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05 Feb What does juicing have to do with yoga?!

In that beautiful slippery way of all spiritual truths, the answer is ‘absolutely nothing’ and ‘everything’, all at the same time!

Last month I had the true pleasure of teaching a class for Plenish Juice in the window of Whole Foods, High Street Kensington as part of their January Window to Wellness campaign and it got me asking the question “Should we be mixing up the current exploding Health and Wellness industry with the ancient teachings of Yoga?”. I am no authority to be answering that question but I do think that it is important to acknowledge intentions.

It is my experience, as someone who has battled to find a rhythm in life, battled to find enough self-love to constantly self-care, that desperation is a good breeding ground for fundamentalism. We saw it in Nazi Germany, we see it today in countries around the world and I am no stranger to it in my personal territory. When desperation rears its ugly head with any of the usual fears of “how will I support myself?”, “who will love me?”, “when will I be perfect?” then fundamentalism isn’t far behind – it’s my first go-to coping mechanism. Without a little bit of compassion and awareness, I latch on to the latest health fad, the latest diet, the next exercise regime, the newest psychological development that ‘changes the architecture of the brain’ and I hold onto it for dear life. I clutch at it so hard that I squeeze it right out of my hand and before I know it I have broken the five golden rules, the one must-not, or the ten daily habits of successful people, and once again proved to myself that I can’t be relied upon to take care of me and I am doomed – does any of this sound familiar?!

When I first heard about juicing back in 2010, it fell into this category for me. “This will fix me!” I took to it up with a sense of vehemence and encouraged all around me to do the same. I shouted the benefits of my new habit from the rooftops of Facebook . I took pictures of my concoctions and shared them with all whose attention I had – who probably felt a mixture of both pity, peppered with a secret sense of ‘perhaps I should be doing this – what happens if this is the cure all?’. I was a fundamentalist juicer – drinking at least 8oz of juice before every meal. My skin did indeed glow and my energy sored. However, my efforts were unsustainable because the action came from a place of “I am lacking” rather than from a place of “I am enough”. So here is where Yoga enters in to the question of juicing. Nowhere in any of the texts of Yoga do we find a suggestion to drink 8 oz of cold-pressed organic vegetable juice before consuming solid foods, nor does it suggest that an alkaline diet will aid your journey of awakening to bliss, nor can we find any discourse on how a daily dose of krill oil will make you a happier, easier being.

What Yoga does promote, however, are a few life suggestions: being truthful (satya), not stealing (asteya), not harming (ahimsa), moderation (bramacharya), not grasping (aparigraha), purity (shaucha), contentment (santosha), enthusiasm (tapas), self-study (swadhyaya), and celebration of the spirit (Ishvarapranidhana).

My initial juice rampage was not truthful – I wasn’t juicing from a place of truly believing in the benefit of a diet rich in plant nutrients. On some level I believed it would ease a difficult childhood and shift the few pounds that meant that no one had offered to marry me yet. Therefore it was also stealing – I was assuming a life attitude that I wasn’t yet ready for. Despite the immediate physical benefits, it was most definitely harming in that I became obsessed by it and it made those around me who suffered the very same human itch, feel inferior and if I didn’t feel up to it one day the sense of failure was torture. I certainly wasn’t willing to look at myself and own up to these things, so self-study was replaced with self-hiding and there is probably no need to mention moderation or contentment!!

However, Yoga is a journey to self-acceptance, dare I even say that hippy cliché “self-love”. I recently went to hear renowned scientist David Hamilton speak on the science of self-love. It was a fascinating lecture that looked at the brain chemistry of self-esteem and the reverberating effects of building self-esteem in our daily lives. I couldn’t help but think as David explained the body language of what he called a power pose (standing with your feet hip distance and your shoulders drawn back to become bigger in every sense) how similar this was to how we begin the sun salutations in a physical yoga practice in Tadasana /Mountain pose.

Yoga builds self-esteem from the bottom up through a plethora of techniques which need another essay to explore. This is what results in a desire to give oneself the very best on offer – which may, or may not at this time in your life, be juice, or an alkaline diet or krill oil . I have so often in my life reached for a top down solution and tried to “fix” from the outside. I don’t condemn juicing, I don’t deny the benefits of juicing but I do question the benefit of creating a society that encourages fixing. In my experience, getting honest about my intentions, delivers me to just where I need to be in life which is the wellness practice in itself – what form that takes is slightly irrelevant!

 In conclusion:

  • 1. Yoga is a method to understand and get to intimately know the self – ‘I understand I am enough’
  • 2. Juicing has physiological benefits – no doubt.
  • 3. Juicing may or may not be good for you depending on your intention!
  • 4. Intentions change with self-honesty.

So with that clarification made, I leave you with my favourite green smoothie recipe that today is an act of self-love for me rather than an act or self-punishment.  I invite you to reflect on your intentions as you reassemble your high-speed blender! Enjoy.

  • 1 frozen banana (the riper the sweeter)
  • ½ an avocado
  • ½ cup almond milk
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • Handful of leafy greens