New York has Yoga for Bears! Yes, really! »
Yeah, I said it. Unfortunately, it’s not what you’re thinking: Yoga for Bears does not feature bears doing yoga, but it’s the next best thing. The event kicks off with a full-length yoga class for all levels, followed by vegan lunch, and a talk and Q&A with Animals Asia. You’ll leave with all sorts of knowledge about how to get involved with Animals Asia and a rad T-shirt. Worth the $50 ticket price? I think so, especially since flexibility is a highly desired trait among soldiers in the bear army.
Vegansaurus does an Organic Avenue juice cleanse! »
Last week I embarked on a five-day Organic Avenue Lovedeep juice cleanse. I did it for a number of reasons: I wanted to “reset” my body and system after developing some bizarre and detrimental habits (daily venti coffee, unreasonable affinity for sugar and candy, pigging out at night and not eating anything in the morning, etc.); I wanted to observe the effect it had on my body and my training regimen (muay Thai, running, Bikram yoga, four jobs); and of course sheer curiosity. I consulted with the folks at OA and told them my intention was to maintain my usual life/training schedule during the cleanse, and after their approval, I booked the dates and kept my fingers crossed. I went to the pick-up location near my office on Monday and picked up a big silver box of fresh-pressed fruit and veggie juices. Inside were six 16-oz. fresh juices and one chlorophyll shot, my food for the day. Organic Avenue also sent me a daily email explaining the benefits of each juice, and offering a suggested drinking schedule and words of encouragement.
I didn’t finish the juices; I couldn’t stomach all of that juice every day. And since I wasn’t hungry, I didn’t necessarily need them. I’d usually keep them and enjoy them the following day, and I have three leftover juices now that the cleanse is over, which I definitely intend to drink before returning my bottles! The juices themselves ranged from totally scrumptiously delicious—orange, ginger lemonade, grapefruit, pear—to borderline undrinkable—chlorophyll shot, Young Love (spinach/celery/cucumber). Pick-up/drop-off was easy, the staff was cheerful and accommodating, and the simplicity of the whole process really made it run smoothly.
The first day was the toughest; my moods swung like crazy and I was impatient and irritable for most of the afternoon/night. I had a brutal headache from Starbucks withdrawal, craved salt, and generally felt unlike myself. I made it through the workday without too much drama, but that evening’s seven-mile run was undoubtedly tougher than usual, and I realized I’d need to take it easier in the gym over the week. With no carbs in my system I wasn’t my usual Energizer Bunny self. I got home from the gym that night and passed out on my bed before I could even take my shoes off.
I was definitely a little out of it when my alarm went off, but I packed up for the gym and sipped a cucumber juice on the way. Muay Thai class wasn’t too bad, though again I noticed my stamina wasn’t up to par. The following run, this time five miles, wasn’t as rough as the previous day’s, but I was huffing and puffing more than usual. Once at work I was actually feeling good; though still a bit foggy I was in better spirits and enjoyed the juices. I wasn’t nearly as cranky or tired when I got home, though I still slept like a rock.
I woke up feeling decent, made it to work and coasted through what was to be the best overall day of my cleanse—no hunger pangs, no headache, no mood swings, decent energy throughout the day—I’d even say I was chipper! There was an orange juice on the menu that day, and after living on spinach, orange juice is the GREATEST THING EVER. I felt like I was cheating! Feeling great, I made it into the gym that night and blasted through five rounds of full-contact sparring and an advanced conditioning class. I felt tired when I got home, but that’s normal for me on a Wednesday night.
I woke up feeling clear-headed and was off to the gym. I took it easy in muay Thai, having noticed a significant drop in my stamina and endurance, but I made it through just the same. My run was, again, grueling: I took walk breaks and was certainly not as fast as usual. Though my patience was wearing a little thin at this point, my mood was good. Work was busy and I stayed focused through the day, and enjoyed the delicious grapefruit juice. Into the evening, I was having elaborate, borderline-romantic food fantasies; I missed my precious food! Got home that night a little grumpy, but as usual passed the heck out swiftly.
While I generally sleep until about 1 or 2 p.m. on my Fridays off, this time I was wide awake soon after 11 a.m. Feeling great, I got ready to run some errands and packed a few juices along with me in my gym bag. I made it through the day feeling really good; my energy was up, I felt clear and enthusiastic and focused, and my body felt rejuvenated from the good night’s sleep. When I started that night’s training, however, everything changed. My run was dismal; I could barely keep it up for more than five minutes at a time, taking frequent walk breaks and watching other runners leave me in the dust. Muay Thai was equally pathetic; though I made it through three hours of training, I felt like I didn’t have a shred of life left in me. I got home that night and did my best to get a juice down as fast as possible before passing out.
