Sunday, April 15, 2007

A bit slow on the uptake

Today I practiced without having taken a bite of food or a sip of anything to drink. Yeah, yeah, I know, it's always supposed to be that way. But it hasn't been. I will get to that later. For now, suffice it to say that the lack of food and hydration left me exhausted and grumpy and stiff. B, as I predicted, it was relatively easy to twist and bind, even in Supta K (notwithstanding that I let go of my bind when Sir picked up me left leg to bring it over my left shoulder...I wimped out. From the way he was pressing down on my back, I was terrified that he might try to put my leg behind my head, and just the image of that, with my hands bound, freaked me out. It works much better for me silently chanting: "I'm not even here. This is not even me. I'm not even here. This is not even me." Oh well. Maybe tomorrow. It's a significant day when Supta K is at the SAME level of suckiness as every other posture, and no worse.

But then, yesterday was a significant day too for the same reason. In fact, the lovely M, fellow teacher trainee, redhead and mom of two (grown) children, got me bound pretty expertly in Supta K during her morning led class. So, now, I can say that it is not a Sir-related fluke that I can bind in Supta K. I used to think that ONLY Sir could bind my hands. But Petri did it. And so did Bay (I practiced at Yoga Sutra one day last week due to the fact that I was teaching a class there at 10:30 a.m.). And now M - who called me her "guinea pig," leading me to believe that I might have been the first person she ever TRIED binding in Supta K while teaching a class (giving an adjustment in an adjustment workshop doesn't really count because the environment is controlled and lab-like).

I digress. This was about how it's taken me, what, three years of Ashtanga practice and countless years of yoga practice to realize that it's NOT WHAT YOU EAT that effects your practice, but WHAT HAPPENS TO THE FOOD IN YOUR DIGESTIVE TRACT that effects your practice.

AHA! See, all along, I've been thinking, "what's so bad about eating a small Balance Bar or Power Bar before practice? They're small, so they don't take up much space in my tummy. No one will know the difference, and besides, if I don't eat anything, I will be too tired to lift up and jump back and do other strength-oriented stuf."

Well. Hey now. There are so many things wrong with that that I don't really know where to begin other than to say that I woke up this morning and remembered a dream that I had last night, and that dream held most of the answers.

In the dream, I was waiting for surgery. I don't know what the surgery was for. But I know that the nurse came in and asked me if I had eaten anything in the past twelve hours. I sheepishly said, "Well, not really, except for a small piece of a Power Bar this morning when I woke up so that I could practice yoga and not be devesatingly hungry afterwards, you know, since I won't be eating for so many hours now." The nurse looked at me and said, "but you aren't supposed to eat before surgery." And I said, "I know that, BUT I only ate a tiny piece of something, and it's like all sugar, so it should be all digested by now."

The nurse called in the doctor, and now I was feeling really humilited. The doctor told me that I wasn't even supposed to chew GUM before surgery because it's not the lump of food that matters but the DIGESTIVE ACTION tht is the problem.



I don't know if any of that is true for surgery, so no one should take my dream as the gospel on eating before surgery. But I woke up and KNEW that (a) I was having the dream because I was really hungry and (b) that now I understood why eating before practice is a problem. All that gurgling. All that digesting. Even if the food quickly passes from the stomach, the actual stomach organ, it is still gurgling around in the intestines. Gas bubbles, even small ones, have GOT to make it more difficult to lower your torso between your legs in Kurmasana and Supta Kurmasana.

I must be a bit slow on the uptake because I swear, this never occured to me until today.

Hence, I began the first day of the rest of my life someone one who follows the rules of "NO EATING BEFORE PRACTICE" without looking for (and where you look, you find) loopholes.

And I did not like it much. I began to wonder if this is the end of my love for yoga. It really felt bad to me to be running on empty. But I was able to bind pretty easily.

Another one of my fellow teacher trainees, the lovely "Lalalala" (not her real name, of course), who has some Ayurvedic studies under her belt, told me that what you eat today at lunchtime will effect your energy level at practice. Or something like that. I need to clarify that one.

Came home and had a nice bowl of Muesli. Will that make for a better practice tomorrow? Here's hoping.



karen said...

Sports nutrition can help put some of this in perspective. Even a long practice of 2 hours will only just about use up the carbs/sugar stored in your muscles from the previous day's nutrition. And even if you did manage to use up all the stored carb energy, your body will switch over to using fat stores. So you can't really ever "run out."

Food you take in before practice is indeed just floating around in your digestive tract -- not useful for practice. The food you ate the day before, though, has been used to repair the body and also stored for (today's) energy use.

There is the little illusion, though, of getting instant energy from something before practice: this is a function of raised blood sugar. Kind of a vritti, I think. Once you set it aside as a desirable feeling, you find it isn't really necessary.

Oh, and belated congrats on the new house!

kayla said...

Hmmm...I'm going to have to experiment. When I'm taking a class, it's usually at 9:30, but I get up at 6:30 to get the kids up, fed, dressed, and out the door. By 8:15 I'm usually pretty hungry, so I'll eat something like a string cheese. I'll be interested to see if not eating anything (though you'll have to pry my coffee cup from my cold, dead hands) will make a difference.

Tiff said...

I have two friends (married) and they get up at 4 am every morning (to get work done/read before kids wake up). Then one goes off to pranyama for an hour, then to adjust for two hours, while the wife, gets some work done and takes the kids to school - they practice at 9...which means they are up 5 hours before they eat ANYTHING!

Elaina said...

Don't feel silly for not realizing that it is the digestive action, and not the food itself....I didn't think of that until reading your post!!! Thanks for shedding some light on that one for me! :)

I never plan my eating around practice, but it does always seem that I haven't eaten for a while before...I'll start paying attention and see if it makes a difference.

karen said...

Hey Lauren, Saw your note on my blog. Yup, it's a vritti. Best not to think about emptiness in this particular situation ;-)

I eat dinner early during the week (6 PM at the latest) and start practice at 5:30 AM. Even better is Saturday led: class starts at 10 AM, and I haven't eaten since around 6 PM the night before.

Food every few hours isn't necessary, though it can be a very strong belief, if that's how one is brought up -- take it from me, speaking as an Italian ;-) Do stay well hydrated, though. That's important.

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About Me

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Northern Westchester, New York, United States
I live by a duck pond. I used to live by the East River. I don't work. I used to work a lot. Now, not so much. I used to teach a lot of yoga. Now not so much. I still practice a lot of yoga though. A LOT. I love my kids, being outdoors, taking photos, reading magazines, writing and stirring the pot. Enjoy responsibly.


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