You feel everything. You always have.
From the itchy tag on the back of your shirt to the emotional state of the stranger sitting next to you on the train. Taking it all in like a giant porous sponge.
You notice the tiny cracks in the paint that resemble the shape of an alien's head. Nobody else seems to notice the sound of the refrigerator's hum, or the ticking of your friends watch. Your left palm is often itchy and there is a mild achy pain in your upper left abdomen. When you walk by the smelly sewer spots in the city, it hits you harder than most. The almonds that were stored in the cooler with cheese now have a slightly cheesy taste that nobody else seems to notice.
It’s not easy feeling it all. In fact it can be incredibly isolating. You may have been told that you were “too much” more than a few times in your life. Feeling like nobody can hold you is scary. It can get exhausting to live life with the belief that you have to hold it all. Processing the emotions of every person in the room and filtering them through your fragile system is rough. It especially hurts when you feel other people's negative emotions towards you.
I have spent countless nights wondering why I was different. Wishing I could just be like one of the "cool girls" who could sit bare-legged in the grass and not be bothered by the pokey blades. Praying that I could somehow shut down the part of my brain that was constantly analyzing what everyone was thinking.
Being sensitive can be challenging on so many levels… but what we often forget, is that it is also a gift.
Because we feel so much, so deeply we are able to experience life in all its vibrancy. We get to appreciate the full range of complexity that this world has to offer. From being the first to notice the subtle smell of the night blooming Jasmine that grows in summer to detecting the boysenberry undertones in your glass of Pinot Noir, we are able to detect life’s delicate nuances that may have otherwise been overlooked.
We have the capacity to experience deep empathy and compassion for those in pain and allow others to feel seen and heard in their suffering. Because we feel so much ourselves, we are able to feel for others, and are able to offer them the most beautiful gift of all... our loving presence.
In Ayurveda, the three important pillars of health are diet, sleep and sex.
Just like with food, each person has a different kind and amount of sexual activity best for them. The general rules are that each constitution has a different amount of sex each month and then the recommendations are raised and lowered seasonally as well. Due to the ease in which vata dominant folks deplete, they do best with sexual activity just a few times a month. For Pitta dominant people the number doubles vata dominant. The ladies and gents with kapha constitution are cleared for the most sexual activity with multiple times a week being recommended.
Seasonally, the winter months and spring are the time where we are meant to keep warm by the side of a partner and have the most sex. It is when our bodies are the strongest and where we can expend the most kapha. In summer and early fall, our bodies are at their weakest and driest from the strong sun depleting our energy. This means that this is the time of year where we should conserve our vital force as opposed to constantly overdoing it.
An important thing to note is that you shouldn't hold back urges such as bowels movements, urinating, ejaculating, or sneezing so if you have a willing partner and a strong urge for sex then it is best you go for it. A pattern of not doing so can cause longterm problems in the reproductive organs, urinary system or digestive system. Engaging in morning sex before clearing the bowels or urinating also can create problems in those systems so if that is something you engage in and you experience frequent constipation or bladder infections then switch the order of your morning routine.
Many of the recommended Ayurvedic foods such as ghee, milk, almonds, figs and pomegranates build healthy sexual tissue. Drinking a glass of warm milk after sex is said to immediately replenish any lost energy. Adding an herb such as shatavari (women) or ashwaghanda (men) to your milk can have an even stronger effect.
Roses are mostly known these days as a symbol of beauty and romance but they have been used for thousands of years around the world in many different ways. In Ayurveda, roses are said to not only uplift the spirit but to reduce inflammation, act as an aphrodisiac, benefit skin, menstruation, liver, spleen, kidneys and eyesight as well as slow the aging process. With its cooling nature, we can use roses both internally and externally to calm our mind, body and soul. This is especially recommended in the early fall season as pitta is at it’s highest in the atmosphere.
3 Ways to Keep Cool w/ Roses
½ cup whole milk yogurt
2 cups of water (previously boiled and brought back to room temperature)
1 tablespoon rose water
3 tablespoons sucanat, turbinado or other raw sugar
pinch of cardamom (optional)
Calming Rose Facial Mask
3 dried rose buds
½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
¼ teaspoon turmeric
2 tablespoons besan / chickpea flour
Rose water (optional)
2 cups whole milk or coconut milk
1 cup water
6 tablespoons kudzu root starch powder
⅓ cup sucanat, turbinado, rapadura or coconut sugar
¼ teaspoon cardamom powder
½ teaspoon rose powder
¼ teaspoon vanilla powder
2 teaspoons rose water
1 tablespoon lightly toasted shredded coconut (optional)
What started out as a short term fitness experiment turned into a deeply transformative experience that has reshaped my relationship to inhabiting a body.