Breaking the Fast
OA sent me an email with directions for my first day after the fast: I could eat as much as I wanted of one fruit of choice, and enjoy a big green salad for lunch and another for dinner, adding some roasted veggies if I so desired. I had some water, then enjoyed CRUNCHING into an organic Fuji apple before heading to the gym again. That day’s training was the worst of them all—I barely survived the run, and opted for a beginner muay Thai class. Even still, I was wiped out by the end and couldn’t wait to get home for my salad. I took a quick nap before I ate, and truly enjoyed every forkful of greens and tomatoes and beets and kale. It felt so good - almost scandalous!—to chew mouthfuls of food again.
I made it through five days of juicing without any major adjustments in my work/life/training schedule. I didn’t cheat once, I followed my plan, and I feel great. Though my stamina and endurance in the gym were significantly lower, my energy levels were the same and I really wasn’t tempted to cheat very often. Hunger was never a problem—if I craved food it was its flavor, texture, familiarity. My skin never broke out like crazy and my digestive system didn’t react too violently at all. I’m so glad I had the experience and I feel pretty great. I learned so much about my body and the fuel I put into it, the importance of complex carbohydrates and balanced proteins, the benefits of a raw organic diet, and how fuel affects mood. I am excited to make changes to my old habits. No, I won’t be cutting caffeine out of my life—I am a sincere and dedicated coffee-LOVER—but it will be decaf for the most part. When I crave something sweet I’ll opt for organic pineapple or fresh berries instead of Twizzlers and Swedish Fish. And I’ll fuel my body on a more regular basis rather than that abusive binge-and-starve pattern. This was an incredible, educational, rejuvenating experience and I can absolutely recommend it to anyone interested in a kick-start to good habits. Organic Avenue offers many different levels of cleansing, and supports you the whole way through. If I can do it, anyone can: you just have to want to!
[Organic Avenue provided me a five-day cleanse free of charge in exchange for my honest opinion. You can order your own cleanse on their website or by calling 212-358-0500. First image via Organic Avenue. Also, check out how Maria did on the Blueprint Cleanse. Vegan cleanses galore, people! Now, back to your regularly scheduled binging!]
Achieving balance and vitality the “easy way,” with YogaEarth drink mixes »
I didn’t realize until later that I might not have been the best choice for reviewing YogaEarth's Balance and Vitality* [Ed. note: Vitality is just vegetarian! See update at the bottom!] drink mixes. I do not practice yoga, and I would not describe my lifestyle as “active” (I sit at a desk for eight hours a day; how about you?); however, I’m always up for products for the lazy vegan, like drink mixes that promise to provide long-lasting energy, 16 percent of my daily protein needs, antioxidants, electrolytes, and other healthy mystery ingredients, and satiate hunger. So here we are.
Another thing to note is that I think drink mixes are generally kind of icky (Vega shakes, I’m looking at you): they’re gritty, they’ve got fake sweetener, and they come in weird flavors (maca can kiss my ass). However, YogaEarth’s mixes are actually good! It is hard to mix them up enough so that they don’t get grainy toward the bottom, but if you can, the flavors are light and fruity and don’t leave a nasty aftertaste. Bonus: You can mix it into tea, juice, water, (soy) yogurt, smoothies, cereals, etc.
Balance, the yellow packet, tastes a bit tart, rather like watered-down apple and beet juice when mixed; I liked it! The green packet, Vitality, tastes more like a tropical green tea than anything else, although it’s supposed to have additional tasting notes of kiwi and Irish moss. When I combined Balance and Vitality in the same drink, it was really hard to get it to a drinkable texture, so I didn’t do that again. However, I really loved Balance with hot ginger-apricot tea in the morning before a swim.
Speaking of swimming, I tested these in relation to working out as well. I don’t practice yoga, but I do exercise—in the swimming pool and in the weight room. So I followed the instructions on Balance, the pre-workout fuel: “Drink at least 90 minutes before physical activity.” Then I went to a session with my personal trainer (I am a yuppie now, guys). It was super-hard, and I credit Balance for keeping me from vomiting. Afterward, I decided to wind down with Vitality and some sauna time. I think the taste (not horrible, but my least favorite of the two) kept me from drinking too much water as I sweat my balls off, which I have a tendency to do. I didn’t notice changes in my energy, weight loss, or feelings of hunger after drinking them regularly, but maybe I’m just guilty of a few deadly sins.
