So I’ve been getting headaches more frequently than normal the last few months. At first, I chalked it up to stress or the travel. And then I got frustrated... distraught... I went through denial that it was a thing. And then came the day I allowed myself to wonder the dreaded question: Could it be coffee?
Cringe with me: “Nooooooooo... NO! It can't be! I can’t give up coffee!”
But after the last migraine, I decided it was worth a shot to not have to experience headaches like that anymore. As I write this, I’ve spent over two weeks without coffee (and I’m still living!). And this small example in my own life reminds me of something the great Yogananda once said to a student.
A tiny bit of background: Paramahamsa Yogananda's autobiography — titled Autobiography of a Yogi — is one of the most iconic books in yoga today, about his life spent bringing the yogic teachings from the Himalayas to the west in the early 1900s. (You'll even find it on our yoga teacher training required reading list because his Kriya Yoga practices and Meditation Technique are from the same lineage as what we learn in Yoga Hive's YTT!)
In Awake, the documentary about Yogananda’s life, there’s an interview with one of his students where he recalls a conversation with Yogananda — the one that popped into my head this morning. The student was asking his teacher what he's not allowed to do as a student of yoga.
Yogananda: Do you smoke?
Yogananada: You may continue. Do you drink alcohol?
Yogananda: You may continue. Do you enjoy the opposite sex promiscuously?
Yogananda: Well, you may continue!
Student: Wait a minute. You mean, I can come up on this hill ... with all these wonderful people ... and study these teachings, and I can go back down there and do all these things?
Yogananda: Absolutely! But I will not promise you that as you continue to study these teachings that the desire to do these things won't fall away from you.
That’s just it: On the path of yoga, over time, our preferences change. What charms us refines. Sometimes the people we surround ourselves with changes, too.
At first, this can seem abrupt and unfair. Why is this happening to me?! Why am I the one that has to live without this person, this food, this drink, this activity? Or in my case: Why coffee? Why now?
What I’ve learned through yoga is that change is ultimately good in all its forms, and that life doesn't happen TO us. It happens FOR us. Looking at life that way shifts everything — and it doesn't eliminate the inevitable pain of being a human sometimes... but it does eliminate unnecessary suffering. Change becomes a surefire sign we’re moving forward, and everything is (always) working out.
This is a yogi's evolution.
It’s not that I don’t love coffee anymore — I had a delicious decaf Americano at Coffee Traders this past weekend. (And conveniently, all the studios are stocked with my favorite, subtly caffeinated Green Tea!) The point is that coffeewas becoming a crutch. Yoga teaches us to release attachment, and that’s exactly what I knew my body needed.
Although my body's demands don't stop at merely giving up coffee; this decision has led me down another path of self-discovery, changing my skincare and makeup routine to non-toxic products, creating new essential oil blends, employing the healing modalities of functional medicine, acupuncture, and chiropractic to adjust other things happening within.
My point is: The body knows.
I bet you, too, have heard that voice in the back of your mind begging for something you know is good for you. Or begging you to stop a habit you’ve had for years. Or a deep desire to try something new.
And like me and coffee, who knows! It’s not: I’m giving up coffee as long as I live. If I looked at things that way, I’d go crazy… and I can be super stubborn, so I’d probably have a coffee just to spite myself.
Rather, giving up coffee and walking this path is just for now, until I — or my body — feels like I need a change again.
So wherever you’re at, maybe this will be the nudge you need to make that change your body has been asking for.
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Originally hailing from Wisconsin, Mollie is a cheesehead transplant to Northwest Montana, with degrees in Retail and Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Today, she lives off the grid, half the year in a Tiny House & half the year in a yurt — both of which she and her husband, Sean, built by hand. Nonprofit Executive Director by day, Mollie also owns and teaches at Yoga Hive — a chain of community yoga studios in the valley.