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Fitness

Oil Meltdown

Lest you think it’s all fun and games here at Somatheeram Ayurvedic Spa in India, allow me to tell today’s tale.

My day started quite lovely. After three meals consisting of little more than rice gruel, I was able to eat enough veggies last night to feel somewhat nourished this morning. I awoke before 6am, got dressed and attempted to chant along with my morning prayers. While the words are still a mosh of jumbled Hindi, I found myself humming the tune throughout the day. I’m on the right track.

I practiced some self-massage with my Yoga Tune Up balls followed by some asana. It felt good to move my body after 24 hours of having barely enough energy to put one foot in front of the other.

At 7am I attended a pranayama and meditation session. I was happy to join along with some of the chanting including Gayatri, one of my faves. (Yes, I’ve become one of those yogis who randomly hums mantras throughout the day. Annoying to some, I find it rather soothing. A reminder of my connection to something greater than myself.) If they ever create a mantra greatest hits album, Gayatri should be on it. While I prefer my melodic version over the teacher’s, the meaning and soul of the mantra remained in my heart as I floated back to my room for my personal meditation.

I emerged at about 8:45am for breakfast, one of my favorite times of the day. Mostly because I get some protein in the form of egg whites. Apparently it’s only the yolks that are potentially toxic on an Ayurvedic cleanse so, much to my dismay, I’ve made the concession to eliminate them. I even decided to back off of my coffee intake taking only a small cup of the resort’s brewed coffee, which tastes like water. Up until now I’ve relied on my one-a-day Starbucks Via which is more akin to rocket fuel. And then there’s daily papaya. That just makes me happy.

After an hour or so on the computer for necessary travel arrangements, blog posts and requisite social media posts to advertise posts, I notice myself getting sucked into the irretrievable void that is the Internet. I forcefully cut myself off and bounce myself to the beach. I’m finding improved habits at every turn as I slather SPF 35 all over my body and 50 on my face! Did I mention I think I’m getting wiser with age?

I took a walk on the beach and did some strengthening exercises for my hips and booty. While I’m fine with my decreased exercise regime here in India, what I’m not okay with is a bum knee and low back. When I don’t do squats, lunges and other exercises prescribed by my physical therapist, these areas pay the price. I tired easily and feel my body not as strong as when I left. I’m okay with that, truly. But I don’t want to be in pain.

I braved the pull of the tide and cut through shallow waves to eventually swim out to somewhat calmer waters. I enjoyed a few sets of strokes back and forth, but my intuition told me it was a little too rough to swim with abandon, so I heed caution and paddle into shore… with a suit full of sand thanks to my first failed ocean entry attempt .

I followed this with a little more exercise and yoga. I’ve become quite fond of doing Pilates on my beach chair in addition to yoga and pranayama. A short meditation and chanting brought me to lunch. I’m delighted by fresh veggies and fish and am accompanied by a wonderful book by my grand teacher Pandit Rajmani Tigunait called The Power Of Mantra and The Mystery Of Initiation.

After digesting a bit, I read a little more and rested for my 4 o’clock treatment, pleased by my day and just tired enough to thoroughly look forward to my daily oil rubdown and whatever else was in store for me. The “whatever else” abruptly put an end to my sweet, idyllic day.

The treatment started dreamy as not one, but two, therapists massaged me with what else? A liberal dose of oil. Unfortunately that was the last bit of bliss to be found in the next two hours. My main therapist, Sulu, who I’ve come to adore, directed me to sit up on the wood table as both women continuously poured hot thick oil all over my body. They repeated this process for what seemed like forever – on my back, on both sides. I sloshed around in large pools of oil. When Sulu would abruptly tell me to flip over, I would slip and slide like a fish flopping when pulled from its natural habitat. Keep in mind it is 95* outside so while I may have welcomed the treatment on a wintry day in NYC, in this heat and humidity, it felt suffocating.

The room felt so stifling I had to sit outside. The barely existent breeze dropped the temperature by a degree. I found little relief. Next thing I knew there was a large metal instrument against my ear blowing “medicated” smoke. Apparently to clean out my ear canal. Not convinced of this method. It seemed toxic to me, but I trust these Ayurvedic peeps know what they’re doing. The procedure itself was relatively harmless, however I was silently suffering from heat exhaustion.

Just when I thought it was safe to breathe, I was thrown back on the table for a traditional Shirodhara treatment. I usually love some hot oil poured over my forehead for 30 minutes but after the events of the past 40 minutes, I was certain I would spontaneously combust.

The remaining treatments ensured every other orifice in my body other than my mouth (we covered that one the other night) had something put in it. Yes, EVERY orifice. Except the one that men don’t have. But I hear there is a treatment for that too. It was a little unsettling to say the least.

I slid back to my room feeling woozy and slightly traumatized. Despite several attempts with different shampoos, I’m pretty sure I’ll never get all of this oil out of my hair. (Jamie Boone, you’ll have your work cut out for you when I return to Los Angeles!) I spent a restless night sweating and woke at 3am to take a cool-ish shower. I greeted the morning weary and dehydrated.

I suppose this takes some getting used to. I forget that I am purifying my body of toxins – physical, mental and emotional – on a deep level and that’s no joyride. I also had the thought that the rough ending to my day was possibly payback for my flat tummy pride from the previous post. Karma certainly can be a bitch. Rest assured, I had no ego left this morning.

Post Purge

After four days of rubdowns in enough oil to put Houston out of business and “massages” of pounding bags of hot rice on my body I had reached the moment of truth in my Ayurvedic treatments – what’s known here as “purgation”. Last night I downed a small bottle of oil with a chaser of warm water. A far cry from a tequila shot with lime, but the results were somewhat the same had I had 10 of those. After a somewhat sleepless night and several trips to the bathroom later, it was fair to say by 9am I was empty.