This product gets good reviews not just from yours truly but also “Top 10 Dietician” (this is a thing?) Ashley Koff and Vogue magazine. So it’s healthy, tasty, and fashionable! Plus you feel like you’re doing your body a favor when you’re drinking it, so if nothing else, these mixes cause a great placebo effect, kind of like yoga (or at least, that’s what I tell myself to justify not doing it).
*UPDATE! It appears the Vitality one is not vegan—it has both bee pollen and Royal Jelly (some other bee stuff) in it. Balance seems to be OK.
The drink mixes were given to me for free, in exchange for my honest opinion.
Pose of the hypocritical excuse-itarian: yoga IS veganism »
I was halfway through writing an article on yoga as it relates to veganism when this article appeared in my inbox, courtesy of the head honchos at Vegansaurus. Suffice to say it only fueled my agni (Sanskrit for “fire”).
Sometime in the 1980s yoga took over the Western world. Suddenly everyone was in downward dog, from 20-something administrative assistants to hardcore fitness fanatics to stay-at-home moms to Wall Street suits. Yoga and its followers, myself included, have carried the practice into the 21st century and the culture continues to grow. I’m all for staying in shape, but what most folks overlook is that yoga is much, much more than a 60-minute workout. Yoga is upwards of 2,400 years old, and is deeply rooted into the spiritual world, leading true practitioners—or yogis/yoginis—to attain enlightenment.
Between 200 B.C. and 200 A.D., Patanjali, the “father of yoga,” wrote the Yoga Sutras, also referred to as The Eight Limbs of Yoga. The sutras provide yoga with a thorough and consistent philosophical base, and is considered the foundational text of Yoga.
The Yoga Sutras are (in Sanskrit and English):
- Yama (restraints or ethical disciplines), consisting of Ahimsa (nonviolence), Satya (truth), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (sexual responsibility), and Aparigraha (non-coveting/non-greed)
- Niyama (observances), consisting of Saucha (purity), Santosa (contentment), Tapas (austerity), Svadhyaya (study of self/holy scriptures), and Isvara-Pranidhana (devotion to God)
- Asana (physical postures)
- Pranayama (breath or life-force control)
- Pratyahara (sense-withdrawal)
- Dharana (concentration)
- Dhyana (meditation)
- Samadhi (contemplation).
Ahimsa, the first yama, means non-violence/non-harming, or more simply, peace and love. Essentially, the true yogi believes that to kill or destroy a being is to insult its creator. This is about as black-and-white as it gets: unless you are vegan, you support the idea that an animal’s life is worthless and invalid in the face of our desire for its flesh and secretions. Breaking rule number one? Check.
At the Yoga Journal Conference in 2009, Dharma Mittra, a celebrated yoga teacher and director of the Dharma Yoga Center in New York City, stated, “It is a sin to eat animals. Why? Because the ability to put oneself in other’s place is the path to enlightenment. When you eat meat, you make your stomach a graveyard.” He added, “You must take compassion more seriously.” Sounds clear to me, but after reading Briana Ronglin's article "Yogis Don’t Have to Be Vegan, According to the Masters," it seems some people are sincerely confused about rule number one. Dancing around reality with very convenient information gathered from a panel of “Yoga masters that would make any devoted Yogi tremble with awe” from 2011’s Yoga Journal Conference, Ronglin outwardly eschews the very foundation of yoga. What’s worse, these “experts” only assist with their oblivious commentary. Ana Forest and Aadil Palkhivala both boldly venture into excuse-itarian territory, claiming that a vegan diet left them feeling “ill” and “sluggish,” and complaining about weight gain. Ana actually confesses to “rearranging her beliefs to accommodate the needs of her body.” Sounds to me like these two health-conscious “masters” didn’t pay much attention to basic nutrition at all.
Another expert, Seane Corn, is vegan. However, she states that “living in judgement of other people’s choices is absurd.” In theory, I agree—except when said choices have far-reaching consequences for my planet and its other inhabitants, my future, my tax dollars, my health care, and so on. Everyone agrees, of course, that the most realistic solution must be to indulge in “non-factory farmed” meats, or just a “sliver” of chicken if it’s “what you need to feel whole.” Absurd, indeed. If it’s acceptable to ignore the very first of the Yamas and eat another being’s flesh and secretions, what does it matter how happy or well-fed that being was before slaughter? Declaring that a yogic diet is made up of “whatever works for you” is in blatant and arrogant disregard of yoga’s most basic principles and foundations. Talk about bad Karma.
