Our idea of what constitutes "food" in American culture has become so skewed that it is almost unrecognizable. Our supermarkets are packed with products whose ingredients include unpronounceable chemicals, dyes, bacteria, and growth hormones. They are irradiated without our consent and contain GMOs.It's time to bring back FOOD. Pure unadulterated organic RAW food.This blog is a documentation of my continuing journey on a plant-based lifestyle.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Cane Juice Chronicles: 31 Day Bikram Yoga Challenge

Before I get into the deets about the challenge, let me give you a little background info.

Bikram yoga is a series of 26 postures and two breathing exercises that takes place in a room heated to 105 degrees with at least 40% humidity. It requires a balance of both strength and flexibility; it will test your endurance, your stamina, and ultimately what type of person you are when things get tough. And much like cane juice, it's entirely addicting.

I began practicing Bikram five years ago in Manhattan. To say that I was inflexible before beginning this practice is an understatement -- I couldn't even touch my toes. No really, I'm not joking. And I didn't like the heat either. So basically, there was nothing about this that I should have enjoyed at all.

Except for the fact that it was incredibly challenging and pushed me far beyond my limits...therefore, I loved it. And I felt ah-mah-zing afterwards; the greatest post-workout high ever!

Bikram is- me, actualized. It is all of my hard-work, effort, and determination in it's most tangible form. It is all that I am, poured out on the mat -- no running from things that are difficult, no giving up. Bikram is my form of meditation where for those 90 minutes it's just me and my yoga; I leave everything else outside the room.

All I wanted when I was younger was to be able to do a split! After about three years into my practice my body was finally flexible enough to be able to do one!

Thanks to some wonderful teachers who recognized a bit of potential in me, I have been able to really hone my practice and progress farther in postures than I ever dreamed would be possible! Bikram transformed my body once, and I hoped that it could do the same again by correcting my hip/thigh injury once and for all. (To learn more about why Bikram is so beneficial for healing injuries please go to www.bikramyoga.com, research)

Needless to say, the idea to incorporate raw sugar cane juice, given it's high mineral content and potent healing potential, was a given. If you read my previous post about cane juice and running you might remember that cane juice is a grass, one that can be likened to wheat grass but infinitely more delicious. You also might recall me mentioning how great it is for muscle recovery due to it's ability to help alkalize the body post-workout; precisely what we need to help fight inflammation for said injuries.

Truth be told,  I'm no stranger to yoga challenges; I once did 285 days in a row. However, using Bikram in conjunction with cane juice to heal my injury was something I had little experience with.

And then Rey told me about this amazing woman, Lindsy, who works for her and who also does Bikram. She suffered a pretty severe knee injury where her kneecap popped off and she tore several ligaments. Her doctors insisted on surgery, but she opted for natural care, using cane juice and Bikram to heal her injury. This woman is so tough that she actually drinks Raw Cane Juice's Detox Elixir (think Sriracha-level spicy)  WHILE she is in class because it heats her up even more!! (Yeah, this girl is the bomb!)

Quick injury recap: My injury (discussed in the post about running) was certainly not as traumatic as popping my knee cap off, but it was severe enough that I really could not walk and when I did walk, it was with a very obvious limp and leaning to the left side. When I would sit down and then get up, my hip would go into full spasms and what felt like an electric shock would shoot up my whole leg and through my body. The aggravated injury this time around was more of a groin pull that centered around my left thigh and felt like a cross between pinching and someone applying deep pressure to the area. This time around I could walk (thankfully) but, running was out of the question.

Anyway, after that, I felt emboldened and I was confident that yoga paired with cane juice would be my ticket to renewed health and I'd be race-ready in no time.

Now, before I officially share my detailed notes, I feel that it is necessary to clear something up: Cane juice is NOT sugar water. People often see the word 'sugar' in the title and they immediately swear it off. Sugar in the form of fruit, and in this case cane sugar, is NOT the same as refined, processed sugar.

