Yoga is a mindful practice that spills over into other parts of life.
It lifts the spirits, calms the mind, deepens the soul and strengthens the body.
Not only does it tone the muscles, but it increases consciousness about what to feed those muscles.
Over the years, I would usually eat most any item on a menu. I never really steered clear of red meat, frequently ate salads topped with chicken, made a mean short rib barley soup and created comfort meals of meatloaf and my signature meatballs. Family celebrations would find us at the Palm, where I would order the Filet Mignon.
But that was all before yoga.
When I started yoga, I many of my fellow yogis were on a cleanse and had erased all meat from their diets for a period of time. Many had been doing so for years.
I really did not give it a second thought until one day in mid-winter when I was shopping for groceries in the meat aisle. I stopped and considered whether I really wanted to buy meat at all.
Did I really want to eat it? How would I feel if I did not? I went home and sent an email to my adult children: I’m going to be a pescatarian and eat fish but not meat! Who’s with me?
My daughter was in; my son was a maybe. And so it began.
I spent the next two seasons complementing my mindful yoga practice with mindful eating, my diet consisting of eggs, toast, tofu, fish, grains, pasta and lots and lots of sushi and sashimi.
Between the yoga and my new diet, I was completely energized.
Until, that is, the day the instructor introduced a new way to enter Handstand.
We were to stand near the wall, pull back into a crouch with hands on the mat, and look ahead before springing forward into a Handstand stand with both feet going up at the same time. Difficult! And much harder than my usual kick up of one leg after the other.
It was in this effort that my arms began to feel weak.
In the days that followed, I kept looking at them in the studio mirror when we practiced. Were they scrawny? Had I lost some of the new muscle I had made? Why didn’t I feel strong enough to master the new Handstand?
Weeks and weeks passed before I finally jumped into it, both feet simultaneously lifting off the ground and standing on the ceiling in triumph.
Even so, in the weeks thereafter as I would continue to work on this inversion, my arms would continue to easily tire. I could only attempt this particular Handstand stand about four times before having to call it a day.
When I asked a fellow yogi about it, he suggested I eat more protein and, that night, I went home and made myself a gigantic omelet. Back to yoga I went the next morning, and I did feel a bit more powerful but, as the days passed, I realized it was probably time to add more protein to my diet.
I was told that meat packs more of a protein punch than tofu or eggs or even fish, but I had really lost my taste for red meat.
So, after that morning’s class, I went to the grocery and ordered some turkey from the deli counter, completed the purchase with pumpernickel bread and mayo and went home and ate a turkey sandwich for breakfast!
I kept at the Handstand and kept at the turkey sandwiches.
One weekend, my children were in town and came to yoga with me and even witnessed my triumphant Handstand entry with both feet simultaneously inverting.
We went home and emptied the 'fridge onto the kitchen table and ate up a storm.
I was told: This is how you should be eating after you do yoga, Mom.
On a morning soon after, I was standing next to someone in class, and we were working at our inversions against the wall. We were tired and having some trouble.
As a mindful practitioner, I leaned over and told my secret to getting into this type of Handstand successfully.
Turkey sandwiches, I whispered to her, on pumpernickel with mayo. Picture it!
Quite some time has passed since then, and while I have to admit that there is still sometimes turkey in my 'fridge, I have reverted back to the more accessible type of Handstand where I can kick up one foot after the other.
It is just easier and mindful all the same.