Here's how I got on with Vagabond Temple's 7-day detox programme...
Today is the ‘warm-up’ before embarking on a 5-day juice fast. It prevents you from diving into the detox ‘deep-end’, as it eases the body into a fasted state by limiting the diet to simple fruits and vegetables. This in itself is a welcome detox as I have spent the past 26 hours subsisting on processed plane food, which has left me feeling bloated and heavy. So I am keen to press the reset button on my digestive system and perhaps shift my attitude towards food once and for all. Why? Because fasting gives the body ‘space’ to heal itself. Digestion uses up a lot of the body’s energy so when we fast this energy is redirected to healing. You only have to look at the animal world to see this in practice. It’s why your cat or dog avoids eating when they are sick: they are focusing their energy on healing not eating.
There are four of us fasting and each morning- when everyone else is enjoying breakfast- we meet for a juice fuelled discussion about our personal experiences. I have experimented with various types of detox in the past, ranging from intermittent fasting to juice diets, but I have never attempted anything lasting longer than a day. At home the idea of a 5-day fast would terrify me, but I’m strangely calm here. Perhaps this is partly due to the supportive environment and an absence of stress. Yet I think what’s really motivating me is my curiosity to understand myself better. For as long as I can remember food has had a strong connection to my emotions. I eat too much, I feel guilty. I’m full, but I don’t stop eating. I’m stressed, so I skip meals. It seems so simple to listen to the body and yet I feel so out of touch with my stomach.
The ‘last meal’ was another surprisingly delicious vegetable soup and despite the imminent fast, I didn’t feel the need to overeat at all. To tell the truth I am actually looking forward to a break from food, physically and mentally.
To my complete surprise I’ve hardly thought about food today despite subsisting solely off fresh coconut water, sugar cane juice and herbal teas. Being at the retreat is a blessing for this because the choice of what to eat and when has largely been taken care of. This in itself shows how too much choice (and too much food) can be both a blessing and a curse. We think we are hungry, rather than sensing it, which leaves the body entirely out of the equation.
I’m not suggesting that everyone needs to get to brink of starvation to understand what true hunger feels like but a little more mindfulness around meals would go a long way. I am a life-long plate clearer which is probably in part due to my Grandparent’s who always hated wasting food. Bad habits die hard, or so the saying goes and more often than not I find myself uncomfortably stuffed after eating a large pizza and wishing I had stopped two slices earlier. I tend to eat fast and unfocused which means that ‘mindful meals’ are a rare occurrence in my everyday life. So I am hoping that this detox helps me to bridge the gap between mind, body and food. I love food, I love cooking and I love to share meals but I hate the guilt or the unnecessary overeat that comes from disconnected eating. I want to nourish my body, give it what needs and enjoy every single mouthful, which is essentially the essence of yoga. It’s about living in the now, listening to the body and learning to accept each and every moment exactly as it is.
Right now my body is telling me it’s already sick of sugar cane juice…just 4 more days to go!
Daily treatments are an important part of the programme as they assist with the detoxification process and act as a ‘pleasure-replacer’ in the absence of food. So yesterday I had my first ever reflexology session with the lovely Maayan. Reflexologists believe that specific points in the feet correspond to different organs and systems in the body. Applying the appropriate amount of pressure in these areas and reflex points is said to help with the well being of the whole body. Maayan wouldn’t tell me what to expect because responses vary from person to person. She just tells me listen to and learn from my own body. Post-treatment I experience a feeling of light drowsiness that lured me into the most wonderful night’s sleep (which was much needed!)
Today’s lunchtime treatment is a Khmer blind massage. As Cambodia’s tourism trade has opened up and more money has been donated to blind charities, blind masseurs have become increasingly prevalent. In a society where the blind are often marginalised, it’s a job that offers them a chance to have a decent livelihood and earn a regular salary. My masseurs’ ‘seeing hands’ literally felt their way across my body, working in to any knots and tightness they found along the way. This slightly intense but very thorough massage has left my back feeling fabulous, so there must be magic in those hands!
