Clean and Elegant

Clean and Elegant

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Are you strong, or are you skinny?

“Does this mirror make me look wider?” I asked my friend, the Queen Of Butt Club. On Sunday I moved to my fourth location of this trip to Mysore. I felt like I appeared less wide in my old apartment. The Queen of Butt Club examined the situation.

“Not sure,” she said. “I feel like I have been consistently widening since Preethi moved in.” Preethi is QOBC’s roommate from Bangalore. She is quite talented at cooking chapatis, parathas, pakoras and most importantly dosas. All through November, Preethi passed on her gifts to my friend via unbroken lineage or Parampara. My friend was delighted to learn the correct method in such a traditional way. As fate would have it, she loves dosas so much that she named her dog Dosa.
I should mention that my friend did not earn her title “Queen of Butt Club,” due to the size of her butt. Rather, in another lifetime, she became quite skilled at pilates and fitness. During this era, she accumulated knowledge of many compelling and effective butt exercises. Nobody ever authorized or certified her in this area, but that was a big mistake. All the members of our Glutes Group agree that our asses had never been in better hands than with the Queen of Butt Club. My Cool Friend from Belgium was adamant that her exercises were way better than Eddie Stern’s. Eddie Stern’s butt exercises do not generate adequate burning.

A couple of weeks into it, Butt Club died out when the Queen embarked upon Seventh Series and adopted five little kittens. It was a good lesson for the Glutes Group slash Butt Club to learn that some things are more important than your pelvis. And we learned about the importance of self-practice.

Anyways, back to the Fun House mirror at my fun new apartment.  The Queen and I examined the fronts of our torsos for about three and a half seconds.
“Hard to say,” I said. “Especially when all we wear is spiritual pants.” Spiritual pants are these great items you can buy in Mysore. The waist consists of three to four inches of ruffled elastic and the seam of the crotch falls nearly a foot below your secular vagina and/or spiritual beard.  Everything is exciting and mysterious when you wear spiritual pants.
Spiritual Pants

“Well,” said the Queen. “I guess if we start busting out of the Spiritual Pants, maybe then we can ask Malcom about his diet.”

“Yes,” I agreed. “Only then.”

Malcom, whose real name luckily isn't Malcom, is an earnest young ashtangi who we always see eating plates of raw vegetables and smoothies. He dips his veggies in tiny containers of tahini butter. Otherwise, that seems to be it. How sad for him.

“I’m a control freak,” he explained, crunching on a raw beet. “Eating is one thing I can control.” How interesting. Sounds like the clichéd description of an eating disorder. “My life felt out of control and so I controlled my eating.” And then what happened?

Seven Augusts ago, when I walked into Darby’s Mysore room, I met The Vegan Life Coach, a great and temporary source of sexual gratification. Although our relationship was short-lived, his influence was enormous. The Vegan Coach encouraged me to keep practicing in the most traditional way possible. He also warned me of the perils of consuming dairy and eggs. And he said that drinking a bunch of coffee while on Prozaac (which I happened to be on) was probably a horrible idea. He never told me outright that I should become vegan, but it seemed like an obvious step towards my moral evolution, and thus I did. And I figured that if it was between coffee and Prozaac, I’d pick coffee. I quit Prozaac cold turkey, after being on it off and on for six years.
So there I was, a mighty and devoted Ashtanga practitioner. Egg-free, dairy-free, prozaac free.

This was before the gluten-free days. Otherwise, I’m sure I would have taken that up too.

As fate would have it, daily Ashtanga and going vegan coincided with the end of Rumination Syndrome, a rare and unpleasant bulimia-related symptom that took forever to get rid of following my somewhat significant bout with an eating disorder. Rumination involves regurgitating food in your mouth and then reswallowing it over and over again. This would go on for up to an hour every time I ate. This went on for years. It’s quite disgusting, but oh well. I forgive myself.
You can imagine how relieved I was when the puke just disappeared. I attributed the newfound lack of puke with my Ashtanga practice, and being vegan.

I had eight ecstatic months of ostensible freedom.

Then May came, and suddenly I was really hungry and anxious. My practice was getting longer and longer. I was biking all over Montreal to get to school and my very physical job working with people with disabilities.  And I was eating less and less, since many of the other yogis in my teacher training program seemed to do fine subsisting on salads and green drinks in mason jars. The puke came back, first once or twice a week, and then all the time. I wouldn’t let myself consider the fact that maybe if I ate more and practiced less or at least less aggressively, my anxiety might decrease along with some of the eating chaos. No, without giving everything to practice, I was convinced I’d be even more of a disaster. I kept going full throttle with little to no increase in sandwiches or cheese.

In August, Daniel Vitalis came to talk to our teacher training group about nutrition. Daniel is a vibrant and seemingly magical person with the claim to fame of only drinking and using water that he gathers from springs. He also doesn’t eat much that he hasn’t scavenged from the wilderness. At our teacher training, Daniel told us a story about finding a blue robin’s egg in the forest. He took a bite and what a surprise, inside was a budding bird fetus. Figuring that he shouldn’t let it go to waste, he ate the whole thing, webbed feet and all.
“That’s bad karma,” said Joanne, Darby’s wife. 