I'm going to let the expert explain this, so here is what Rey told me: "Comparing the two (cane sugar and refined sugar) is like comparing table sugar to an actual beet pulled from the soil. [90% of U.S. table sugar is made from sugar beets, but that granulated stuff has nothing to do with the root veggie, the source, a non-hybridized beet.) Comparing man-made dehydrated crystalline sugar to any kind of actual unaltered whole food is like comparing Starburst (which has some elements of real fruit, supposedly), to an actual fruit. Without the entirety of the food- including the natural water content that suspends and keeps alive and intact the full spectrum of minerals, vitamins, enzymes, prebiotics (lactobacillius in cane juice), fiber, etc. isolated sugars like high fructose corn syrup, agave nectar, palm sugar, evaporated cane juice, etc. are just crystalline, man-made sugar that enters the blood and offer no nutritional value. Furthermore, to synthesize non-whole sugar, the body must leach from its reserved and often limited mineral source. On the other hand, naturally occurring poliosaccharides and oligosaccharides are complex, intact sugars that are unaltered from their natural state. These complex sugars are what are bodies need for real, sustained energy that does not deplete or leave residue that is toxic to our bodies.

Alkalizer Tonic! Tastes like Lemonade! Super hydrating and with the added chlorophyll my cells were so happy!
 Cane juice is NATURALLY OCCURRING sucrose (NOT table sucrose made by man!) And this naturally occurring sucrose found in cane juice is fully metabolized by the stomach, bypassing the pancreas, thus it requires ZERO insulin to break down and turn into useful energy. This is why diabetics can use raw cane juice as well, no blood sugar spikes."

 (Probably why I have such great results using cane juice as fuel for my running and as a post-recovery drink, the body virtually has to do nothing so all those minerals and vitamins are just sucked up by my cells!)

So there you have it, the "sugar" in cane juice is really just a misnomer.

And now, my ode to cane juice and Bikram, a rustic testimonial highlighting my ups and downs and ultimately, how I fixed my injury using 100% natural methods. Included here are the times of each class I took as well as what cane juice I drank that day.

2/25: 9 am class, first day back after 3 days off doing T-25; swimming, arduous breathing series because my arms were sore from swimming and push-ups
2/26; 9 am class, tight hamstrings but more flexible in my shoulders
2/27: 9 am class; still having trouble with standing bow because of my connector muscle- more difficult to pull back and up because it feels stuck esp in the morning. biking makes it worse!!! lower back feels like it is opening up again-- more bend
2/28: took 8:15 pm class last night, haven't taken a night class in 6 years; felt so much more flexible and it was easier to get into full postures most specifically forward bend in half moon pose (whereas I usually have a very tight right hamstring, tonight it felt less tender and tight.) rabbit, and even triangle-- one of my hardest poses because of my hip tightness -was able to get my hips more in line so I'm not leaning forward as much, working on keeping knee locked throughout whole pose.
3/1: 9 am class -March challenge begins! interested to see how I will feel less then 12 hrs after my last class. doubles in my future again??? maybe! also, going to get cane juice today so I can start to see how that effects my recovery and future flexibility!!
*can almost see the back window when I do cobra !!!
*standing bow pose is way more open; leg extended

