We can’t survive on candy: some good yoga advice.

Image via Flickr: Juushika Redgrave

I’ve been listening to this great song lately from Gavin DeGraw‘s new album. Not only is it catchy, but there is one line in particular that sticks in my mind. “We can’t survive on candy”, sings Gavin. How appropriate a reminder for this time of year, with Halloween candy at what seems like every corner.  It may seem like common sense, but you had to learn it from somewhere. I bet your parents spent some time when you were little trying to explain that candy isn’t good for you, and that you shouldn’t eat it all the time. I know mine did. In fact, maybe you’ve spent some time recently trying to explain it to your own kids. Why? Because it doesn’t provide the nutrients that a body needs to survive and be healthy. As an adult I’m sure you know this. But do you really listen to your own advice?

I’m going to guess that you probably don’t eat candy for breakfast, or most other meals. Good for you. Candy isn’t nourishing for your body, so it should remain an occasional treat. But what do you eat for breakfast? Something from the earth, or something from a factory? How far is what you’re eating really removed from candy? It’s not really about chocolate bars and gummi bears here; the point is that we can’t survive on what doesn’t nourish us. This includes not only what we eat, but how we live our lives. Are you surviving on stress? On television? On the promise of more money, or things? Are you choosing your yoga practice based on what will nourish you, or what will make you look good?

We can’t survive on what doesn’t nourish us. Your body needs rest and rejuvenation and a break from stressful ways, just as it needs vitamins and nutrients from food to not only survive, but thrive. Your mind needs time to rest and clear away the to-do lists and worries each day. And your heart needs time to connect with others who are important to you. So take a moment and examine your life; are you making time for nourishment? Or are you trying to survive on candy?

I gave up coffee: why you have to fail to succeed.

I’d like to share something with you that I’ve learned: if you want to change a habit you have to be prepared to fail.

I love coffee. The taste, the smell, and the coffee shop scene all just draw me in like a fish on a lure. But I don’t drink it. In fact, I gave up coffee almost three years ago, and caffeine entirely more than two years ago – but before you go thinking that I made a ‘lifestyle choice’ so that I could be more ‘yogic’ or something, let me tell you: I did NOT want to give up coffee.

A number of years ago, I was what you’d call an average coffee drinker. One or two cups per day, a latte and a regular coffee perhaps, and everything seemed quite normal. But slowly over time, without noticing at first, I started to become stressed in a bad way. After trying the medicated route, I decided it wasn’t for me and started paying attention to my life to try to discover the reason for my stress. It wasn’t until I spent a morning in my office having an anxiety attack after drinking a large coffee that it occurred to me there may be a connection between caffeine and my anxiety problems. So I decided on a test: give up coffee for one week, and see how I feel.

One day and one massive headache later, I completely hated this plan. But, being the achiever that I am, I decided to stick with it anyway, and by the end of the week I felt okay. Not miraculous, but not bad. Still, I loved coffee and craved it so when the week was over, I went out and got a coffee. And boy did I feel awful. Shortly after drinking it, I felt stressed, incredibly anxious, and just all around bad. Immediately swore off coffee again, and as the weeks turned into months, realized that I was giving up coffee for good. Was I happy about that? No. But did I feel better? Definitely. And the farther away I got from drinking coffee regularly, the more I started to notice how other caffeinated drinks were affecting me too, so I gave those up too. And that was that.

Okay, it wasn’t quite that simple. Here’s the truth: during the first year or so, I probably had a coffee or decaf coffee once every six to ten weeks, when I was really missing it. The next year after that I maybe had a caffeinated drink once every few months. I was breaking my no-caffeine rule, but I’m glad I did. Because every time I broke it, I felt awful and remembered exactly why I quit caffeine in the first place. I would chastise myself: “Why did you do this? You know caffeine makes you feel terrible!” and re-commit with even more determination that next time, I would just say no. Because of this the lure of coffee became less and less appealing over time, as I became more and more determined not to feel like that again. Now I can’t even remember the last time that I had a caffeinated drink; I don’t consider it as an option anymore.

The point here is that I had to fail every now and then in order to succeed. Just like sometimes in yoga you have to fall out of a pose before you can get it right, because that’s how you learn where your limits are. We have to experience the bad in our lives in order to remember why the good is good. Failing reminds us where our limits are, and when too much is too much – something that you need to know in order to succeed.

So next time you are trying to accomplish something, don’t be afraid to fail. In fact, fail repeatedly. You’ll already be that much closer to success than the person who never tried.

You can’t predict the future. So why be stressed about it?

I was reading a great post over at Spoiled Yogi today about stress, and it got me thinking about what it is that I stress about the most. Most of the time when I’m stressing, it’s about things that are coming up or about to happen in my future; events, people I’m going to see, and conversations that I need to have. And it occurred to me all of a sudden that I’m wasting a lot of time stressing about things that are in the future.

But here’s the funny thing about the future: it hasn’t happened yet.

In the yoga world, we often talk about living in the present, and immersing yourself fully in each present moment before it passes you by. We all know why it is pointless to live in the past: you can’t change it, you so have to accept it and move on. But what’s wrong with living in the future? Well, the future hasn’t happened yet. And because it hasn’t happened yet, you can’t predict what will happen. Which means that all that time we spend stressing about things in the future is wasted energy, because you have no idea what will happen anyway. Heck, you can’t even guarantee that the sun will rise tomorrow* so you might as well just wait and see for yourself. Maybe something that you thought might happen will happen; maybe it won’t. Maybe you’ll win the lottery; maybe you won’t.

So why waste time stressing about the future when you really won’t know what happens until you get there? From now on, when I’m worried about something upcoming and feeling stressed I will remember:

You can’t predict the future. So take a deep breath, let it go, and wait to see what happens. You never know, maybe something unexpected will happen.

*this is one of the great philosophical discussions I remember having back in University. See here.