Someone recently asked me if I have to try hard to maintain my lifestyle of moving my body every day and eating plant based. I thought about it for a minute and landed on an unwavering and joyful “No”.
Once you develop a habit, that habit nestles itself into your neural pathways and you no longer think about doing it, you just do it. For me, here’s what this looks like:
I wake up, go pee, brush my teeth, drink my water, get on my mat, move my body, and then nourish my beautiful body with plants. It’s my routine that I do automatically. Because it’s automatic, it doesn’t take up space in my brain because I’m not actively thinking about it.
As a side note, do you know how much time is wasted on making up stories in our head about why we can’t do something that supports us? I’m not exactly sure either but, it’s gotta be par for the course with Instagram.
Once a habit is established, it is no longer a chore or something to cross off your list, it’s just your life. And then sometimes shit happens (because this is life and shit will happen) and your entire routine gets obliterated into smithereens and you find yourself in a random hospital in Southeast Asia, eating a piece of plain white bread for breakfast because that was the alternative to the other option of scrambled eggs. You eat your white bread because that’s all you have and you haven’t eaten in close to 24 hours and you feel faint and hot.
And then you laugh when you try to take off your sweater but can’t because there’s an IV in your hand and it’s connected to a beeping machine sitting next to you. You take a selfie to commemorate the sheer ridiculousness of your life, and then you go to sleep in a feverish haze, dreaming about your life in Hawaii, green juice, meal plan food, and your yoga mat.
But maybe that’s just me.
Yes, indeed. I was reminded recently of what happens to my body when I break the habit of moving my body every day and nourishing myself with ALL the plants. Now, it wasn’t that I didn’t stick to my healthy routine because I decided to go on a cake and cheese bender and watch all three seasons of Stranger Things back to back. No, no, no. I got out of my healthy routine because I contracted a wicked bacterial infection in Malaysia that had me floored for 2 weeks.
When I finally got better and could get out of bed (thank you scientists for inventing antibiotics), my body felt like I had been run over by a school bus and then trampled by an elephant, and then baked in a kiln until I was stiff as a board.
Allow me to explain.
I have never been one of those flexy bendy types. My body has been tight my whole life. Even when I was little, I didn’t easily fold and bend like all my friends. It came so naturally to them to fold in half, do back bends, and go into the splits, whereas I had to work super hard at it and even then, my body had a hard time budging. When I was 10 years old I was kicked out of gymnastics class because I was so stiff and uncoordinated. And my own brother-in-law was the teacher! Ouch.
In my early 30’s, I started to have a dull pain that started at the bottom of my left foot and traveled all the way up the back of my left leg, up to my left butt cheek, along the left side of my back, and all the way up to my neck. It felt exactly like the growing pains I had experienced as a kid. The ache was constant and dull and I couldn’t pinpoint any one spot where the pain was located, it was along my left side all the time, in varying degrees of discomfort.
I went to yoga to try and stop the pain. I got lots of massages. I tried different forms of exercise – nothing really helped. These efforts might have alleviated it for a few days or take the severity of the pain down a notch, but the pain would always come back.
And then one glorious day, a couple years ago, my good friend, Kama, took me to a movement class that she said I had to experience. When the class was over, I walked out amazed at what I had just experienced.
It wasn’t yoga, but it sort of was; it wasn’t pilates, but it sort of was, it wasn’t therapy, but it sort of was. It was definitely unlike anything else I had ever done.
After class I met the teacher, Michelle, and I knew that one day I would share her work with our Dirty community because I wanted everyone to have the chance to experience what I experienced that day in class.
Michelle’s work is hard to describe, but it’s a combination of myofascial release, stretching, strength building using your own body weight – all the while, learning about the energy of your body and releasing the thoughts and energy that no longer serve you. It’s intense, it’s fun, it’s refreshing and it makes your body ZING with life.
I kept going to Michelle’s classes and we eventually became close friends.
About a month after I started doing Michelle’s movement practice on a regular basis, I realized that the dull pain that had plagued the left side of my body for so many years had disappeared. Like, totally gone. Vanished. There wasn’t a trace of it. It just wasn’t there anymore. The feeling of having that pain gone was so joyful that I actually cried. And then I danced.
Sometimes you don’t fully realize the burden of discomfort until the discomfort is gone. Not only was I no longer in pain, my body was no longer tight and stiff. For the first time in my life I could put my heels flat on the ground in a downward dog. I could almost place my palms on the floor in a forward fold. My body felt strong and soft at the same time. It was an incredible feeling.