Before I begin, I need to come clean about something. In my first post on this topic, The Before, I didn't tell the whole truth. I said, "Let me be very clear about one thing. I am not dissatisfied with my body the way it looks now." That's not true. I still have mornings when look in the mirror and wish that things looked different. It would have been more accurate for me to have said, "I have done a lot of work around accepting and appreciating my body as it is and have come a long way in that process. However, my conditioning around wanting my body to look a certain way runs very deep, and although I am much closer than ever before, I have not gotten to the place where I have full acceptance of my body yet." This process of publicly posting pictures of myself in my underwear to show my results really illuminated how deep those insecurities run.
On Monday, I went in for my final assessment appointment at Relic Tree fitness center to get my photos taken and to be weighed and measured in order to track the changes in my fat and muscle percentages from when I started on this journey five months ago. I was confident that there was going to be a massive shift in numbers and that my after photo would look drastically different than the before shot. When I received an email with the results, my jaw dropped. Almost everything was the same. The only difference was that I gained 2 lbs of muscle and lost 1 lb of fat. When I received this email and looked at the pictures I was flooded with emotion. Anger, sadness, frustration, disbelief. I had been working my ass for the past 5 months. Did I not try hard enough in class? Did they mess up on the measurements? How could this have happened? How disempowering to post a before and after picture that look almost exactly the same.
Then another voice fought back. The voice was loud and strong and it came from the center of my being. It reminded me of all the times I didn't want to get out of bed in the morning for my 6:30 class, but I did it anyways. It reminded me of the day I did my first push up without assistance (I can now do 10). It reminded me to really check in with my body and pay attention to how different it feels now instead of being consumed with the way it looks.
The truth is, I inhabit my body differently now. I hold my head up higher. I feel more agile, more capable, more free to move with a new sense of strength and deep seeded power. My digestion is stronger now than it has ever been, I have way more energy throughout the day. My back pain has dissipated tremendously. This is not the end of my fitness experiment. In fact, I see it as a more solid starting point. Rooted deeper into the way my body feels as opposed to the way it looks. I am ready to begin again.
For the past two months I have been placing more focus on my body by working on building muscle and increasing strength and endurance. I am proud to announce that I have been very diligent in my efforts, attending Natural Fitness classes at least 3-4 mornings per week at 6:30AM at Relictree Fitness. My original goal was to focus for 2 months on my body and take before and after stats to track my progress. I choose to share my experience with the public so I can inspire others to invest in their physical well being in a healthy and sustainable way. Following an Ayurvedic diet and lifestyle has been one of the key components to this transformative process. Over the past two months I am happy to report my overall energy has increased dramatically, my digestion has improved, and my sleep has become more sound. I have officially completed my 2 month commitment, but have realized that I am not done yet. In fact, I have embraced the fact that I will never be done. I will post an "after" shot with my stats next month, solely for the purpose of completing my initial objective, but I now realize that there will never really be an after.
Some Things I Have Learned Along the Way.
1. Commitment is KEY.
Figure out what works for you, your body, and your schedule and stick to it! If you overcommit, you might not be able to uphold your agreements and are more prone to feeling guilty and falling off the bandwagon completely. You can always turn up the volume later.
2. Preparation is a MUST.
Every night before bed I fill my water bottle and lay out my workout clothes on my dresser, and put them on first thing. It makes it much easier to convince yourself to workout once you already have your clothes on!
3. Accountability is FOUNDATIONAL.
When we tell our friends and family about our health goals, we are more likely to keep them up! If you really want to hold yourself accountable, do what I did. Build a website, start a blog, make it your status update. The more people you have cheering you on the better!
The alarm goes off at 6am. No matter how peaceful the ringtone may be, it sounds like a jack hammer to me. My mind instantly turns on full speed to make its case that the best thing I can do for myself is to turn off that alarm clock and go back to bed. "It's dark outside. It's freezing cold. You work so hard, you deserve to have just one morning off." Luckily, I don't take my mind too seriously these days. Sure it's going to try to convince me to stay in bed. It doesn't want me to suffer. It wants to protect my poor little sleepy feet from the shock of the cold hardwood floor, and my delicate face from the chill of the morning air as I walk to my car to head to the fitness studio in the dark. The fact of the matter is, the cold air and the hardwood floor are temporary discomforts. But the feeling of the Self over riding the mind because it knows better…that's where the juice resides.
