So, just as I told you I would (in hindsight, perhaps inadvisably), last week I embarked on a one-week Yoga Journal detox program. It involved the same recipe for all my meals, abstinence from caffeine and alcohol, daily prescribed yoga practices, two guided meditations performed four times during the course of the week, early risings to accommodate Ayurvedic abhyanga (self massages with oil) followed by a shower, and all week long, an underlying question to ponder… what do I want to hold onto and what do I want to let go of in my life?

Before I go into what I learned, I have to confess that I lasted only two days on the one-dish-only diet. The dish is called kitchari and consists primarily of rice and secondarily of mung beans. I wasn’t crazy about it, but more importantly, on the diet, I felt very out of control.

I had enormous energy swings… and with the fluctuating energy came fluctuating moods. At the end of Day 2, I realized that my overriding emotion was sadness and a terrible sense of futility. Plus, I had headaches. (I totally missed the part in the magazine where it said you should wean yourself from caffeine in the days or weeks prior to starting the detox.) I decided it was time to get off the diet.

For the remainder of the week, I ate small portions of healthy foods and I drank green tea in the morning. I kept up with everything else though, and here’s what I learned…

  1. You (and by you, I mean I) should have a reason for doing something as radical as a detox or cleanse. In the last few months, I’ve eliminated meat from my diet, gotten much more serious about my yoga practice, started meditating, spent more time unplugged and made huge, evolutionary decisions about the direction of my work. I wasn’t feeling out of balance or full-o-toxins. I wanted to do the detox more out of curiosity than anything else, but when push came to shove, curiosity wasn’t enough to keep me on track when the going got tough.
  2. I don’t like being told what to do. I kind of knew this about myself, but it surprised me how… well… resentful I felt. I didn’t like being told when to shower, what to drink, what asana sequences to practice. I spent most of my meditations thinking, “I can’t wait until I can meditate the way I want to.” And then, “Oops, I wonder what she just told me to think about.”
  3. That said, having spent a week being told what to do, it is clear to me that I don’t always know what’s best for me. On Day 7, during my yoga session, I moved reluctantly from one restorative pose to the next. I don’t like resting poses. They stress me out. I lie still and my head fills with all the things I could be doing if I were not lying still. It’s so unpleasant, I almost never do them. And yet… At the end of that practice, for the first time in months, my shoulder and neck were utterly relaxed. I felt a looseness I’ve only been able to get with Vicodin.
  4. I like green tea. I’m still drinking it. I haven’t had a cup of coffee in over a week. Or a chip, for that matter. This can’t last…
  5. The most important thing I learned from the detox was about letting go. It came to me as I made the decision to stop the diet. It was hard for me to let go of the thought that doing so would mean I failed, that I’d have to come back here and write a why-I-failed-at-the-detox-thing post.When I made the decision anyway, deciding that feeling better was worth being embarrassed, it felt right, and weirdly freeing, like stepping out of a costume or putting down a mask.

    It made me think about other changes I’ve resisted making in my life because they don’t coincide with the definition of myself I’ve had for years, a definition – a costume – that I think I’ve outgrown (if it ever fit at all). I’d love to tell you that right then and there, in that brilliant flash of insight, I dropped the old worn out view of me and leaped –  naked, new and badass – onto a brave new path. Turns out, at least for me, it’s a bit more of a process than that, but I’m definitely heading there, shedding the stuff that doesn’t fit as I go.

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