A few years ago I began a journey to live a more healthy and balanced life. I wasn’t treating my body very well at the time, scarfing down sweets and attending one too many happy hours. So I upped my yoga practice, began exploring a predominantly vegetarian diet, and started meditating every morning. I cut out all caffeine, alcohol and sugar. I was determined to be the perfect specimen of a clean and healthy life. An inner calm and peace took over me. For the first time in my life, I felt positively Zen.
But the thing is, I didn’t like it.
While I felt good physically, something was still out of whack. Situations and news stories that should have upset me no longer did; I wouldn’t allow anything to get a negative reaction out of me. But that initial gut reaction, that immediate sense of indignation, is what had always fueled my desire to make positive change in the world and fight for causes that I believed in. It had given me purpose.
I had studied the basics of Ayurveda in my nutrition classes and knew the Chopra Center offered an online test, which would compare my “natural state” to my “current state.” Hoping it would provide me with some clarity, the test merely confirmed what part of me already knew to be true: I was letting my airy, dry Vata side rule my life like a dictator, all but extinguishing the essential fiery Pitta part of my personality.
Growing up I always had a bit of a temper — passionate would be an appropriate euphemism for it. Learning to mitigate that side of myself was definitely a good thing, but I had taken it too far. I had completely put out my own inner fire.
And this simply was not going to fly. I missed the passionate side of myself that got riled up over injustices. I longed for that sense of motivation and urgency. I missed a little bit of healthy stress. Mainly I just missed being me. So I had to venture into the unknown to find her and rekindle her flame. This is the path I took.
1. I allowed myself to be a little bit "bad."
I started drinking coffee again and being reunited felt so good! I realized that enjoying that little guilt-free moment of bliss with my Nespresso was actually healthier than trying so hard to cut it out. I also had a glass of wine when I felt like it. Or a giant piece of chocolate cake! Occasionally being bad is fun and it reminded me that I am alive and that it’s okay to simply enjoy life.
2. I eased up on the obsessed with "clean" eating.
My focus on eating clean (which bordered on obsession!) had left my diet a tad bland and boring. I'd cycle through the same few meals week after week (quinoa salad again, dear?). So when I allowed myself to veer slightly off the stringent path I had set, I started exploring different types of foods and flavors, even including some animal protein.
I was still eating healthy, whole foods, but I was admittedly having way more fun in the kitchen! I signed up for a produce delivery service that would send me different fruits and veggies every week I might not have tried otherwise. It forced me to think outside the box and give up my routines. I absolutely loved it!
3. I practiced some amazing breathing exercises.
I came back to Kundalini yoga after years of doing strictly Hatha and Vinyasa flow. If breath of fire can’t strike up a flame, then what can? For those who have never tried Kundalini before, you never know quite what to expect from a class. One moment you might be doing air punches like a kick boxer, and then the next you're lying on your back snoring as loudly as you can. My body, mind and spirit were aflame with the variety.
4. I unleashed that feminine energy within, one dangerous hip circle at a time.
After years of practicing yoga almost exclusively, oddly enough I felt limber yet rigid at the same time. Yoga poses can tend to be very linear, and my body yearned for more circular, feminine movements. Basically, I wanted to dance, baby!
So I swallowed my inhibitions, listened to my intuition and signed up for pole dancing and whaddya know, my inner spark was finally relit! Pole dancing even unlocked an ancient and sensual side to me that I never even knew existed. The movement was all so freeing to my soul!
I am happy to say that my fire for life burns bright once again. But still, I do thank yoga and meditation to temper that heat down when I need to. And if my spark ever dwindles again, I now have the tools I'll need to fan the flames and keep them burning. Now that’s what I call balance.