Jonathan Foust

January 4, 2009

Yeah, Baby. Yoga is for SEX

Filed under: Dharma, Health — jonathanfoust @ 2:19 pm

 

From the yogic perspective halos are sexual energy transformed

From the yogic perspective, halos are sexual energy transformed

Yoga improves your sex life!   I guess that’s not surprising news, but it’s pretty funny from my perspective.

A major element of my yoga practice (albeit in an ashram setting) was a committed and sustained practice intimately linked with a vow of celibacy.  

The teachings of yoga in it’s more esoteric form are to move the energy UP and IN rather than DOWN and OUT.  My celibacy vow lasted 6.5 years before I “got off the elevator”.  And it was a ride.

I’m deeply grateful for those years of conscious restraint.  When I moved into the ashram at 25 I was pretty focused on (and addicted to) relationships.  Whenever I met anyone, I could not help but be caught in the basic scan of “do-able and not do-able.”  Celibacy for a 25-year old sounded like cruel and unusual punishment, but I was transformed by the practice.  Women who I would have pursued and been intimate with – but with whom I would not have had the emotional maturity to sustain anything – became best friends.

Over time I realized I had more intimacy in my life than ever. 

In the ashram women and men were segregated.  We did a lot of touch and massage among the brothers.   (I eventually got to understand how challenging, confusing and difficult this was for the gay brothers in the community.)  Massage was a wonderful way to connect, show support and was integrated with our very embodied practice of yoga.

The guru (Yogi Amrit Desai) noticed this and declared a ‘touch fast.’  “No more touching or massage,” he said.  This struck me as particularly cruel and unusual.  He went on to say, “When you are with someone and find yourself wanting to express your love or affection in a habitual way, try moving it up.  Try to express yourself instead through the tone of your voice or through your eyes.”

I took on this practice and it was deeply transforming.  I realized I could be with anyone and never hold back my heart.

When my vow was up I eventually explored sexuality again from a fresh and renewed place inside.

Georg Feurstein, one of the most respected voices of yoga in the west, talks about the reductionism of yoga.  This incredibly complex and sophisticated system for transformation and awakening has been reduced to tight hamstrings in a YMCA.

And so it turns out a yoga practice enhances one’s performance.  This seems a most logical and natural manifestation, but here it is, courtesy of CNN. (thanks, Don, for the tip!)

Yogis have better sex, study finds

Eastern enlightenment proved to be sexually beneficial for men and women

December 18, 2008

Yoga and Stress

Filed under: Dharma, Health — jonathanfoust @ 11:58 am

 

 

Leading Yoga on Retreat

Leading Yoga on Retreat

My first yoga class changed my life.  I was a freshman in high school when I stumbled into a yoga class offered by one of the teachers.  During the yoga nidra, or guided relaxation, I felt a conscious shift in my perception to a spaciousness and relaxation I hadn’t quite felt before.  Soon after I learned Transcendental Meditation and I was hooked.

 

 

Since then yoga and meditation have been an integral part of my life, either practicing regularly, teaching or training others how to teach it.

I’ve practiced most of the flavors of yoga, from intensely challenging postures that cultivate strength and concentration to practices that are a bit more in alignment with how I teach now – cultivating more of the surrendered, open and yet embodied presence.

The following is an article from Psychology Today which corroborates the effect of this practice.

Yoga: The Strongest Stretch

An ancient tradition, yoga gains modern muscle.

By PsychologyToday.com

After the tsunami ripped through Southeast Asia in 2004 came a tidal wave of psychic devastation. The depression and posttraumatic stress that ravaged many residents of coastal villages from India to Indonesia provided a living laboratory for testing the most powerful cures available. What wound up providing the best help to some of the most afflicted refugees? Yoga.

