Most of my tribe fits the typical yoga demographic of healthy white women between 30-60. Yet, when I decided to profile men who cleanse, they came out of the woodwork in droves. Without further ado on the why, what, how and their advice for you… here are wise words fromMEN WHO CLEANSE. Read through to the end and walk away with the cliff notes on detox.
I am one of those men who cleanse. I participated in a cleanse lead by Cate Stillman, “Yoga Healer,” this past October, and I just signed up for the one beginning in May.
Here is the comment I submitted to Cate’s website about why I cleanse:
I’ve cleansed once before with Cate, in the Fall of 2010. The chief impetus for me to cleanse was to nourish my yoga practice. I didn’t know how to eat to give me energy for my practice without weighing me down. I’ve been a vegetarian for over 25 years, and heading toward vegan. Three answers emerged from the cleanse: to eat in a manner more consistent with my dosha, to juice before a morning practice, and more generally to try to eat more raw foods.
I’m happy to say that doing these things helped me to lose a little weight, such that people notice, and to give more energy to my practice. Sometimes I also get the comment that I’m more “radiant.”
I’m back for another round, to deepen my cleanse and to learn that much more.
Moreover, I would have to add that I discovered my typical dietary needs are much less than I would have thought. For instance, in an article on osteoporosis in this month’s (May 2011) Yoga Journal, we learn that most Americans eat a surplus of protein. This is even true for me, a vegetarian bordering on a vegan.
Beyond that, I suppose I have to answer the question of what’s “manly” about cleansing. For me a modern virility is tied up with Robert Bly’s exploration of a renewed masculinity in his book Iron John: A Book About Men (1992). Consider the distinction he makes between the soldier and the warrior, the savage and the wild, respectively.
[Robert] Moore [the psychologist and theologian] emphasizes that the quality of a true warrior is that he is in service to a purpose greater than himself: that is, to a transcendent cause. Mythologically, he is in service to a True King. If the King he serves is corrupt, as in Ollie North’s case, or if there is no king at all, and he is serving greed, or power, then he is no longer a warrior, but a soldier (150).
Elsewhere in the book, Bly suggests that the hero’s journey is in descent to the earth and that a truly transcendent cause for men to day is stewardship of the earth.
In Anusara Yoga, we learn that our optimal blueprint is to align with nature. In yoga more generally, and in other somatic practices such as T’ai Chi and martial arts we often adopt natural forms, the outer form of living things. Anusara takes this further into the anatomical level with the Universal Principles of Alignment. (While the current masthead of the blog is one of several which come with this free WordPress theme, my choosing it is a purposeful evocation of the spiral.) To cleanse is for me another way to deepen alignment with nature, not only in support of my practice, but in choosing foods which nourish me, in my body type, appropriately. This widens outwards to choose foods that are appropriate to season and climate whenever possible. Aligning with nature is a higher path.
Cleansing is also a way to purify, to simplify the diet enough to give the body a chance to eliminate the excess we Americans in particular seem throw at it. I have these liver spots on the back of my legs, which made my primary care physician simply shrug. I’m happy to say these shrunk in size over the course of the last cleanse, and I’m looking forward to seeing less of them. I also often think of that opening scene in Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth (1932) in which Wang Lung, though poor, goes to the market in spring to buy a green pear to eat as a purgative. The good earth, indeed.
Since the October cleanse, I have been largely off caffeine, having given up a two cup of coffee a day habit. Occasionally, I will have a green tea, and even more occasionally, a black tea. I subsist mainly on herbal chai when I need that wakeup hit (Organic India’s Red Chai Masala or Yogi Tea’s first blend, Classic India Spice® tea). Herbal chai has been especially good for my digestion, and especially warming this winter.
As I said, I’m also choosing more raw food alternatives. Before the October cleanse, I had never prepared kale (I had it in dishes at Life Alive Café in Lowell). Now I’m usually inclined to eat it in a raw salad for lunch. It’s satisfying, has more calcium than an equivalent amount of milk, and it gives me energy. Though the kale I buy at Whole Foods is typically from California, it is something that grows well in these New England climes, and may even be better that way. Alignment with nature may also mean being a locavore, which has environmental implications. This is one possible “transcendent purpose” of a cleanse.
Cleansing requires strategy and endurance. Both of these are qualities of a warrior. This is even more true of a householder, someone who is not holed up in a monastery, but trying to live a life out in the world. Try eating less and more simply while being surrounded by food. Even walking into Whole Foods can be as Thich Nhat Hahn has said, “a battlefield.”
As with yoga, the effects of cleansing radiate outward to others in one’s immediate environment. Food is social, and as I have found in the last nearly thirty years of being a vegetarian, diet can lead to conversation, which leads to education, which may lead to transformation. Education and transformation, to serve them all my days, has always been my “transcendent purpose.”
Is it manly to cleanse? As Robert Bly so boldly stated in his poem “Four Ways of Knowledge,”
Is a thicket of thistles
Waiting for the Wild Man.
My observation of nature is that this is the current appearance of the yet-greening New England landscape, a thicket of thistles. C’mon men, let’s go.