One month ago I made a commitment to myself to place more focus on my physical body and build strength and stamina. Check out my blog post, "The Before" to read about my Ayurvedic approach to achieving this goal. I am proud to report that I have stuck to my plan pretty firm, and am definitely seeing results. Sure my muscles have started to tone up and I may have shed a few pounds of fat, but more importantly… I feel so much stronger. My grocery bags feel lighter. I have more energy throughout the day. My appetite has increased, in Ayurveda-ville this means that my Agni (digestive fire) has improved.
This is all pretty sweet, but the coolest part of it all…an unexpected result... I am finally starting to really understand the nature of the monkey mind. These work outs are not easy. Sometimes I feel like walking out in the middle of the class because "I just can't do it anymore". But then my deeper wisdom self whispers to my mind. "You can do it Britt. Just 3 more. You signed up for this. This is good for you." Through discovering this wild animal of a mind, I slowly but surely discovering that soft wise voice that has always been there. It's a deeper knowing. And as that wise woman voice is growing louder, the Monkey Mind is beginning to know who is boss. And this growing sense of my deeper wisdom has infiltrated into all other aspects of my life as well. I have noticed it speak up more often with my career, how I navigate my relationships, my diet, and more. I never knew that focusing on the body would give me such a keen insight into my deeper self, and for this… I am deeply grateful.
Sending warmth this winter,
For the next 2 months I will be participating in an incredibly vulnerable self imposed experiment. I have always been an active person. Dancing, hiking, yoga and walking are how I have gotten my exercise for most of my adult life. Although I am in relatively good shape for a 30 year old female, I have always had a deep desire to see what it would be like to really focus on my body for a few months and commit to an intense training regimen that focuses on increasing strength and stamina in a safe and healthy manner. Let me be very clear about one thing. I am not dissatisfied with my body the way it looks now. I have been following a pretty strict Ayurvedic diet and lifestyle program for the past 4 years, and have watched my body transform from the inside out. I used to have a chronic digestive disease called ulcerative colitis and poor diet and lifestyle choices that weakened my immune system. I can remember I would fall sick 4-6 times per year with tonsillitis, fevers, colds and other illnesses. Since I began studying Ayurveda I have cured myself from all of these diseases, hardly ever get sick, and have more energy and vitality now more than ever before. The most important thing to me is that I feel good. I would also love to be able to do a full push-up and a pull-up, I must admit I haven't been able to do this since I can't remember when. (holy vulnerability)
That being said, now that I have achieved this optimum state of internal health and well being, I am ready to take a step deeper and dive into building my physical strength and stamina. I looked into quite a few options including: Cross Fit, hiring a personal trainer, I even thought about doing the P90 X videos! Finally I found the perfect solution. There is an awesome new gym called Relictree Fitness that recently opened up in my neighborhood. They focus on Natural Training which uses your body's own weight as resistance instead of lifting external weights. I also chose this gym because they have a lot of Yoga classes, Nia classes and Cardio Dance classes too. I decided that I would commit to 3 classes at Relictree every week. 2 of these classes would be intense high cardio, muscle building Natural Strength Training or Boot Camp classes, and the third would be something more mellow like dance or yoga. I am also still committing to my regular dance classes that I attend twice per week, so in total I will be working out a minimum of 5 days per week.
I chose to start this intense training in the late fall on purpose. In the Ayurvedic tradition, it is best to build muscle during the colder winter months as opposed to the hot summer months because our bodies are deeply connected to nature, and the hot summer sun can be very depleting to our bodily tissues. In the winter time, our bodies become very strong, our digestive capacity increases and we can endure more strenuous workouts. I will also be following a strict Ayurvedic diet, making sure I am eating plenty of ghee and other healthy fats, rice and quinoa protein rich dahls, cooked vegetables, soups and stews, fresh fruits and some organic freerange chicken and fish when I feel the desire to eat meat. I will also be oiling my body and head a few times a week to make sure I keep Vata dosha under control and joints well lubricated.
I just finished my first official week, and boy am I sore! There are some muscles that I am beginning to feel that I didn't even know I had. They did a bunch of tests on me when I first started to keep track of my progress.
Here are my "before" stats:
Body Fat %- 22.8
Lean Mass- 109.7 lbs
Fat Mass- 32.3 lbs
Resting Metabolic Rate- 1,448 calories/day
Thanks so much for reading. It helps me stay on track and accountable to make this experiment open to the public eye. I feel pretty naked sharing all of this information, but my hope is that it will inspire other people to build strength in a healthy way, coming from a place of wholeness and love rather than restriction and punishment.
I plan on blogging about this journey every 2 weeks to track my progress. Please subscribe to my blog if you want to be notified of updates.