1.3 to 1.4: 40 Days and 40 Nights of the Cleanse (Winter 2009)

This is part of a series called Connecting the Dots: How I Went from Being a San Francisco CFO to an Athens Yoga Instructor. The series starts here. Last week’s installment is here.

There are lots of ways to do the 200 hour Kundalini Yoga Level One Teacher Training. Because I was still working a fairly full-time schedule, I decided to take the program that stretched over eight months, starting in October of 2008 and ending in May of 2009.


I didn’t want to be a teacher. I really just wanted to learn more. And on the first day when we had our 1:1 interviews, I was very upfront with the trainers that I didn’t want to teach, I was just there to learn. They smiled and said “Yes, yes…  Let’s just see what happens. In our experience, the people who come in wanting to be teachers, by the end of training decide they want to take some time out before teaching. And the people who come in not wanting to teach, those become the teachers.”


I said nothing but in my mind, I rolled my eyes.


Coming from the business world, I was not initially impressed with the training. There was no printed agenda. We had to be there at 8:00 a.m. but we rarely started before 9:00 a.m. I felt we wasted a lot of time hanging out and talking. And while I liked everyone in my class, in the beginning I couldn’t really relate to any of them. I almost approached my teachers to point out if we got more efficient, we could probably shave several hours a day off the program and sleep in later. Fortunately something held me back, and I later came to understand efficiency isn’t really what you are going for in energy work. At the time, that was not apparent to me.


The training itself was more talking and less yoga than I had expected, but this suited me. We covered all types of things: the roots of Kundalini Yoga, the awakening of consciousness, yogic anatomy, yogic philosophy, the Aquarian Age, fate versus destiny, and many other topics. And then one weekend, we got to the topic of diet.


I had heard rumors that a 40-day “cleanse” was part of the training program, but I wasn’t expecting it to get assigned the way it did. It was a Sunday afternoon and a couple of hours before we were going to be done for the weekend, the lead trainer, Sat Santokh Singh, said “And starting tomorrow, for 40 days, you’ll clean up your diet. You won’t eat any meat or any processed food. You won’t drink alcohol. And you won’t drink coffee. There is a lot of patterning in food. We aren’t just changing your diet. We are teaching you how to break habits.”


As a class, we then entered into a lengthy discussion about what counts as “processed food” (generally anything in a package with more than five ingredients) and what were the rules about caffeine (I pleaded with them that I had a professional job and could not function without caffeine).


And so on Monday, it began. It turned out I was eating more sugar than I realized so the first week was horrible. Really horrible. I’m a stable person, and I felt totally chaotic and shaky. At one point I was curled up in a ball almost in physical pain, unable to imagine how I was going to get through the day.


They say sugar addiction is like a drug addiction, and I imagine that must be right. I was determined I was going to follow the rules of the cleanse, but I really didn’t know how I was going to get through 40 days. I even did the unthinkable for me and asked for help, messaging my teachers explaining I was really struggling. They replied this was normal, and I’d probably feel better within a few days. And then miraculously, at about day seven, everything started getting better. The fog in my mind cleared, my energy returned, and my mood improved. The cleanse got easier, and interestingly, I observed my thoughts change over the course of 40 days. I became more positive, less anxious, happier. By the end of the cleanse I had decided to stay off sugar for good.


Of everything I was asked to do in Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training, the cleanse was the thing I resisted the most. When it was assigned to us, I argued so much with my teachers, my fellow trainees finally said something to me (stop!). And it was the thing that improved me the most too. I am sure there is a link here. To this day, I’m strict about staying off sugar and have taken it one step further. I’m generally low fructose these days too. I find it helps not just my body but my mind.


It was painful, but in the end, I was grateful for the cleanse.  When I look back at the dots that influenced my transition to a new life, I am surprised to find that a cleaned up diet is one of them. The new diet changed my thoughts. It was such an important step in my transition, I’ve actually continued to do it once a year since training. It helps me from getting too far off course.


If you want to participate in the next 40-day cleanse, it starts on March 9, 2020.  You can learn more here.
Next week: 1.4-1.5:The Burning Man Bumblebee Incident


For any installments you missed, go here.

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