I’m not going to lie. I looked and felt awesome (never mind the fact it felt as if someone had siphoned every last drop of energy from my body.) The 28 year old in me loved how flat my belly was! I indulged my ego and stood in front of my mirror checking all angles. More than once. And yes. I took photos. To say I enjoyed this moment would be an understatement. Where were the cameras when you wanted them? I’d shoot a cover or video like this any day!

But this was also the look and behavior of a girl who constantly struggled and was always looking for acceptance based on this perfect appearance. It was a hard show to maintain. This girl was deprived of love, joy, and inner peace.

This 42 year old woman is dying for above referenced margarita, guac and chips and some fresh grilled fish. This wiser (I can only hope) more mature (this I know) woman still struggles from time to time with loving this body just as it is – bloated or flat, toned or flabby, tired or energized. But thoughts of weight and size don’t consume her minutes hours and days as they used to nor do they prevent her from sucking the joy out of life. I know I still have ways to go – evidenced by my need to document my fabulous figure post purge. But I do know I will not sacrifice my life to maintain this shape. For now, I’ll accept myself where I am and end this blog. Dinner is about to start.

DONE (With Diets And A Few Other Things)

I have been in the fitness business for over 15 years. From being in front of the camera to being behind it, teaching weekly classes from New York to Los Angeles and places in between. I’ve seen the rise of Zumba, the Shake Weight (I even lead some of their ancillary DVD workouts – feel free, laugh. I do.) Jillian Michaels, Hip Hop Abs and Insanity, Crossfit, P90X, Soul Cycle, TaeBo, CoreFusion, CorePower, Bikram, and heaven help me, the plexiglass parade of yoga on a bed in NYC.

I’ve been around for, and participated in, the no-carb, lo-carb, sugar free, no fat, some fat, lots of fat, raw, Paleo, Hunter-Gatherer, Gluten free, and everyone’s favorite, the Grapefruit Diet.

I’ve watched how every single fad, trend and celebrity quick fix have single handedly whipped not only women, but more increasingly, men, into a food and fitness frenzy. The health and fitness space is so filled with opinions, guidelines and Instagram butt photos, I don’t know whether to down dog or tap back.

And I’m done.

While this industry has been very good to me, I struggle with what us ‘experts’ are doing to others. Can we please take a touch step and box jump back and objectively look at the culture we are creating? We have become an obsessed society. Obsessed with working out. Obsessed with gluten free. Obsessed with the front row. Obsessed with Instagram yoga.

Maybe I’m slightly hypersensitive as body dysmorphia and eating disorders have plagued me since high school. Or maybe, at the ripe old age of 41, I’m beginning to grow into my own and realize it’s time to be done with temporary weight loss, fads and fanatical approaches to health. Finally, my desire to be happy is greater than my desire to be thin.

So here is a short list (trust me, there is a long list) of my done’s. (Yes, it is a list but ya’ll read those!)

  1. I’m done with food rules. Do you mean to tell me if found yourself in an episode of LOST and happened to cross paths with a turkey and cheddar on whole wheat with mayo you would turn your nose up because you’re a gluten free, vegan Paleo? It’s whole wheat for crying out loud.
  2. I’m done with ‘hacking’ – bio, mind, internet or any other shortcut to ‘figure things out’. I understand we all want to feel our best and perform at optimal levels, but life is messy and in case you haven’t noticed, you have no control. So give it up, embrace the slop, and enjoy the ride a bit.
  3. I’m done with yoga. You heard me. I may get on my mat every day for some down dogs and forward folds, but I’m done with yoga as exercise. You want some cardio? Go for a damn run.
  4. Speaking of, I’m done with running. From my fears, my insecurities and my own dysfunction. No amount of hours I spend on the treadmill make these disappear. In fact, it probably heightens them.
  5. I’m done with looking in the mirror and criticizing every inch, millimeter and line. I’m actually shocked that, with as much disgust and judgment I’ve placed on this amazing machine known as my body, it continues to show up day after day without some sort of temper tantrum.
  6. I’m done comparing myself to my 29 year old cover girl self. Or any 29 year old for that matter. Or 40 year. Or 50 year old. This one is so much easier said than done.
  7. I’m done with hearing excuses. And I’ve heard a lot in my twenty odd years of teaching. My favorite? “I can’t meditate.” Yes. You can. Just like I did. By sitting my ass down with slumped shoulders day after day, year after year, enduring discomfort, distractions, numb legs, and a bat shit crazy mind until eventually I found stability and ease.
  8. I’m done with reading about solutions, no matter how valid, to my problems, whether perceived or real. This is not to say I will stop learning – or teaching – but when will enough be enough?

When will we stop looking to the latest YouTube or Instagram celebrity and start following the best expert of all? YOU.

You created your source of discontent, whether it be obesity, anxiety, unhappiness, or dis-ease on any level. Only you have the solution. Take responsibility and stop seeking answers outside yourself. Know that the answer isn’t in a photo of a pretty yogi in a beautifully contorted position or a top ten list, but your own inner wisdom and light. Figure out how to get there more (which may mean getting to the gym less) for all the answers you truly need are inside.

At the end of the day, the enemy is not sugar, juice cleanses, Turbo Jam, or Tara Stiles. It’s not Facebook or People magazine. The enemy is our minds. If we can figure out how to tame that unruly, defiant and petulant son of a gun, we’ll have made more peace with all of this faster than you can say front row.

I’d love to hear what you’re DONE with! Send out a Tweet with #DONE!

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