Thursday, March 10, 2011

(De)Caffeinated Yogini

Ask fifty adults practicing yoga whether they drink coffee, and there's a good chance at least half of them will say yes. But traditionally, yoga and any stimulant did not go well together. Many yoga teachers recommend letting go of caffeine as you become more dedicated to a yoga practice. Other well-known yoga teachers show up to class sipping coffee from a Starbucks cup.

There's no rule that says you can't drink coffee if you're a serious yoga practitioner. Why then, did this yogini decide to let go of caffeine? Excellent question.

I've been a near-daily coffee drinker for years now. My morning routine during the work week entails me entering the building, taking off my coat and brewing the coffee for the office. I've usually finished my first cup and am going back for my second by the time the rest of my coworkers start trickling in an hour later. I like the smell of it, the taste of it, the way it warms my body. Coffee has been my quiet-time companion for a long time. But I wasn't addicted. There were weekends when I would go completely without coffee (but not necessarily caffeine) and saw no real changes in how my body and mind functioned. No headaches, no sleepiness, nothing to indicate that I had to have coffee.

Still, I had started getting the feeling that caffeine was weighing me down. Not literally, of course. But as much as I had convinced myself that caffeine didn't control me, I found myself drawn to that pot every morning, like a fly to honey.

During our last teacher training weekend, we started discussing preparations for our upcoming juice fast, the topic of caffeine came up and the conversation got a bit heated. "How many of you are addicted to caffeine?" our instructor asked. About half of the group raised their hands. "And how many of you drink coffee but don't think you're addicted to caffeine?" Most of the rest of us, myself included, raised our hands. Then the instructor challenged us to explore that idea.

Like so many things I've been doing lately, I took that challenge seriously and decided to experiment with letting go of caffeine. I truly didn't think it would be that difficult. I only drank a couple of cups of coffee most days of the week, and some days I didn't have any. How hard could it be to let that go?

Surprisingly hard.

I started my week with one cup of 1/3 decaf. At about 2:00 that afternoon I thought I was going to fall asleep at my desk. I got irritable and so very sleepy. At first I couldn't figure out why. Then it occurred to me that I usually had a cup of black tea or a diet caffeinated soda after lunch. Maybe I'd been drinking more caffeine than I thought.

The next two days I stuck with my 1/3 decaf blend. Just one cup. I was miserable during the day. But I was also sleeping soundly through the night, when I would normally wake up three or four times.

On the fourth day, I shifted to one cup of 2/3 decaf and did that for two days. On the sixth day, I had a decaf Americano. And on day seven, I went coffee-less.

It's been almost three weeks now, and aside from the two decaf Americanos I've had, I've been caffeine and coffee free. And I feel fantastic. I'm sleeping so much better. I have more energy. I'm alert and wake during the day without the aid of any stimulants. That's not to say there aren't days when I feel like I could really use that jolt of caffeine or when I want a hot drink, but for now at least, some deep breathing, a brisk walk around the block or some herbal tea are doing the trick. I can't promise that I won't ever drink a caffeinated beverage again, but right now it feels great to be a decaffeinated yogini.

(Photo credit: Demion)

This piece was cross-posted at, where I'll be journaling about my experience as I learn to teach yoga (and become a more dedicated yoga student in the process).


Mary@GigglesandGuns said...

Decaf still has caffeine plus more chemicals used in the process. Kudoos to you for sort of being caffeine free.
I love coffee. It is a pleasure I enjoy and although I've given it up for long periods o time, I find no reason to do so.
Do you give up all sources of stimulants? Caffeine is in things you don't think about.

Rebecca said...

oh gosh... i can't imagine giving up caffeine!

if anything i'd say my addiction has gotten stronger now that i am laid off.

i love everything about it..the smell, the taste, the comfort.

it sadly is an addiction and kudos to you for kicking it! =)

Ami said...

Mary - Thanks for the comment! I know decaf has some caffeine and other stimulants. That's why I'm limiting my intake. I've also let go of caffeinated soda and teas. I'm not being super strict about removing all caffeine and other stimulants from my diet. But I am trying to be more conscious about how many I'm putting into my body.

Rebecca - I have things like that (ahem, sugar) that I would have much more difficulty letting go of. I'm glad I was able to give up caffeine for a month, and I'm not planning to add it in again any time soon. But I do love the routine of it, the smell, the flavor. It's not just about the caffeine jolt. It's also about the experience of it. As always, thanks for stopping by and commenting.

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