I am not really one for new year resolutions but this year I decided whole heartedly that I would break up with caffeine at least for the month of January to give my body a chance to detox from the black gold.
I’ve suffered significantly from anxiety in the past and have found (and know) that caffeine exacerbates the issue…but for some reason I was never willing to give it up, even on the advice of the health professionals within my circle of care.
Caffeine was my vice – along with alcohol and food (hah, that’s a whole other blog post on its own) and there was no letting go of it. No sir!
But something changed in me this past year. The last 12 months has been a huge transition for me as I have forged new ground as a yoga teacher. This is something that I have been working through on the mat...but much like how the life of a PR person is not glamorous (trust me, I know – I was one for nearly 15 years) nor is the life of a yoga teacher.
Being a yoga teacher is bloody hard work. Giving the energy that is needed to hold valuable space in a room can start to take its toll if you’re not constantly refuelling. If I had a dollar every time I spoke to a fellow teacher about how they find it hard to keep their cup full, I would be a wealthy woman! It’s a common problem and all just part of the crazy rollercoaster ride that is yoga teaching.
That said, teaching is the most fulfilling, most purposeful work I have ever had and I can’t remember what my life was like before I started teaching. Guiding students on their own spiritual (or body) awakening is a great privilege and one that I take very seriously.
But just because, today, my life is arguably more purposeful it doesn’t mean that I leave my stress and anxieties at the door and keeping my cup full has never been more important.
So quitting caffeine was all about trying to keep my cup full. And here are five things I learned along the way:
#1 It was easier than I thought
Don’t get me wrong… I definitely had caffeine withdrawals… headaches for a whole week and cramps in my body at night. But the decision to quit was an easy one. I just woke up one morning and did it. Order “decaf” said my inner roommate as I sat at the café on January 1, and for the first time in a long time, I listened…. Initially it was out of curiosity.. could I rise to this personal challenge? Turns out I could. There are so many things in my life I cannot control and whether I drink coffee or not is one of them.
#2 I found myself having to justify it
Whether we are aware of it or not…we humans live in constant fear that we are being judged. We live our lives thinking that the random strangers we meet actually care about us or what kind of coffee we order. I have lived with this fear of judgement my whole life and I found it really interesting how I found myself having to justify my position. Each time I would order my “decaf soy cappuccino” I would find myself justifying the order with a “oh, I am off caffeine for January,” insert awkward, nervous laugh here. The reality is of course, the person taking my order at the café doesn’t care what I order – they just wants to get it done and move onto the next customer. The ACTUAL reality is, the people who care about me the most would probably be super PROUD of me for quitting caffeine. #truth
#3 It’s not the caffeine I yearn for
While I have successfully broken up with caffeine, the thing I haven’t been able to kick is the habit of heading to the café post yoga class or before work to grab myself a coffee [albeit decaf]. This makes me realise that really I haven’t instilled significant change in my life because frankly my habits are still the same and there’s still a ways to go. But I will take the wins as I can get them.
#4 I have a similar relationship with alcohol and food
We yearn for the morning coffee in the same way some of us yearn for ice cream on the couch while watching television – or that glass or red with cheese. By the way, I don’t think ANY of these habits are bad I believe in everything in moderation, including moderation… the point is to notice why you’re doing something. Am I drinking this coffee because my body is telling me I need or because my mind is wired to want it? The point is to consider it and ask the question.
#5 Habits are just habits
I just finished reading “The Untethered Soul” by Michael Singer who writes in detail about the contextual framework of values, feelings, thoughts, emotions, beliefs, events, experiences etc that we use to define ourselves and to create the façade that we put out into the world. Our “self-concept” Singer calls it. Deep within this concept is the self and by breaking down this framework and not believing it to be true, is about rediscovering who you really are. We use yoga to break down this framework. I discovered that the daily (sometimes twice daily) visit to the café for a coffee was just another way I was choosing to define myself.
So, it’s fair to say I learned a little about myself this month and I have my caffeine break up to thank for it. This past month – with a much clearer head and heart – I have had the opportunity to really consider the things in my life that I have a less than “healthy” relationship with and also finally realise that they do not and will never define me. I am so much more powerful than that.
Now, someone get me some ice cream! :)