February 21, 2015
A part of our retreat process is to help you question these types of assumptions that can lead to feelings of guilt or shame. We are about happiness after all!
It does not mean we are hedonists promoting everything that feels good. We just try to help you towards a healthier line of thinking so you can make more informed decisions for yourself, that’s all.
And managing people’s coffee expectations at our yoga and raw food retreat is not hard! We drink coffee! And, we also want to be flexible enough to try different things too.
Below are our quick thoughts on coffee. You will see that some of us have much more knowledge than others and, perhaps most importantly, that we try not to just drink coffee simply out of habit and have had a little think about what we are doing to get to the places we are now—different places as they are!
I had a big break from coffee a couple years back when I started being 100 percent raw. My body just couldn’t tolerate it so I stopped.
When on raw food I was getting naturally stimulated therefore coffee’s stimulating properties were almost too much to handle.
Now, since being on an 80 percent raw food intake, I have discovered the coffee bean again. But I always question where it comes from and how has it been processed etc.
I prefer quality to quantity.
I love it black but sometimes crave the odd nut milk latte.
I love the smell of the coffee. And I certainly have a taste for good coffee. I like trying different brews and filtration systems, at the moment I am into Flores and Toraja coffee (different regions in Indonesia). It’s a darker bean, almost black and had a more rounded earthy chocolate taste to it.
I drink my coffee black. And I generally don’t drink it first thing in the morning.
I am very aware of what its effects are on my body.
Coffee has a bad name for it because it’s addictive, can make you jittery, acidic and ‘over stimulated’. Many people ‘use’ coffee to move their bowels in the morning.
There are 2 types of coffee bean – the Robusta and Arabica bean.
The Robusta coffee is a lower grade bean produced heavily by 3rd world countries for big corporation to produce a cheap high caffeinated bean to flood the market. Starbucks, Gloria Jeans, Nestle etc. If it is Big it is using the robusta bean.
The Arabica bean is the higher grade bean, grows usually at higher altitude, and needs more refined conditions.
The caffeine content is what most people get addicted to. Caffeine effects your nervous system and your adrenals. But the most unfavouable quality of coffee is actually its acidity levels. It takes 12 cups of water to reduce the effect of one cup of coffee in your system! That’s 12 cups of water!!!
The smell and the colour of acidic urine is strong! So watch your pee and make sure you drink lots of water to dilute the effects from your body.
I forced myself to start drinking coffee when I started work to be social! I didn’t like it at first but I soon began to. I only had one cup a day.
Then one day I was not able to have my coffee at the regular time due to some routine change.
I got this massive headache that lasted all day and I did not know what it was.
I later figured out that it was this one cup of coffee that my body became addicted to. I didn’t like the idea of being addicted to something. This was all before my days as a practicing yogi.
So I stopped for a while. However, the ritual of a hot drink at certain times was very calming so I was just having something else like a tea or herbal tea or something.
Over time I somehow felt it was time to have some coffee again and I gradually started drinking it. It actually gave me some sort of physiological lift. I think it is the caffeine and it has an effect on my blood pressure. I have naturally quite low blood pressure, which, if it gets too low can make you feel very weak and unable to do anything. I have not had this scientifically verified or anything! But, what I found was that without changing anything else—exercise, diet (vegetarian, a lot of it raw), that cup of coffee seemed to make a difference.
So now I drink coffee again. I will have to look at the type of coffee now Im more informed. You will see I am the most unrefined of the foodies here but that is where I am at. I use an aeropress.
I remember reading Iyengar’s book, Light on Yoga, and in the beginning section it talks about having a cup of tea or coffee in the morning before your practice. I thought, well, if Iyengar says then there you go!
However, I am always acutely aware that coffee is large source of income for millions of people in developing countries. I know that labour conditions are not always the best for them and I hope that can be improved.
65 years after their last meeting BKS Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois met again, and their topic of conversation was their mutual love for coffee!
