Last week's Primary Friday has been surprisingly popular. Apparently, many of you are curious about the process of quitting coffee. Maybe it's because your bodies have been hinting at you -- like mine did -- that the caffeine content and high acidity of coffee are doing more harm than good. I won't tell you whether you should or should not drink coffee -- I think it's probably fine for most -- but I will share my own experience.
The truth is that coffee is just one of the things I've given up lately. In the past month, I have given up wheat, alcohol, Sriracha, and my netflix account. I've also cut my hair and every time I look in the mirror I am delightfully tempted to cut more. I've always been afraid to cut it short and felt intuitively that one day I would have to part with my long locks one way or another as a grand gesture of non-attachment. That day might be approaching. (Is it strange that I'm afraid to change my hair but nonchalant about tattoos?) Point being, I've been letting go of lots of things and I really can't be sure that lack of coffee is entirely responsible for the effects I will henceforth expound. But I suspect it is.
I quit drinking coffee last Tuesday. The first day was hard. I walked around in a haze. Taught a Mysore class. Yawned a lot. Ate a lot of sugar. No practice.
The second day was less hard. I felt as though everything moved more slowly, not only my own thoughts and actions, but everything and everyone around me. There seemed to be more space everywhere. I had a slight headache, but noticed that my skin was looking absolutely rosy and I definitely felt less hungry, though still craved sugar, which I partook of heartily in the form of chocolate covered raisins. No practice. Broken sleep.
On the morning of the third day, I felt really good in spite of the poor quality of sleep the night before. Headache gone. No practice. I took an oil bath and had a good breakfast. Meditated. Watched a few installments of Cosmos with Carl Sagan (side note: space is incredibly fucking cool). In the afternoon, a few hours post oil bath, I noticed that my hips and legs were achy. That night, I tossed and turned for hours with restlessness and pain.
On the dawning of the fourth day, I observed that certain bodily excretions were an entirely different color (and they have since remained that way). I did my first caffeine-free Ashtanga practice. Though my energy levels were good, the pain in my hips -- at the psoas, hamstring attachments, and deep in the groin -- was absolutely excruciating. Forward bending was brutal. It was Friday. Primary was brutal. I breathed through it. Felt better after practice, but still achy. Taught two classes. Noticed that my teaching was more grounded without the hard stuff in my system, my jaw and eyes softer. And I was sweating less, a lot less. Again, I tossed and turned for much of the night.
Saturday, the fifth day, I did Primary through Purvottanasana and the full finishing sequence because I couldn't bear the thought of another day without practice, especially if it meant a delay in addressing that pain, which was no better and perhaps worse on this day. Again, I felt good after practice, though still sore in the hips and very tender deep in the joints. Took the dog for a long walk in the evening, which seemed to help. Sleep that night was short and interrupted, but less so because of pain.
I both feared and anticipated the return to Intermediate on Sunday, the sixth day, but in light of my bizarre pain condition, I decided at least a bit of Primary would be best before jumping in. I did Primary through Baddha Konasana and Intermediate to Eka Pada. Good practice. Took my heels in Kapo even though it had been a full week since I had practiced any of Intermediate. Eka Pada was painful at first, but, strangely, deeper than ever. In fact, Eka Pada was the only posture that seemed to make the pain go away, at least for a while. Sunday night was restless, in keeping with the pattern. I found myself waking at odd intervals and flipping over, thinking to myself, "other side," seeking balance even in sleep.
Monday: day seven with no coffee. Taught an early class. Took a long nap, lack of sleep finally caught up with me. Did Primary to Baddha Konasana and Intermediate to Pincha. Allowed myself some black tea in the afternoon to help me perk up for my evening class. Mistake. Feeling twitchy and wide awake now, nearly eight hours later as the clock rounds midnight. (This will publish on Tuesday's date, but it's still Monday night to me).
The long practices seem to help with the hip pain, which I believe to be a result of the surrounding musculature releasing habitual tension due to the elimination of caffeine -- with the exception of this afternoon's misguided venture, which, by the way, is only strengthening my resolve as I sit here and note the obvious effects of the caffeine: twitchiness, racing mind, unconscious clenching made conscious by the change. By finishing sequence this morning, the pain in my hips had faded to little more than a residual tug in the shoulderstanding postures, but I might stick with this long practice for a while. It's been a nice change. God knows I love my Primary.
So after one week with no coffee, I can say that I dig this whole caffeine-free thing. In spite of the counterintuitive side effect of interrupted sleep, I genuinely feel better, physically and emotionally. I'm thinking better, relating better. Practice is different. Better. The fire is smaller, more manageable. I can sit close without getting burned.
***I have resumed eating wheat. Gave it up for a month, but dared have a burger on a wheat bun over the weekend. It was fine. I felt fine. No different, worse or better. I thought maybe I'd function better off wheat, but I think my diet is too fatty without it. Need the fiber.
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