a yogic state of mind

Well, I wasn’t lying when I said that there will be more yoga entries on this blog. Since writing the previous entry, the connection of the mind and yoga has been prevalent in conversations and in my practice and I thought it would be appropriate for me to touch upon the mind and yoga relationship.

Many Westerners, me included, are first exposed to yoga through their gym or a physical fitness class at school. After we get past the idea that yoga is simply stretching, we see it as a rigorous physical exercise-after all, we do practice it in a gym. However, perfecting the physical practice is not the ultimate purpose of yoga. Yoga is not practiced so that we can develop extraordinary flexibility and fold into a pretzel shape or gain massive core strength to balance into crow pose, then a tripod headstand and then lower ourselves in slow motion into chataranga. Although yogis can do amazing things with their bodies, those movements are only a means to the ultimate goal(for lack of a better word) - achieving a clearer mind or state of consciousness. A dumbed down explanation of it is that yoga is a moving meditation pairing physical movements with proper breathing to achieve clarity of the mind and thus strengthening the awareness between mind and body and universe.

Unfortunately, people's perception of yoga as strictly a physical exercise does perpetuate if individuals are never exposed to instructors who speak about yoga as a holistic practice or they choose to ignore their hippie instructor or perhaps they never even hear their instructor because they are too busy trying to stick every pose while checking themselves out in the mirror. The gym mentality is a strong and ugly beast that is bolstered by the American emphasis on competition. Admit it-there have been times in your practice where you want to be more flexible, more balanced, more focused and ironically, more yogic than the guy or girl next to you. The first step is identifying these instances and the next step is to shift your mentality.

I wanted to touch briefly on this topic tonight because I wanted to plant the seed that the practice of yoga is not actually fully yoga until you recognize the mind element of it. Maybe this will provide you with the revelation you have been looking for to elevate your practice or perhaps it is a stepping stone to your understanding of yoga. Either way, I think this awareness can at the very least, help you start respecting the practice as a whole. So next time, don’t roll your eyes when your instructor spends time breaking down ujjayi breath, instead, let it empower your practice and take your mind and body further.

Until next time,
breathe deeply & practice clearly


balance through yoga

Whew-what a busy month it’s been! Socially, it feels like people are coming out of the woodworks, especially this past week because my cousin was in town. At work, I’ve been putting in some extended hours for a huge project that had its final push for a deliverable this Wednesday. Physically, I have been getting up at 5:45 every weekday to either go to a boot camp or to get to work. Needless to say, I am spent and am looking forward to a long weekend that is starting right now as I take a bus into NYC and then in NJ where I will be celebrating my brother and friend’s graduations and many cousins’ birthdays!

When my life gets hectic, sleep, then exercise, and then mindful eating habits fall by the wayside-creating a horrible mind.body imbalance during a time when I could use it the most. Luckily, weeks like this are more of an exception than the rule. My previous job, as a consultant, required consistently longer hours week-in and week-out. It was in the “Bull Pen” that I gained my “Freshman 15”-snacking on nuts, devouring chocolate, eating late dinners from the Grand Central market and gulping 11PM iced double espressos with a shot of chocolate. It would have been a quick downward spiral into obesity, depression, and general overall poor health if it weren’t for one factor-yoga.

Now how can I attribute my current lifestyle and beliefs to one single thing? To my fellow yogis, you will agree with me when I say that yoga is more than what meets the eye and also its benefits are in the eyes of the yogi or yogini. When I was first introduced to yoga, I saw it as a reason to get out of the office, spend some time with co-workers, and get some “exercise.” I don’t remember my exact opinion of yoga before, but I’m pretty sure I saw it as a frou frou “workout” that was a bunch of stretching and then allowed you to sleep at the end it. HAHA, man was I ever wrong! I remember one of the first times I felt that yoga was an actual workout. I was in triangle, stretching my right hand up and feeling every tendon in my upper arm fidgeting. That was an awesome sensation and something I look back on often to remind myself the surprises that yoga holds.

For those who know me, I have become a huge advocate of yoga (and I believe rightfully so!) I believe that my growing awareness of the mind and body (the basis of this blog) can be attributed to my yoga practice and the people I have met that have influenced my practice. Each and every time I get on the mat to practice, I encounter unbelievable challenges-both physically and mentally. I spread the word because I want those that I care about to not only feel all their arm tendons but above that, I also want them to experience the awareness that comes with yoga. And now my blog is just another avenue for me to shout on the top of the virtual rooftops my love for it:)

I will not write any further about this topic since I could go on for hours about all the different aspects of it. Don’t worry though! This mind.body exercise will be featured often and proudly on Potluck Orchard. In the meantime, I would love to hear your thoughts on yoga -how it’s affected your life, your favorite pose, your most challenging pose, your introduction into it, etc. If you have not tried yoga yet, I encourage you to go out there and take a class at your gym or a local studio-actually take 10 since that is about how many it takes to start understanding it more deeply-then come back and tell me about it!

Until next time,
breathe deeply and pose


cleansing with fruit

So I am at the end of the second day of my three day fruit cleanse. I was first introduced to a fruit cleanse about a year ago. My former manager, an avid sailing yogi, experienced her first fruit cleanse at yoga bootcamp with Baron Baptiste. When she brought up the idea one day in the office, I decided to join her. I was less concerned or aware of the benefits; I really saw it as a challenge. Little did I know that a year later, I would be practicing my third cleanse.