[Recommended reading: Yoga and Vegetarianism: The Path to Greater Health and Happiness by Sharon Gannon. Sources: Vegan Girl Next Door, ElephantJournal.com, Wikipedia, Vegan Outreach. Image via TwiggyJane on Flickr]
Hello, friends! It’s WTF Wednesday! »
What? Oh, I didn’t see you through this haze of prescription painkillers and tertiary muscle relaxants. That’s right, today’s WTF Wednesday is brought to you by the letters V, I, C, O, D, I, and N! That means that this post will be both mercifully short and also make no sense whatsoever. Just imagine we are all at an awesome party, sitting on beanbag chairs under a blacklight. That is how I feel right now, and so should you. Except I hope you can move your back, because I can’t move mine. Or walk straight. Enough of my whining, this is a party!
First off, here are some bears doing yoga. It actually looks more like Tai chi to me, but what do I know? The last time i did any kind of exercise was a jacked-up sun salutation on a Wii balance board (why does that fucking thing groan every time you step onto it? Does it know that it is lowering my self-esteem each time I want to play Rhythm Parade?). I always feature bad things happening to bears, so I thought I would post something awesome. Just forget that the bears are in a zoo, because zoos are horrible. Just focus on the amazing stretches they can do. Who even knew Bears stretched? And who knew that they could be even more adorable? I certainly didn’t.
And while we’re on the subject of bears, here is what happens when a stupid Toronto weatherman tries to throw pumpkins at polar bears. I mentioned last week that I do not believe that all animals love pumpkins. Example, this otter, whose look clearly states, “You want to be next, stupid? Why would you think I’d want a pumpkin? Did you get me a fucking Kindle or what?” I bet that otter wasn’t going to be reading the new Jodi Picoult, either. Anyway, here’s today’s lesson: Don’t throw shit at animals from high places. It is traumatizing and not at all pleasant, and you deserved to lose your microphone and also be ridiculed by the internet. Allen watched that video like five times last night. He was dying. I mean literally choking for breath. He was laughing that hard. Between that and this video of an Ellen writer going through a haunted house (“you are so rude!!!!!”), he was really on fire.
Fine, it wouldn’t be WTF Wednesday without some sad news: a porn star strangled a dog. Say it with me: WHAT THE FUCK. Why would you do that, porn star Jason Creed, a.k.a. Shane Michael Thompson? Why would you just take your three-legged puppy and beat it, strangle it to death, and then try to pass it off as a seizure? Here is some news: Seizures and BEING BEATEN AND STRANGLED TO DEATH present quite differently. I don’t even watch House and I know that. And why the fuck would you adopt a three-legged dog, who was obviously already coping with large difficulties in life, and then abuse it? What is wrong with you? Did you not realize that there is a special room in a special circle of hell that is devoted to people who are deliberately cruel to animals? Maybe you were drunk or high, which makes it even worse. Not even Vicodin can take the harsh edge off the idea of a poor unsuspecting dog being attacked by a third-tier gay porn actor. Thank god his friends and roommates turned him in, although what disturbs me EVEN FURTHER is that they also stated that they had known about the abuse. Why didn’t you speak up before the dog was murdered? At least this guy is in jail. I could make all sorts of jokes about that, but I won’t; partly because this story is too sad and partly because I have standards.
That is it for this week. As always, please send me links for next week or leave them in the comments. Have an awesome week!
[photo by South Beds News Agency via the Telegraph]
I am Seva, hear me roar! Raw vegan adventures at the Tree of Life »
Today I awoke to a gorgeous sunrise over the desert mountain range of Patagonia, Ariz. The wispy clouds swirling around the peaks in the distance reminded me of the geography of my previous hometown, San Francisco. Besides that, the red rock and cactus-infused landscape here at Tree of Life, which is nestled in the midst of highly spiritual nexus of several energy meridians, is a totally new environment for me. But with each day, this oasis feels more like home.
It is my fourth day here at Tree of Life, or as many folks here affectionately call it, “the Tree.” I was brought in to be the Tree’s newest Seva, which is “a deeply intense spiritual journey of commitment, intimacy and transformation.” Being a Seva provides an opportunity for those with spiritual perseverance (or, netzakh in Hebrew, a language spoken in the Essene Kabbalistic Jewish tradition that, along with the American Lakota tradition and the Nityananda Yoga traditions, underpins the spiritual foundation of the community here) to do an individualized work-trade that harmoniously links their particular gifts and the needs of Tree of Life community.