goals for march:
full tear drop shape in bow pose; wrap my arm around my back to do full spine-twisting pose
last night: 1 c detox elixir and 1 32 oz cane juice
3/2: 9 am class; this morning my ankles are sore better after stretching; shoulders felt so open during breathing and I noticed I could look all the way back to the window and still keep my arms straight. Epsom salt + eucalyptus oil bath after Bikram: really exhausted today- little detox maybe? pineapple juice for b-fast today because I felt really nauseous after class. 1 c detox elixir before bed
3/3: woke up this morning with no muscle soreness!! and this is after walking some pretty steep hills in Elysian Park yesterday. pulled something in my neck reaching for shampoo. detox elixir is SO spicy but I think it's really helping ease the inflammation in my thigh because of the high dose of ginger and the warming effects of cayenne. pretty awesome! not going to Bikram until tonight because I have a doc. appointment so we will see if Friday night's enhanced flexibility was a fluke or legit. doing an abs video this morning- noticed that strengthening my core has really helped with Floor Series; the most difficult part of Bikram for me. had alkalizer elixir post-Bikram-- the best!! class last night was tough; noticed when I eat raw I am more flexible- had potatoes and steamed greens, zucchini pasta and big green salad for dinner (5 hrs before class) and felt tight and really thirsty; soreness in knee when locking out left side (problem hip side)
So close to locking out!
3/4: 9 am class; I'm now obsessed with alkalizer elixir; very hydrating post Bikram (TMI: peed clear night and morning, good sign!!) knee soreness gone, no muscle soreness in legs even tho I am again less than 12 hrs out from last night's class. proper hydration is one of the key tenets of recovery and so far cane juice has been incredibly effective. should try detox elixir (shot) and then have alkalize for mega recovery power; hips more open than typical morning class. feel like I an opening up more and more each day; pull in neck/shoulder from other day gone! regular cane juice for breakfast + 1 shot of detox elixir at night
3/5: 9 am class; noticed that I feel much more flexible and stronger the next day when I have cane juice at night instead of having it after Bikram for breakfast. went to bed a bit late last night and didn't feel that great in class today; my obliques were tight during half moon esp on my right side. progress: I'm fully able to touch my head above my thigh now in standing separate leg head to knee pose. AND in stretching pose i can finally touch my head to my toes without as much difficulty! going to test my theory and have alkalizer elixir tonight and see how I feel tomorrow! reg cane juice
3/6: 9 am class; theory proven, much less tight when I have cane juice at night. drank 3 L water  before 12 in the afternoon yesterday and still don't think it's enough as I I feel very dehydrated in class-- nauseous the whole time/dizzy/ loss of appetite. makes class very difficult because I need to bend over a lot to slow my heart down. consistency is bringing out a lot of old toxins and emotions. poor sleep contributing.
alkalizer elixir at night!
3/7: 9 am class; same as yesterday-- poor sleep/feeling dizzy/dehydrated despite drinking tons of water. class was very hot and difficult for me today. reg cane juice + shot detox elixir
3/8: 9 am class; legs/hips feeling really flexible and open today. *almost as much as before my injury which after that has always thwarted my progress and depth mostly because so much of Bikram is about the hips and back and lower back + hips have always caused me so much pain after the injury. made sure to drink A LOT yesterday + cane juice to make sure I'm super hydrated; good sleep last night.
so close to locking out in standing bow!! working on back bend in half moon: getting my arms straight and really bending my middle back while lifting up. so many moving parts to acknowledge when doing the posture properly! alkalizer elixir shot of detox elixir
3/9: 9 am class: very good class today- nausea has abated, hydrated a lot yesterday (3+ L)  starting to feel stronger in class again. Noticed that in certain postures that I haven't consciously focused on over the years (but beginning to now) are very stubborn to change and allow my body to open up. also noticed that if I drink alkalizer elixir the night before a class, in the morning I feel more awake and not as tight.
trying out a new combo this week-- ginger lime!
3/10: 11 am class; caught up on some lost sleep and in turn want to see how my body will be effected by sleeping in later. had 32 oz of cane juice yesterday and 32 oz of alkalizer last night + shot of detox elixir, so far today my body feels GREAT! my back was hurting a little yesterday (left lower flank) but it's gone today. with so much Bikram I'm really having to be so much more conscious of hydration. think I need to eat more melon for breakfast again because that works as natural hydration for me. 32 oz cane juice
3/11: skipped because I am doing a double on Thursday. detox elixir as salad dressing + 32 oz cane juice
3/12: 11 am class; no difference I flexibility between 9 am vs 11 am class BUT big difference between Bikram on 8+ hrs of really excellent sleep vs 7-8 hrs of crappy sleep. after injury my hip rotation has been limited/tight and at times painful. today was the first time since Sept that I felt I had regained full hip rotation most notably in two important postures -- triangle and tree pose. pre-injury, in tree I could line my heel with my belly button, and keep my knee completely in line with my other knee so it looked like from the side like I only had one knee. it was one of my best postures! post-injury I could not do that at all. it really gives motivation to push on. and I think this plus the consistent cane juice (with all it's healing/mineralizing properties) is fixing my body from the inside out-- it's the perfect marriage of plant food + restorative exercise! had an alkalizer after class + ginger lime 16 oz tonight
3/13: 9 am class-- LOVE the ginger lime! pinched a nerve in my back this morning while riding my bike w. back pack on. hurts to breathe. still did pretty well in Bikram, despite this hiccup. no new things to report. cane juice pm