The rules are simple: eat nothing but fruit for 3 days. For me, that means eating any assortment of oranges, apples, grapes, grapefruits, pears, strawberries, bananas, and the occasional pomelo. This also includes tomatoes and avocados which are the savory savors of the cleanse. :) However, actually going through the cleanse is not as easy or delicious as it sounds. The three main challenges (isn’t it strange how things come in three’s?) are overcoming: 1) our habits; 2) our aversion to limitations; and 3) our propensity for distraction.

our.habits: Like I mentioned in the last post, we have many lifestyle habits, especially concerning food. Breaking our habits is extremely hard and requires a lot of willpower, especially when it is self-induced. This cleanse provides a little bit of structure to test our willpower. We can rationalize the hell out of it but at the end of the day, we never really NEED anything. This is something I try to remind myself, whether I am on a cleanse or not. Tonight, for instance, I was rationalizing that my Teddie’s All Natural Crunchy Peanut Butter would be appropriate for the cleanse because peanuts are legumes, which are technically fruits. But I reminded myself of the reason I was doing this in the first place and settled down to a dinner of avocado, strawberry, and tomato salad with thoughts of peanut butter cookies dancing in my head. It is a long road to breaking those habits, but I see the cleanse as a pit stop to revisit periodically to get me back on track.

our.aversion.to.limitations: When you used to ask your mom for cookies before dinner and she said no, how much more did you want them? We don’t deal well with limitations and never will. This cleanse is all about retraining our minds and allowing ourselves to see that limitations will not ruin us. We don’t need to eat 3-6 different meals each day to survive nor do we need to eat everything but the kitchen sink for every meal. Actually, it is easier on our digestive system to limit the variety of foods that we eat in one sitting. And remember, there is always tomorrow to enjoy those cookies.

our.propensity.for.distraction: Food often serves as a distraction mechanism. Either from itself (at the buffet, how many of us actually taste our bland cubes of jello atop overly spicy chicken wings atop soggy French toast atop greasy lo mein noodles?) or from other issues (at a family reuinion, how many of us stuff our faces instead of partaking in a conversation of how well cousin Johnny is doing in med school?). Going on this cleanse gives us a bit of breathing room allowing us to focus on other aspects of our lives. Focusing on other things will be easier because frankly, by the afternoon of your first day, eating fruits will be so monotonous that you will only eat when you are hungry. Lessening the distractions of our days helps us not only to take a step back and be more aware of ourselves, but also start to observe what is going on around us- details that we’ve previously overlooked.

A fruit cleanse is a vehicle that brings out and makes us aware of our attachment to food. It seems simple enough but this cleanse that appears to only limit us physically challenges us very much psychologically. Giving ourselves the opportunity to check back in with our body is crucial to our mind.body connection.

Until next time, be strong and be aware.


the mind.body connection

Before delving into the relationships between food & the mind and food & the body, we will briefly examine our mind.body connection. Or should I say DISconnection?*

Back in the days of the cavemen and cavewomen, humankind’s biggest concerns were to survive from one day to the next. Due to the scarcity of food, we only ate when we were hungry or when there was food to be had. When it was dark, we would sleep. Modern developments have made absent many of the issues that our ancestors dealt with, like scarcity of food, light, and warmth. Although our world has changed dramatically, I do not believe we have changed that much psychologically. We still act on instincts and have carnal desires. However, in today’s society, our desire to survive is no longer the issue. Instead, we focus on attaining pleasure. Unfortunately, that shift from survival to pleasure is the root of the growing disconnect between the mind and body.

Now you may think, is it a crime to want to be happy? It is not a “crime” until you start to hurt yourself. In modern day, we have instant access to almost anything that we want and are often so overstimulated that it is easy to be caught up in attaining gratification and ignore our bodies’ needs. Additionally, we have become so ego-centric that what we think is right for our body, not our common sense or intelligence, makes our decisions for us. Our desire for pleasure is very complicated but ultimately, it leads to our seeking euphoria-usually a false sense of it. This false sense of happiness often coincides with a complete disregard for what the body really needs.

There are one-off cases of pursuing instant gratification but many times, our desire manifests itself into habits. I’m sure you have heard the saying, “Humans are creatures of habits.” And that is because habits are developed around repeated experiences that provide us the feeling of pleasure-what we are all ultimately seeking. Habits become so ingrained into our lives that sometimes we do not even recognize them as habits, but as the norm. This ill-recognition is one of the main indicators of the mind.body DISconnection.

Now, you may think that this post contains many broad statements about the general population and does not apply to you. You are right to think that because habits range from the very minor to the extreme. The indications of extreme are addictions like alcoholism, obesity, and drug abuse. But I am adamant when I say that everybody has a habit that has caused them to ignore their body at one point or another-including you. How many times have you stayed up later to catch a TV show that you ALWAYS watch when your body is telling you that you are tired and need sleep? Have you ever gone back to the buffet line one too many times only to feel nausea and stomach pain later? You may think that missing a little sleep to catch that TV show is not a big deal, but it is safe to say that this was not the only time you ignored your body. Constantly disregarding the body is dangerous. It may be hard to believe, but the body actually knows what we need better than ourselves. Before we examine our bodies’ relationship with external factors, we need to restore this relationship within ourselves.

Amid the hustle and bustle of our lives, it is easy to get lost in our thoughts and be clouded from what our bodies need. I encourage everyone to live quietly the upcoming week, or even just the next few days. Take off those iPod buds on your commute to work and listen to your body. Before you reach for that second helping at dinner, think, “Does my body really need this or is it just a habit for me to have a second helping?” Recognizing the disconnect is a huge accomplishment unto itself. It is the first step in restoring the mind.body connection.

Until next time, listen and learn.

*The mind.body connection is a very extensive both biologically and psychologically. I have only chosen to cover one aspect that serves to support my idea of the harmful disconnection between the mind and body.