I went from having a sway back and hunched shoulders to having perfectly straight posture. I went from ignoring my core and having terrible lower back aches to engaging my core and never having back aches. And this is just the physical improvements. The emotional and personal growth that I was experiencing, paralleled my physical improvements.
I was absolutely sold. I made myself do Michelle’s movement practice every single day until it became a habit and I no longer had to make myself do it. It was hard in the beginning but the more I did it, the easier and more satisfying it got.
I had been pain-free for almost a year and a half. And then last week, after I had been sick for 10 days and unable to do my movement practice for all 10 of those days, I woke up to that old familiar left side pain. I felt it in my left foot, all the way up the back of my left leg, up my left butt cheek, all along the left side of my back, and on up to my neck. My heart sank.
It was that same dull, aching pain and no matter what position I was in, whether I was lying down, standing up, or walking, it was just there. A constant, all consuming ache. Not only that, but my body was stiff and tight all over – my flexibility had gone away in a matter of 10 days, and I felt like nothing more than a 5’7” tight mass of pain.
I didn’t waste too much time being disappointed because I knew I had all the tools I needed to feel good again. I knew exactly what I had to do to get out of pain and get my strength and flexibility back.
Now, at this point, my body was still in recovery mode and the thought of getting back on my mat made me queasy. There was no way I could do my full practice, but damn it, I could do something. So I started off slowly and I did only what I could. Going to my mat was no longer effortless and second nature like it was a couple short weeks ago.
Oh, hell no. I dreaded it. I wasted time trying to talk myself out of it. I whined about it. I procrastinated. I got mad about it. Even the most basic of things (like laying flat on my mat or doing Child’s Pose) was excruciatingly painful. But I kept showing up. I had no idea how long it would take before I could do my full practice again or when my flexibility would return. I just knew I had to keep doing whatever I could and add on a little more as my body allowed. So that’s what I did.
I am ecstatic and amazed to report that after only one week of getting on my mat every day, I can do my full practice again. The pain on the left side of my body is totally gone and my flexibility is back. My heels can touch the ground in a downward dog, and my palms are on their way to touching the ground in a forward fold. More importantly, I feel energized and zingy again. I no longer have to talk myself into doing my practice. Every morning I gravitate towards my exercise area with gratitude and excitement. It is once again my habit.
If you have gotten out of a habit that supports your life (like batching healthy plant based food, moving your body, going to bed at a reasonable hour, drinking green juice, etc…), know that getting back into a habit is a fuck-of-a-lot easier than it was when you originally formed the habit. You just have to start where you, be patient, and give yourself plenty of love during the process. If you are consistent with it, you will quickly get back to where you were. And, take it from me, it will feel so damn good.
If you are interested in experiencing Michelle’s work and developing your own daily movement practice, you must join us for Lighten Up. Lighten Up is a 29-day program that combines my work of ridiculously nourishing plant based food and green drinks, and Michelle’s magical work of transformative movement. Michelle and I would love to guide you on your journey!
Have you gotten out of the habit of doing something that your body loves? Talk to us in the comments and tell us all about it.
Plant Based Mushroom Masala (oil-free)
Mushroom Masala (oil-free)
- 1 cup chopped red onion (120 g)
- 1 cup diced green or red bell pepper (120 g)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons ginger root, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder (reduce to 1/8 teaspoon or omit if you don't like spicy)
- 8 oz mushrooms, chopped (about 2 cups / 230 g)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 large tomatoes, chopped (about 2 cups / 245 g)
- 1/2 cup frozen peas (60 g)
- 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped (60 g)
- Black pepper to taste
Chop your vegetables and measure out all of the ingredients to save time. Heat a medium-sized pot over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the onion and green or red peppers and a small pinch of salt. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions begin to brown slightly and add a splash of water if necessary to keep the onions from sticking to bottom of pot.
Add the garlic and ginger and cook for about 1 minute, stirring often, then add the cumin powder, garam masala, coriander powder, turmeric powder and cayenne powder and cook for about 30 seconds, stirring continually. If the spices are sticking to your pot, add a splash of water.
Next, add the mushrooms and salt and cook for 2 - 3 minutes, until the mushrooms release their juices (insert dirty joke here) and become soft and tender, but not overcooked until mushy.
Add the tomatoes and peas and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring often, until heated through and saucy. Turn off heat, stir in the cilantro and add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve with a dollop of sour cream (click here for recipe).
Wishing you a happy week. May it be filled with showing up and meeting yourself where you’re at.