3/14: 11 am class; back still hurts. acupuncture tomorrow.  in Bikram vs running I think raw food is better; if I eat cooked food I definitely feel more stiff. whereas with running I feel like the denser carbs I.e. starches are more effective with providing long lasting energy. I would say the cane juice neutralizes the stiffness and provides more agility because I feel LESS stiff eating cooked food + cane juice vs just cooked food and no cane juice. Notable: I legit crave the cane juice. I could drink gallons. Tells me that my body needs those electrolytes and minerals. alkalizer + shot of detox
3/15: 9 am class; back is still bothering me and standing bow right side is compromised. always feels better after class, but I think acupuncture will release the nerve or whatever it is. cane juice pm/ detox elixir as salad dressing
3/16: 9 am class- back still felt sore, but I put my natural muscle cream on it before Bikram and on the back of my legs (tight hamstrings) and it really opened me up and made my back feel normal again. still limited motion in class because of back but doing my best to push through.
3/17: 9 am class-- I CAN RUN AGAIN! that's about 15 day of consecutive cane juice and restorative yoga and I'm good-- compared to the last injury which took 4-5 months!! between the yoga and cane juice that's some powerful natural anti-inflammatory which is key for healing. ginger lime 32 oz
3/18: 9 am class; arms/shoulders super tight today, but I felt very open in the hips. doing a double today for the first time in 5 years!
11 am class: my hips felt stretched and open and  SO flexible. was able to nearly lock out in standing now and my lower back was incredibly flexible second time around-- was able to go much deeper than I have before. drank 32 oz of alkalizer in between and I had so much energy! still working on hydration.
3/19: 9 am class; no muscle soreness today what-so-ever!! crediting this to getting quality minerals between classes yesterday!
ginger lime 16 oz
3/20: 9 am class today's focus is hip rotation; really trying to build on this and heal my hip fully and correctly. seems that back bends are what really open my hips and while it hurts to stretch it that way, it definitely aids in gaining more hip rotation. shot of detox elixir
3/21: 9 am class; after yesterday's class my hips feel amazing and flexible. and yesterday I really worked in pulling my leg out and up vs going down so far and I think it really helped. practicing the back bend from half moon series and doing camel are two of my most difficult postures now even though they used to be two of my "easiest".
3/22 7 am class //  cane juice: in Palm Springs for yoga! feeling very tired and tighter than normal in my arms. kind of feel like my body intuitively knows what body parts to focus on and heal because daily I seem to experience tightness in my arms and shoulders, but conversely, I feel like everyday my lower back/ hips become progressively more open
Standing head to knee pose. This took me a good two to two and a half years to be able to do properly (locking the knee is essential here for maintaining balance. After my first hip injury, I couldn't do this any more because it simply put too much pressure on my bad hip. Now, I'm back in the game!
3/23: 7 am class // cane juice: felt nauseous the whole class, but pushed through. I'm using my time in PS to work on my back as far as say not using my hands (as much) in cobra and keeping my belly button on the floor per the dialogue. I feel like my brain intuitively knows which body parts/areas of my body need the most healing because daily my shoulders and arms feel so tight whereas it's the exact opposite with my lower back and hips- everyday they feel more open/flexible and I feel that I make progress each day even tho I may be struggling in a class. as I have mentioned, I am not stranger to daily Bikram, practicing six days a week most weeks and that's why I am certain that cane juice is a HUGE part of this healing process. I don't think I would have come this far in 30 days without it.
3/24: 7 am class // alkalizer: the teacher here is helping me keep my upper back lifted in half-moon back bend it's really allowing me to go back even farther! So much satisfaction in these small improvements.
3/25 9 am class // cane juice: excellent, strong class today. was able to get my chest up and hips off the ground during floor series bow!
3/26 9 am class // alkalizer: this past week has been weird for me in that I haven't felt normal in class; I feel nauseous and my heart races and I have to bend over. I push through of course because I can see the bigger picture and I know it's just my bodies way of getting rid of old toxins. even though I don't feel amazingly strong in every class I do feel stronger in certain poses which I think is important vs just being mediocre in every pose. Still working on lifting up in poses and thinking more consciously about when to use strength vs flexibility.
3/27: 8 pm class // cane juice: after nearly a week at Palm Springs yoga where it is more humid than hot, which for me means enhanced flexibility, my lower back and shoulders felt remarkably open. back bend in half moon series was NOT painful (usually is) and I was able to keep my arms with my ears-- all in the knee lock. unfortunately, as it was a night class and I had a full days worth of food in me, I felt pretty nauseous by the time triangle came around. felt much better after drinking my cane juice.
3/28: 9 am class-- no tightness or muscle soreness today! feeling really open and stretchy! back bend in awkward series was EPIC! went back farther than ever before--all in the knee lockout vs lower back contraction-- sugar cane juice
3/29: 11 am class; alkalizer: one of my worst classes since I started Bikram 5 years ago, felt dizzy the whole time, very abnormal for me, though as noted I've felt this way on and off all week! arms/upper back felt very tight. good news tho: I've made so much progress in continuing to open my hips, everyday I feel like I am able open more and more. aggravated injury healed!
3/30: 9 am class-cane juice-- felt great until the end where I started to feel nauseous again. had cane juice right after class and instantly felt better. think my electrolytes were depleted because I've been sweating so much in class. nothing to note about postures today.
3/31: 9 am class, alkalizer: it's the final day of my 31 day march challenge with cane juice and despite my nausea that came about during triangle I had a really awesome last day as far as my standing bow, standing head to knee, floor bow, and twisting posture.
 The goals I set for March were quite grand and I'm still working at them, but it's like running- shaving 5 seconds off your PB is extraordinary and the same applies for Bikram- incremental improvements are big!