Yoga is an age-old practice with roots in India—bas-reliefs depicting yoga asanas, or poses, have been found on 5,000-year-old archeological artifacts—but yoga as most Americans know it is only part of the picture. The hatha yoga popular here emphasizes the exercise element. There are many forms of yoga and all share an attempt to create a state of blissful enlightenment, called ananda. En route, specific forms of breathing and exercises encourage physical purification.

As a professor of psychiatry at New York Medical College who studies the effects of yoga on posttraumatic stress, Patricia Gerbarg seized the opportunity to test whether it could help tsunami survivors in India. To one group of 60 victims she gave a four-day yoga breathing course. Another group of 60 survivors was given the yoga course along with psychological counseling. A third group served as controls.

All the yoga users experienced a huge drop in scores for posttraumatic stress disorder and depression after just four days. And the effect was so persistent that Gerbarg and her team introduced yoga to those in the control group too. Counseling provided no added benefits over the yoga training alone.

While some forms of yoga have long been shown to reduce hypertension, cholesterol levels, and other signs of physiological stress, the effects of the ancient practice on psychological stress have been less studied. But a slew of research published in peer-reviewed journals in the U.S., Europe, and India is documenting the ability of yoga to decrease mood disturbance, reduce psychic stress and anxiety, and reduce PTSD symptoms. Effects have been seen within days of initiating instruction, and have been documented up to six months after a course of yoga training.

You don’t have to weather a natural disaster or receive a clinical diagnosis to benefit from yoga, says Lorenzo Cohen, director of the Integrative Medicine Program at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Calling it “the quintessential mind-body practice,” Cohen predicts that yoga “can and will be shown to be helpful for managing the stress and mild anxiety we all experience in daily living.”

A group of healthy senior citizens in Oregon embodies Cohen’s claims. They experienced improved energy and a greater sense of well-being after six months of yoga training. The study was particularly valuable because it compared the yoga group with seniors engaging in walking exercise classes. The non-yoga exercisers reported no such benefit.

In her yoga course, Gerbarg trains trauma sufferers in four types of yogic breathing that range from focusing on slow, complete exhalation to taking 30 breaths a minute. She and her husband, psychopharmacologist P.L. Brown of Columbia University, have found that yogic breathing physiologically affects the nervous system to produce profound changes in emotional states.

It acts via the vagus nerve—the “rest and digest,” or calming, pathway of the autonomic nervous system extending from brain stem to abdomen; when activated, it slows down breathing and heart rate and increases intestinal activity. It not only carries signals from brain to body but ferries signals from the body back to the brain. “Your breathing pattern changes with emotional reactions to things,” Gerbarg says. “Well, it goes both ways: If you change your breathing pattern, you can change your emotions.”

Lynn Waelde, a psychologist at Stanford University and a yoga teacher, explains yoga’s mind-body benefits in more metaphorical terms. “When we teach yoga, we teach people to let go of physical tensions,” she says. “When you sit them in a chair in meditation, they get it. It’s an easy step to see how you can breathe and focus on emotional or mental tension and let it go.”

Could yoga save the world? It improves fitness, it doesn’t cost anything, it has minimal side effects, it acts quickly, and the benefits endure. The advantages are especially important when applied on a large scale to impoverished people. Gerbarg and Cohen believe the value of yoga is just beginning to be documented. “We’re in the early phases of something very exciting, and there’s a lot more to learn about it,” Gerbarg says. “This is not something you need to religiously incorporate into your daily life and do for years before you start to feel the benefits.”

By Paul Tullis

Last Reviewed: 29 May 2007

Psychology Today © Copyright 1991 – 2008

 

December 11, 2008

A New Phase of the Fast: Colon Cleansing

Filed under: Health — jonathanfoust @ 10:55 am

It’s been a while since I’ve written about this 29-day cleanse.

