poor. And 13 hours later I had trouble getting to sleep – this is something I have hardly ever experienced (usually fall asleep so quickly that I don’t remember lying in bed). I felt crap the next day – I felt as though I had hardly slept at all. I’m pretty sure I won’t be drinking coffee again for a long time.


In response to my last blog, somebody commented on my use of Roundup to clear my brush before replanting with wildflower and wild grass seed. They questioned my calling it eco-friendly; I referred to it as such because I understood that Roundup was biodegradeable and that all traces of it were gone in 7 days – I don’t know this for a fact; I relied on what The Wildflower Farm (the place I bought my seed and consulted with) say about it. I don’t know enough about the product or the company (Monsanto) that brands, markets and sells the product (although I do know what a lot of people have to say about them!) to comment one way or another on the product or the company. Therefore I will remove the reference to Roundup as eco-friendly.

Goldenrod is coming

20 August, 2005

A sure sign that fall is around the corner is the goldenrod flourishing through our wildflower meadow right now. (But as an Ashtangi you already know that Summer’s ending as it’s now still dark when you finish you practice right?). Anyway, goldenrod’s beautiful but I wonder whether I should have planted it; six years ago when I visited the site that our house would be built on, the entire two acres were covered in a vast forest of goldenrod that stood over five feet. We cleared the space for our wildflowers with Roundup three times before planting but when we tilled the soil on planting we must surely have lifted dormant goldenrod seed so perhaps I need not have planted any more – I hope it doesn’t crowd out the others. And where are the aster that are supposed to come with the goldenrod? They are perennial (pun unintented) bedfellows and I know I planted it but I don’t see a single one yet. But it’s still early and maybe they too will soon be coming.

And now to the asanas. I just finished practicing a couple an hour or so ago. I couldn’t practice this morning as were needed to be out of the house at 8:00 am. It’s my first evening practice in months – certainly the first since I started this blog. As expected, it was a boost for the ego. the warmth of the late afternoon and the midday flexibility had me binding things I can only dream of in the mornings, and for the first time in weeks I broke a proper sweat. As I’ve said before, I’d still much rather practice in the morning in spite of the improvement in form that comes from evening practices. As good as the poses and vinyasas were, the focus was way bad (for reasons I’ll get into tomorrow).

Off the mat I had a fine day off on Friday; a leisurely morning and then we took our visitors to Niagara. I cannot count the times I have seen the Falls. I’ll groan at the idea of seeing them one more time – but when I’m there I wonder why because they never fail to completely captivate me. All those negative ions; the roar; the mist; the notion that this water has come down so majestically for every second of every minute of every hour for the last 12,000 years is mind-blowing. When Patanjali wrote his Sutras, the Falls were already some 10,000 years!

On the way home that evening, we stopped in Brantford at my uncle’s Indian restaurant -The Clay Oven. We made it a very late night once again (hence the evening practice today). The food as usual was very good – especially the tandoori naan made in a clay oven brought from India. As you may guess from the restaurant’s name, it’s a specialty of the place.

All the rich food and beer that we’ve had lately while entertaining our visitors has me considering a fast this week. I haven’t fasted since December and largely my diet has evolved in ways that make fasting less compelling. However I think it may now be the time for it. I’d be fasting through my birthday but then what better way to usher in a new year? But then I better run it by my wife in case she has other ideas!