Obviously my main goal in undertaking this challenge and incorporating cane juice into my regime, was to heal my hip/thigh injury (as in, feel no pain), but in the end I gained so much more! Not only was I able to heal the aggravated injury, but as you can see I also regained full range of motion to my hips. They no longer feel incredibly tight and sore. I feel like the flexibility that I had worked so hard to acquire over these last couple of years has been restored, and now I am even stronger.

As I mentioned in my data, I was already practicing about 5-6 times a week and was doing so with the injury, but it wasn't until I introduced the cane juice that I believe the real healing began. Recovery is about getting proper nutrition to your cells in order to effectively repair the injury and fight inflammation. Raw cane juice provides exactly that-- amino acids, unprocessed, live enzymes, and the right pH balance that our cells just soak up.

Bikram and cane juice is, in my opinion, perhaps the best natural and most effective way to truly heal any injury. 

[I am happy to report that I was able to run my race, the Hollywood 10k, with success. I drank 32 oz. of cane juice the night before, 16 oz. 45 minutes before my race, and 32 oz. after the race. I felt incredible during the race, like my legs had wings and I was flying! The next day I had no muscle soreness or tightness at all.]

 *I'd like to thank Rey and Robby and everyone at Raw Cane SuperJuice Bar for supplying all the cane juice and for believing in this project as much as I do*

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