Food, Mood & Spirit: My Journey – Part 1
Over the last twelve years I’ve been on a journey which has drastically changed my relationship to my body and the food I consume. As a kid I didn’t play sports nor was I very active, and as a result I was not in tune with my body and its needs. Growing up in the 80’s there was a lot of buzz in the media about being health conscious, with cartoon campaigns to educate children about their bodies, food, and how to live healthy lives. Now as an adult, I’ve greatly changed how I relate to my body and what I put into it. As a psychotherapist I also understand how our physical health greatly affects our mood, our outlook on life and our connection to the universe. This is my story of that journey.
Yoga: My first step into reconnection with my body began with yoga in 2001. Y2K was a year behind us and the world was happy that all our computers were still working and modern civilization had not come to a stand-still. The dot.com crash was in full force and techies were fleeing the Bay Area like rats on a sinking ship, as their funds were rapidly absorbed by credit cards bills. The twin towers were still standing, but not for long.
I had moved into a new apartment in the Mission after my last roommates got married and ventured north. One of my new roommates told me about a nearby yoga ashram, which he jokingly called a “cult” because many of the teachers lived there and only wore white clothing. I had done yoga with a friend in their home a few times before but I had never taken a class, so I thought I’d check it out. I felt like I should start focusing on my physical health now that I was in my early 20’s, and given that I was exploring a variety of spiritual practices at the time, yoga sounded like a good fit.
Attending my first hatha yoga class I thoroughly enjoyed the calm spirit of the ashram right away, the quiet yet friendly people and the challenge of the asanas. Being someone who is frequently in his head, yoga was a good fit because learning how to get my body into the poses was kind of like a puzzle at first.
A few months later (now post 9/11) I lost my job and started volunteering at the ashram in exchange for free classes. I began to learn more about the different branches of yoga: meditation, breathing, chanting, etc.; I also learned a little about ayurveda, which looks more at diet and lifestyle (more on this later). It felt very comfortable for me to be there, yet challenging for my mind, body and spirit too. I went to the ashram regularly for almost three years until I moved out of the neighborhood. I continued to hold aspects of yoga in my life, but not in the same way again for a few years.
Just over a year ago yoga came back more fully into my life, again with the invitation from a friend to attend a class together. I learned about the new trend of donation classes where you pay what you can, as yoga had become quite popular and expensive. I eventually found an Iyengar teacher I resonated with, which was a good fit for my constitution by focusing on proper alignment and calming the mind. I committed to two classes a week and after just a few months not only did I see changes in my body and energy levels, but I noticed my anxiety and anger levels reduced significantly – two traits which had become more pronounced since my first stint with yoga. Yoga is a great vehicle to learn about the mind-body connection, which I feel is a crucial education in our digital age of disconnection.
I continue to practice hatha yoga as well as other branches, and work to honor the principles of ayurveda which support my specific constitution. I encourage others to cultivate a mind-body practice as well, as I find this can lay a strong foundation for healing dis-ease on all levels: mind, body & spirit.(Coming soon: Part 2 of my journey I’ll share about my struggles with food and digestion, and how that has colored my self-esteem and relationships.)