Over the first three weeks or so I eliminated the following foods, which I’d already been eating in moderation (or rarely at all):

  1. Caffeine
  2. Dairy products
  3. Wheat
  4. Sugar or artificial sweeteners
  5. Alcohol
  6. Red meat (chicken once a week)

I have been eating:

  1. Fruit smoothies (or soups) made with apple, ginger, banana, spirulina, whey protien, cashews
  2. Vegetable smoothies (or soups) with apple, ginger, carrot and celery and other greens
  3. Potassium broth (carrots, potatoes, beets) with miso 
  4. Steamed cabbage and greens with rice
  5. Kitchari (basmati rice, mung beans and spices)

I’m now completing the five-day colon cleanse phase.

One thing I like about this program is that you moderate your food intake during the 21 days.  It’s flexible and encourages you to listen to your body and be intuitive.  The more raw you go, the deeper the cleanse.  Sometimes raw felt great and other times I felt a bit weak or spaced out or headachy at which time I’d shift to cooked food like a meal of steamed cabbage, raw organic olives, olive oil and rice.  

The colon cleanse phase calls for juices and raw food.  

I had one colonic on Tuesday, and it was fantastic.  Robert Jordan has a new colon cleansing machine (Colenz) which is remarkably gentle and easy.  You administer it by yourself.  (I caught up on a whole episode of ‘Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me’ on my iphone while relaxing on my back and letting the water flow and ebb all by itself.)

After the colon cleanse I felt amazingly light, nimble and clear.  I went on to lead the Tuesday Movement and Meditation class and I must say I felt as flexible as I did in my twenties.  I was inspired (and giddy) enough to demonstrate my one ‘show off’ yoga posture.

The main part of the colon cleanse includes taking a digestive stimulator once a day and every three hours a small packet of psyllium and bentonite, a clay that helps clean the colon walls.  Yesterday was an apple fast.  All I had was apple juice, some apple sauce and a little banana.  I felt great all day and with the psyllium filling my gut, I also felt quite full.

I’m doing another day of just liquids and tomorrow I go in for my final colonic.  Then I start the transition back to more solid food again. 

I highly recommend this cleanse.  I feel great. My eyesight has improved quite a bit and the TMJ I had is better, too.  I’m much more flexible.  My head is much clearer.

The product is Blessed Herbs.  I got it from Robert Jordan Health Services in Rockville and had my colonics with him as well.

I’m happy to support you if you have any questions and are considering something like this.

November 17, 2008

Phase #2 Cleansing

Filed under: Health — jonathanfoust @ 12:22 pm

If you are at all interested in this cleansing process, here’s a bit of Phase #2, which goes on for a week.

Once good elimination is established through the digestive simulator and toxin remover of Phase #1, Phase #2 focuses on flushing the liver, gallbladder and goes after parasites.  Three times a day I take capsules and tinctures, being sure to get LOTS of water.

I’m feeling good.  Coupling this along with the elimination diet has me feeling pretty clear and relaxed.  No signs yet of intestinal parasites or worms yet.  How exciting!

November 14, 2008

Eliminate the Negative

Filed under: Health — jonathanfoust @ 9:55 am

 

More of These

More of These

Still on Phase #1 of the 29-day Cleanse.  Phase #1 involves taking a digestive stimulator before dinner and just before bed a packet of psyllium seeds and herbs with apple juice.  One adjusts the digestive stimulator capsules to three poops a day to ensure good elimination through the cleanse.

 

I like this approach.  Feels gentle and easy.  Going in and coming out of a fast are as important as doing it.  As George Bernard Shaw, a dedicated faster said, “Any fool can fast, but it takes a wise person to come off a fast.”

This reminds me when two brothers from the ashram stayed in a cabin for a week fasting on water.  They had a deeply spiritual adventure … then broke their fast on the way home at Burger King.  Oy. Needless to say, the rapture ended pretty quickly.

It’s important to establish good elimination.  Otherwise, autointoxication occurs in forms as varied as skin rashes, bad breath, listlessness, constipation, aches, pains and fever.  When I supervised fasts, we did daily enemas.  