The truth is, while I am a teacher of hatha (physical) yoga, I don’t always want to get out of bed to do this yoga. I suppose sometimes people think teachers must just be itching to get out of bed to go and do their practice. But there are days where I just want to sleep or linger or snuggle—especially in winter!
When I was first starting my ‘serious’ yoga I would have thought there was something wrong with thinking like that. It was because I had a narrow conception of yoga and because I had (?still have) a slight tendency towards rigidity or control in certain areas of my life.
This was the phase of my practice where I thought I must do my yoga every day and that I must do it for a certain amount of time (anything less than an hour was considered slacker territory).
What this meant was that I made great improvements in terms of my physical practice (as you surely must when you practice 60-90 minutes a day). But I also felt guilty or ashamed of myself for lack of discipline if I did not practice (though this was rare). There was also fear that if I did not practice I might ‘backslide’ or something.
Throughout this time I was mainly doing self practice due to being in a remote location where a civil war was going on. I was very fortunate that I had met my teacher by then and her words would echo through my practice. Words about free spinal movement. About not feeling tension or strain (thanks Paddy). This meant I did not injure myself.
I learned to do the splits and backdrops and all sorts of interesting things upside down. I was very pleased with myself. But there was still this controlling and guilt element that crept into my thinking about practice. I knew I was missing something here.
Things changed a lot for me when I heard my other teacher, Simon, whisper some words before a group practice. “The main purpose of this practice,” he said, “is to move circulation and energy through your body.”
The words were a missing piece of the puzzle (there are more and I will keep putting them in place). Today I say these words before every class I teach. I mean them. They are just too important.
I stand there and I think to myself. Right, I have this body and it is designed to move and to be healthy it needs to move in a way that is going to make it feel good. And I remind myself to distinguish between that which makes my body feel good in and of itself rather than some sort of ‘feel good’ of the ego that comes with flashy poses.
When I remind myself about this purpose it is a reminder to myself to be honest about whether these movements, whatever I am doing, free up my body so that it feels elegant, light, and warm. So that any niggly aches and pains dissipate.
When I practice like this I can generally do ‘stronger things’ but feel more at ease.
When I practice without force or strain or too much desire then it also helps my mind become much clearer. By the end of such a practice I feel more connected to my body, any troubling thoughts or life circumstances feel much more manageable, and I am somehow able to be a better and kinder person to others.
And you know, for me that is a driving force. To practice in a way that helps you move away from pain and suffering so that you can be a more stable person for friends, family, and people you do not even know.
You see, aside from teaching around 10 classes a week, along with my own practice, I also work full time as an occupational therapist with children with autism and their families. I also live with my sister and her family, including my nieces.
What this means is that some mornings I get up and I want to practice my hatha yoga. I’ll head out to the balcony and my niece will get up all ready to play. There I have a decision. Am I going to tell her to go away or do I use this interaction as an opportunity to practice my yoga, to enhance my connection to self and others. So although I have a strong desire to get the kinks out I might make toilet roll fairies or do Willy Wonka puzzles or even show her a few down dogs if she is interested.
Or I might get up all keen for a practice but I realise I have some kids to see at work who need some extra input. So I spend that time re-writing my therapy activity plans or researching some new ideas.
The key is I can now do this without resentment, guilt, or a feeling that I am somehow not doing my yoga.
To me this is a type of karma yoga. You know, a yoga of service. And it is delightful.
I can only do this because of the change in mindset. Because I changed my ideas about the main purpose of my practice, I know that I can also slip in 5-10 minutes of circulation/energy moving sequences into my day. Longer if time allows later in the day. But I do not feel bound to a 60-minute practice just for the sake of it.
My physical practice is very important to me. I have twisted vertebrae and without it I would be in a lot of pain. This means I am very motivated to do some form of physical practice every day, which is perhaps a more obvious answer. That is, I get out of bed to do yoga so I am not in pain.
With that said. All this writing has inspired me to get out and move! Happy and safe practicing to you all.