When it comes to health. food and fitness are two sides of the same coin. We really do need both to keep our bodies and mind functional and vibrant. A vegan diet high in raw foods is setting the stage for optimum health but combining it with exercise really kicks everything into high gear.
Being a country girl and living on a farm has forced me into the inevitability of physical activity – whether it’s stacking hay or shoveling manure or planting a garden – but that’s not necessarily the case for everyone. Many of us are sitting behind a desk all day, our bodies aching for movement or, at the very least, a good stretch. I’ve been in that position myself at times: when ‘the rack’ – that medieval instrument of torture – honestly sounded like a great way to snap the knots out of my compressed spine after sitting for hours behind a computer screen.
Years ago I went on a quest for the perfect exercise: something enlivening and engrossing and maybe even a little out of my comfort zone. It was a real journey. I wouldn’t really call myself an athletic girl and I hadn’t been to a dance class since I played a little pink donkey in my 2nd grade ballet recital but, clear out of nowhere, I decided I needed something more than farm work – maybe more for pure socialization than anything else. So I went through this period when I sampled a pu pu platter of all sorts of physical offerings: martial arts, NIA, Pilates, rock climbing, weight lifting, belly dancing. I even dabbled with the idea of areal scarves. having always been in awe of the women who seemed to twirl and climb on silk skeins with the ease of spiders. I realized – fairly painfully – that I’m way better off on the ground and I would never, ever run away and join the circus. All I can say is that I laughed a lot, mostly at my own awkwardness. I had extreme gratitude that my “body was sculpture”: – as my belly dance teacher chanted like a mantra while sensuously undulating her stomach in a manner completely alien to my own abilities – but in my case this sculpture was entirely without grace and totally lacking in form. So what! I discovered that you can never learn anything new if you’re too preoccupied with not making a fool of yourself.
As it stands, making a fool of myself was something I was really good at.
And then I found yoga. It was a match made in heaven. Now, don’t get me wrong – at first I felt less than limber and my balance certainly left something to be desired: in Tree pose, I was a falling tree – unfortunate enough to be in a ‘forest’ where a whole bunch of people were there both to hear and witness my hapless drop. But I did live to stand another day and eventually everything eased into place. My tree finally had roots.
I loved it. It made me feel stretched out and strong. It cleared my mind and made me calm and buoyant. When I cared for my terminally ill father for a year, it was the one thing that gave me serenity and strength for the job at hand. I was so hooked that, at one point, I even went to yoga class with two broken toes!
It doesn’t surprise me that so many people who are into the raw food lifestyle choose yoga as their preferred form of exercise. Or rather – their preferred practice. Most commonly yoga is defined as “a series of exercises that balance body and mind wherein focus on body allows the mind to become calm and cleansed”. It is, essentially, a moving meditation. Eating a diet high in raw foods similarly cleanses and detoxifies the body, healing from the inside out. When your body is clean, your mind is clear. Yoga and raw food form a kind of symbiotic relationship in establishing equilibrium, not just in your body but in your head too.
With whole, natural foods as your allies and a good yoga practice, your body begins to purge itself of toxins, encouraging all the organs to work at optimum levels. The combination helps you to feel great; it gives you all the tools you need to connect with your physical self; to learn how to listen to it, heal it and understand it in a whole new way.
When I first started practicing yoga, I kept a yoga journal to track my own progress and follow my thoughts. I recorded – in detail – how I felt before, during and after my classes and what I discovered was that, no matter how I felt going into that yoga class or even how daunted I might have been by some of the poses, I always came out feeling refreshed, relaxed and clear headed with a kind of peaceful happiness. It allowed for decompression and focus at the same time. Any aches I had would be diminished. And later, when I went to sleep, I slept better too. It was like giving myself a a really wonderful massage.
Maybe you’ve already experienced this transformative experience but in case this is all new to you and you’re feeling impeded by your own perceived lack of flexibility, remember that a diet high in raw foods is one of the most lubricating for your joints and that is definitely going to help you should you embrace this new pursuit. And give Iyengar yoga a serious glance: it uses props like blocks, chairs and belts to assist you in assuming correct positioning for your asanas (poses) and you won’t feel like you’re going to snap something. As your body becomes less tight you will find yourself gradually cutting back on props but -even if you needed them forever – there’s no shame.
And maybe you are lucky enough to have found your own perfect exercise and it isn’t yoga. Applause. Applause. More power to you. As long as you’re out there moving that body, you’re on the right track. So run that marathon, punch a bag, shake your Zumba booty! It’s all good.
Me? I’ll be over here on my yoga mat.