In the supervised fasts, I loved doing the ‘enema demos.’ Great comedy material.  I usually used a big teddy bear.  One time I got a bathrobe, rolled up my trousers and acted as if I was going to do a live demo for the group.  Wonderful facial expressions, particularly the looks of relief when I stopped.

Fasting doesn’t require enemas or colonics if you are eliminating well.  That’s the beauty of a mono-diet like brown rice or brown rice and greens.  The digestive systems gets deeply rested and the whole process is quite gentle.

I’ve also done really gonzo aggressive fasts. Back in the wild days, I did a ten day “Master Cleanse” fast.  Nothing but water, lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper.  Pretty dramatic, but not the most balancing adventure.

As I transition, I’m now cutting out the extreme ends of my diet.  I’m a pretty clean eater, but in recent years I’ll have a little ice cream now and then, as well as a Five Guys burger, a beer or an expresso.  All that is now out for the month.  

I’m also cutting out my cup of black tea in the morning.  As much as I adore and worship caffeine, I discovered a few months ago when I cycled off it, that my energy level is much more steady without it.

As Michio Kushi, the main face of macrobiotics says, “It’s not what you eat occasionally, it’s what you eat every day that matters.”  Eliminating the extremes:  the yin and expansive foods like sugar and sweeteners on one end and the yang and contracting foods like salt and heavy meets on the other, helps you center in the middle of the spectrum.

I know I’m holding out on the poop photos, but here’s a great link to my friend Susan’s site where you’ll find everything you need to know in the Poo Video.

November 10, 2008

Starting a 29-Day Cleanse

Filed under: Health — jonathanfoust @ 4:44 pm

blessed-herbs

Living in the ashram I became fascinated with the relationship between food and consciousness.  As a community, we embarked on all kinds of dietary experiments.  Thursdays were for fasting (preceded by the orgy of Wednesday night dessert night) and we tried raw foods, living foods, ayurvedic influences and macrobiotics.  

The regime that worked best for me was macrobiotics.  I got a little carried away though, and for a few years you could classify me as macroneurotic.  For a wild stint I was a full blown macropsychotic before I came to my senses.  I was so rigid around the macrobiotic principles that I once threatened to leave the ashram because they weren’t pressure cooking the brown rice at every meal. 

I was finally set straight when one of the ‘seniors’ in the community sat me down and asked me, “What does a happy person eat?”

Two seconds later I replied, “OK. I got it.  Thanks.”  Spell broken.

For four or five years I supervised all the fasting programs at Kripalu Center.  Every three months a group of about 25 0r 30 people would gather for a few days of potassium broth and then juices, gently coming off on potassium broth again before heading home.  I’ve always been pretty skinny and somewhat hypoglycemic and found that I just couldn’t do the juices along with the guests and stay standing, so I found my pace with a mono-diet.  Eating very simple food, usually for me brown rice and greens, for a while is a wonderful and gentle way to cleanse.

Many of the great wisdom traditions speak of the power of fasting and prayer and I’ve certainly found the relationship between the two to be incredibly dynamic.

I’ve been thinking recently it might be interesting to do a deeper purification regime and through Robert Jordan, one of the most up to speed nutrition/raw food/health/cleansing/consciousness people I know (web site here), I’m going to try the Blessed Herbs regime.

Part of my impulse to do this is to share the process with my wife, who’s had some struggles with her health.  I’m blessed with good German peasant genes.   Other than migraines, I’ve been remarkably free of any major health problems.  

Tonight we start phase one, which takes a few days.  I’ll be taking a Digestive Stimulator and Toxin Absorber tonight.  Over the next few days, one modifies how much of this stuff one needs to manufacture three poops a day to keep the cleansing process moving along for the next month.  I promise not to write too much on this subject, but there are some AWESOME cleansing poop photos on the web I’ll point you to!

21 days of herbs is followed by a 5-day fast and colon cleanse.  While the 21 days of herbs can be done with any form of diet, the colon cleanse will be a full fast.