The Wild and Magical Daniel Vitalis
For whatever reason, I decided to consult Daniel about my battle with toenail fungus which had persisted even longer than the puke in my mouth.  He said that likely the microorganisms that caused my fungus had also invaded my intestines and joints and were contributing to my depression and mental health problems.
“Do you crave sugar a lot?” he asked. In my experience, the more I deprive myself, the more I crave sugar. So yes, I was craving sugar all the time. Alcohol, chocolate and grapes.
“Yes,” I replied.
“Yah, that’s the fungus. It’ll keep coming back as long as you eat sugar.”
“Even fruit?”
“Yah, fruit’s the worst.”

The list of food I wasn’t allowed to eat was lengthening steadily. By September, I hired a naturopath who prescribed an extremely restrictive 90-day raw food cleanse. I immediately stopped menstruating. At the time, Darby was having me practice full primary all the way to Karandavasana. Although I’d become disturbingly lighter, Karandavasana remained a lost cause. That said, as my muscles started breaking down, backbends became significantly easier.

“Don’t expect to be able to do that when you start eating again,” Darby said as he easily yanked my hands to my heels in Kapotasana. Several unempowered head trips ensued. Luckily, by mid-October, even Darby advocated that I cut the cleanse short. I felt and looked horrific. At the end of October, I bailed, surrendering to a lifetime of hideous and infested toenails. My weight stabilized within a several months; however, now a whole bunch of old eating hang-ups and patterns had returned including puke in my mouth and in the toilet. It took another two and half years for the puke to disappear completely, and I hope it never returns.

My Cool Friend From Belgium claims I’m the best eater in Gokulam. (While we’re at it, I am also probably the best at pooping and menstruating). The Queen of Butt Club, one of the most wonderful vegans I know is also quite good, though alas, our competition is rather pathetic. I would be so rich if I got money for every time I heard someone complain about how full they were from lunch, at 6 P.M, or maybe even the day after. Or how repulsively heavy Indian food is. I find the food here is spectacular and delicious. And my digestion is better than ever. Back home, I eat way more salad and as a result I am way more gassy. In Mysore, the food is so well cooked that I barely ever fart. Congratulations to me.

Maybe it is okay for people to experiment with food during a certain stage of their practice. Some people’s diets could be more healthy and nourishing. That said, a great number of people come to yoga with tendencies towards perfectly sensible and reasonable food choices. Despite this, many practitioners seem to suffer from a widespread lack of faith in themselves and their bodies. As though if they were left to their own devices, they’d expand into massive hedonistic Buddhas.

Having essentially completed a PhD in eating disorders, I have come to the conclusion that although everyone is different, upon depriving themselves, most people become neurotic, irritable and anxious. I have consolidated a few sentences containing my Excellent Advice About Food. Whether or not you want it, here it is:
Stop having food rules. Even if your arms are too short to bind in various yoga postures or you think your life would be way better if you were thinner. I am terrible at reading spiritual texts but I am quite certain that nowhere in the Bhagavad Gita or the Yoga Sutras does it say you must starve yourself until you can catch your wrists in Pasasana or lift up in Karandavasana. So unless you are missing internal organs, trust your deep internal wisdom and give yourself permission to eat whatever you want, whenever you want. I promise that you will not turn into a mammoth. Being neurotic about food is really bad for digestion, and also really bad for having fun with your friends. Eat in a way that doesn’t leave you hungry and thinking about food all the time. Ideally what you eat will allow you to sleep and shit and have a nice time with the people around you. If you’re having trouble shitting, let me know. I have lots of tricks. The End.

The only thing I would add is, watch out for rocks. Yesterday, the Queen of Butt Club was biting into a chick pea, and it turned out to be a rock. She broke a chunk out of her back molar. Besides the molar, there were no other casualties.

The Very End.

Also, The Queen of Butt Club is leaving this week. Besides fellow Butt Club members, she leaves behind Sambar the kitten, who defeated great odds and survived. Look how fluffy and cute he is. Sambar will be living with a generous foster mom until January at which point he will need a new home. Who loves kittens?!? Preference will be given to people living in India or Mysore, but if you live somewhere else and it is love at first sight, Sambaar will probably be strong enough to fly by the end of the month. Please get in touch if you’re interested!  
The Fiesty and Fluffy Sambar
Update: Sambar found a home in Mexico and he is fluffier than ever!

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Twitter: @mypelvicfloor

Related Posts:
You Cling to Things Until They Die 
Food Belly 
The Day Yoga Almost Gave Me a Stroke 
Butt Club et. al. 
21st Century Yoga and an End to Self-Care


  1. What a great text! Thank you for this. I don't have problems with eating or pooping, but if i did i would definitely ask your advice.

  2. Words of a wise person. Thank you!