Besides paying for my flight from SFO and transportation from the Tucson airport, situated an hour and a half from the Tree’s location in Patagonia, and a small fee to live in the staff dorms, every other aspect of living here is included in the work-trade arrangement. This includes yoga classes, meditation and chanting sessions, Inipi (sweat lodges), access to hot tubs, a sauna, personal growth workshops, music and dance programming, incredibly delicious, mostly local and all-organic vegan live food cuisine, and most importantly, the invaluable chance to immerse myself in a unique, spiritual, raw vegan community. All of this is in exchange for my commitment to help Tree of Life to innovate and expand its online media presence to spread the organization’s beautiful teachings of peace, spiritual living and live food veganism to heal the planet.
From just a few short days here, I can already see how much this place changes lives. The day after I arrived, I attended a women-only Inipi, which involved howling and crying and singing and sending out prayers for women in our lives and all women everywhere in a steam-filled, womb-like cavern under the guidance of the fabulous, highly-respected live foodist, dance, spiritual and energy healer Parashakti. Afterward, as we 15 or so women toweled off while sipping organic green juice and grapefruit juice in a warm teepee, people shared the most beautiful words of gratitude for the experience. I felt myself getting wet around the eyes, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t just leftover steam!
Thanks for reading! I’ll keep try to keep Vegansaurus updated with my raw vegan Tree of Life adventures, including copious pictures of the amazing things the live vegan café prepares.
This is the latest post by Vegansaurus raw correspondent Sarah E. Brown. Thanks, Sarah!
Yoga, Veganism, and Complaining: I Love Them All So Much »
I’m a yogi, in the American sense: a couple times a week, I go to a class to practice Hatha yoga, mostly for strength and flexibility. I try to meditate at the appropriate time, but it’s hardly the focus of my practice. There’s a big difference between what I do and what real yogis do: they are trying to reach a pinnacle of meditative ecstasy and therefore achieve “liberation from all worldly suffering and the cycle of birth and death.” I am trying to look good with my shirt off.
When I read the New York Times article about food and yoga, I thought “now I know how new vegetarians feel when they listen to grumpy old vegans talking about honey.” People really criticize each other about this stuff? Don’t they have anything better to do? What happened to the worldly suffering? But if you think about it, that’s intimately related. The first proscription of yogic teaching is ahimsa, the principle of nonviolence towards living things. How can one be liberated from suffering if one does not embrace nonviolence?
Good question! Let’s ask Sadie Nardini, who apparently started this whole shitshow by writing a somewhat schizophrenic piece about her yoga-practicing, meat-eating ways in the Huffington Post. The Times piece is about the rift in the yoga community between those who eat anything they please, and those who think yoga compels practitioners to (at least) vegetarianism. But below the surface, it’s just as much about the culture of judgment some find in the community.
Nardini’s piece is all about that judgment. Making a fairly offensive Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell comparison, she argues that meat-eaters need to “stay in the closet” to reach the good graces of top-tier yoga instructors. It’s easy to imagine that she wrote the piece to drum up publicity: “I’m risking a lot doing this, as I am moving to a larger arena in my own teaching, and could turn off the very people who are taking me there” [emphasis mine]. But motivation regardless, do yogis need to be vegan? If they’re not, do they need to hide their diet? Can yogis judge each other for this stuff?
Here’s the thing: the rules are pretty clear. Even Nardini, in her rejection of vegetarianism, makes an argument from ahimsa. It’s a spurious one: she brings up all the canards we’ve heard a thousand times before, about plants feeling pain and insects being killed with the harvest of grain and really it’s fine if you just honor the animal you’re eating and first and foremost, some people just need to eat meat or else they feel yucky and self-harm is the worst of all. Of course, we know the answers to all of these ridiculous objections. If you clear them out of the way, ahimsa is pretty straightforward: avoid doing violence.
Yoga, the real kind, is like any other discipline. There are rules you have to follow. It’s certainly not desirable for yogis to pass judgment on each other for failing to adhere to the rules; ideally, that would be an internal drive. But the thing is, if you’re not following the principles of yoga, you’re doing it wrong. No judgment need be attached to that; it’s just an evaluation of the rules. Much as with “vegetarians” who eat chicken, or “vegans” who eat eggs, it doesn’t matter if your reasons are good. And it doesn’t necessarily make you a bad person.* It just means you’re not living up to the title you claim.
You can’t make the argument from ahimsa that it’s ok to eat meat; it doesn’t hold water. Eat whatever you want, but don’t pretend that you’re living up to the ideals of a yogi. Start your own thing, be a flexiyogini or whatever, but don’t dilute a meaningful term just because you want the benefits without living up to the responsibilities. We see enough of that already.
*OK yes it does, but because you’re killing chickens, not because you’re breaking rules.