Massages instead of meals seems like an okay trade-off to me!
I’m ashamed to say it but I miss food like I missed my boyfriend after 3-months volunteering in the Philippines! Yet it’s definitely not a physical need as I’m not hungry at all! It’s a mental desire for the ritual of mealtimes. They are such a focal point in everyday life that it feels odd without them in my daily schedule. Whilst the detox group still meet at mealtimes, we are acutely aware that we are missing out on the drama of food, with its textures, tastes and smells. Thankfully, the detox group is incredibly supportive and what we lack in calories we make up for in conservation. I find myself really looking forward to time with my small, separate group away from the main dining room chatter
The detox is definitely working because I woke up with a fluorescent blue coating on the surface of my tongue (it must be all those alchopops from my youth coming back to haunt me!) I am feeling slightly dazed but still energised enough to keep up with the full schedule. My senses have been heightened dramatically and I am incredibly sensitive to sounds and sensations. So in meditation I am the one fidgeting at the back, itching my face or shaking my legs instead of cultivating any sense of calm and stillness! Kobi’s advice: celebrate the symptoms!
I can’t believe how easy I am finding this. I have so much energy, I look really healthy and I haven’t felt hungry at all. The most liberating part of this process has been freeing up my mind from food. There is so much more space in my mind and time in my day for other thoughts and activities, that I’ve found myself much more interested by my own mind. Without the usual cycle of “when’s lunch?” “is that healthy?” “I definitely ate too much!” my conscious has the freedom to delve deeper into self-discovery. I really feel like I’m getting to know myself better, as I’m properly tuning into my body.
Today I also taught my first class at the retreat. I chose to teach a Yin Yoga class that reflected my experiences on detox: listening to the body and letting go. It was a real joy to teach because for the past week I’ve had to work hard to find a yin temperament towards detox. Slowing down, releasing and allowing things to just be.
Detox has been a real life lesson in taking the rough with the smooth. This morning I woke up feeling amazing and I kid you not, I was actually considering extending my fast. I felt so fresh, light and alive that I wanted to prolong the good feeling and detoxification process.
By 7am I’m lying on my mat waiting for class to start and I feel as if my senses have been heightened to HD mode! Everything is agitating me: the fan blowing my hair, a fly on my leg, a twinge in my left calf. My super senses are driving me crazy and I find myself frustrated and frazzled by the end of the 2-hour practice. It’s the first time during the detox that I’ve felt weak during a class, which has taught me a lot about my ‘must keep going’ mentality. Sometimes it’s more yogic to lie down in shavasana than it is to push on with a pose, at it demonstrates deep listening, detached from the ego.
Breaking the fast today was a beautiful experience. We are easing ourselves back to food with fruits and vegetables and the first meal was a bowl of juicy mango. It was like a party in my mouth and I was overwhelmed by the vibrancy of the flavours. Yet I wasn’t ravenous and after a few slow and mindful mouthfuls I sensed fullness and stopped.
Something inside me has definitely changed. I am seeing food not in calories but for its life-giving qualities and I am enjoying each and every bite free from worry and guilt. What I understand now is that food isn’t the enemy: food is our friend! It is what enables us to survive and flourish and it is in our very nature to want- and to enjoy- food. Don’t fight nature- food is life! You might be surprised by my enthusiasm but a bowl of broccoli at lunch and dinner was exactly what my body was craving! The very thought of a ready-meal right now repulses me as I’ve started to sense what my body wants and needs: wholesome, unprocessed foods and a balanced, stress-free life!
Upcoming dates for Vagabond Temple’s 5 or 7-day detox programmes:
23rd – 28th/ 30th January 2017
27th March – 1st/ 3rd April 2017
15th – 20th/ 22nd May 2017
Many thanks to @searching4conrad for the fabulous photos!