Today is Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), a traditional day of celebration and self-indulgence on the eve of the beginning of the privations of Lent, starting tomorrow on Ash Wednesday and continuing until Easter Sunday. In the Christian tradition, Lent marks the time to give up things like rich foods, sugar, meat, and alcohol in preparation for a spiritual rebirth on Easter. Although I don’t consider myself a Christian, as an exercise in self-discipline I often try to give up something for Lent. For the past twenty years or so, ever since I reached “middle age” it has been a bit of a struggle to keep those extra pounds off, so I would often choose to give up something like dessert or beer in the hope of doing a little reducing. This year I’m happy to report that I’m thinner than I’ve been in almost twenty years. Those poses that slipped away during the reign of “Timmy the Tummy”—Marichasana D, Supta Kurmasana, Pashasana, Tittibhasana, Baddha Padmasana,etc.—are all back! People keep asking me if I’m on some kind of special diet or something. I did recently do a ten-day dietary cleanse and lost a couple of pounds in the process, but the truth of the matter is that I haven’t really been trying to lose weight. Over the past several months I just have naturally gravitated towards eating smaller portions. Maybe it’s part of this Sun/Ketu conjunction I’m currently immersed in. One of the dominant themes of this cycle seems to be “Downsizing”.
For the first time in years I don’t want to be in thinner than I am so I’m seriously considering giving up something for Lent that I’ve been seriously addicted to for years—coffee! When I first started practicing yoga I wasn’t a coffee drinker. One night I spent the night at a friend’s house and had coffee the next morning before I went to practice. The results were astounding—it was like practicing on jet fuel! Ever since then I’ve been hooked—one cup in the morning to get me going, and another in the afternoon to revive myself for the evening. This has been going on for decades. Occasionally I would do a little coffee fast and experience things like headaches, brain fog, and general loss of the will to live. During my recent ten-day cleanse I was supposed to eliminate caffeine. While I didn’t manage to eliminate it entirely, I managed to cut back from two strong cups of coffee per day to half a cup of relatively weak coffee in the morning. Chronic, long term coffee drinking takes its toll on vital organs like the liver and the adrenals and I think my body is telling me that it needs a break. I’m well aware of the famous saying in Ashtanga circles: “No coffee, no prana”, but I fear it’s time for me to face reality. Rather than going “cold turkey” I’ll probably try to transition more gently by drinking tea--sort of like substituting methadone for heroin. Those of you who have the misfortune of being in my presence in the next few days and notice that I’m dragging my ass even more than normal, try to be compassionate and please don’t ask me out for coffee.