Changing lifestyles: Letting go and moving into yogic purity

I have been a yoga teacher training student now since May. I must say that I am enjoying the process.  I would call it a very transformative learning approach, where one is not only learning about how to teach yoga, the postures, and its benefits, but also about how to best live a yogic lifestyle. One of the aspects of living a yogic lifestyle is to focus on purity.

It is sort of softly recommended or encouraged in the tradition  I am studying (classical yoga) that we under take whatever personal steps we can to create a life of purity. Purity means purity of thought, as well as physical purity. Having thought this through for sometime, I think my thoughts are likely to be more pure if I can strive for the physical purity first. With physical purity, one is asked to avoid or lessen use of intoxicants, alcohol, caffeine, and sugar.

I stopped drinking about 14 months ago. I was one of those people who “partied hard” in college and even beyond a bit, but as my studies and goals grew, my drinking lessened. Eventually, I was just indulging in 1-2 glasses of red wine 1-2 times/ week. I was reluctant to give up this pleasure, but I thought I should try it for 6 months and see what happened. I found that I had frequent dreams about being drunk or drinking, in which I would be so disappointed that I had not met my goal. I also found that I can pretty easily live without alcohol, and I like to wake up everyday feeling completely clear- headed and physically okay.

The one thing that I miss the most though is having a fine glass of wine with a meal or during a celebration. A “fine dining experience” is just not the same without that glass of wine and I am not sure if it ever will be again. Let it be known that club soda with a twist lemon or lime does nothing to enhance the taste of bleu cheese, though decaf coffee with desert can be bit delightful to sort of cut the sweet. Despite the longing for the glass of wine, I am pretty good with letting the alcohol go; the last occasion I had to “celebrate”, when I completed a large project for work, I went to a yoga class instead of picking up a bottle of champagne or Pinot Noir. I do also wonder though if it is worth denying myself this pleasure and if I might be one of those people who could moderate and just drink a glass of wine maybe once month during a celebration or fine dining experience.

I have given up caffeine before, at some points for up to a year more. Right now I am planning on thinking about becoming the decaffeinated version of myself sometime in the near future, so I have chosen to focus on sugar.

I am 5’4″, around 110-112 pounds, a former runner turned jogger, cyclist, and yoga enthusiast who loves baked goods, ice-cream, pie, chocolate. Usually, I would allow myself 1-2 “treats”/ day. This might include starting the day with a mocha and a scone, a cookie in the afternoon, or chocolate in the evening. I have been known to go through a pound of licorice in a few days. I think I overall eat pretty well, eating a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet, with a big emphasis on getting a large number of fruits/veges in everyday. Last week though we had a great friend visiting us to experience the New England summer lifestyle, and we did a lot of eating out… and eating of blueberry pie and ice cream almost every night.

Needless to say after discussion at yoga teacher training last weekend, I am now committed to cutting down/ back on sugar. I am on day 3 of trying to avoid the obvious processed/ sweet treats I adore (cookies, pie, ice cream, chocolate) and looking more closely at labels. Of course there is sugar in almost everything from tortillas to nuts to sauces, so I have become a label reader. I have also read some about sugar addiction, and I would say I have some perhaps mild withdrawal issues, including mood swings and suddenly feeling weepy. Exercise, yoga, and drinking fluids seem to help this.

I am wondering if this is something I can sustain, or is it something I can consider moderating? I guess I will not really know the answer to this until I see how I feel with less sugar in my system and I reflect back upon the process. If I feel better, have more energy, and/or feel that eating less sugar supports my spiritual journey, perhaps it is something I can remove. If I end up feeling deprived and like this is losing yet one more pleasure in life, then perhaps I will opt for moderating the sugar intake.