My food is my medicine.
My body is my training ground.
Yoga is my therapist.
The story starts with my very first boyfriend. With his mother, to be precise. She is an incredible woman, who is always kind to me and even today she wishes me well on my birthday and holidays.
She is able to fix pipes at home, build things and even deal with electrical circuits. She was always saying: “Learn as much as you can, knowledge can not be taken away from you. You can have the best car, the most astonishing jewellery, the prettiest clothes, but you can also loose those things with a blink of an eye. But if you learn something, if you have a skill, that will stay with you no matter where you go.”
In my early twenties I saw a lot of conspiracy theory documentaries about our food industry, about the medicine and health-care system and about our monetary system. I wouldn’t say I am the best source of knowledge on these topics but they encouraged me to do one thing: you better watch out. (Not cuz Santa Clause is coming to town, although in this festive season this song haunts me at certain phrases. Thanks Michael Bublé.) I learnt to to filter what I hear - to my best abilities - and to question and think critically.
My first learning curve in life was when I was 21, lived in Wales and I had bad knee pain that urged me to see a doctor. My GP said to take 400 mg of Ibuprofen 3 times a day. I sat there and as he wrote a prescription I was thinking: “No effing way!!! Are you crazy? I am 21, strong and healthy, I can not take painkillers 3 times day! That’s not a life ahead of me. Get out! Oh wait, it’s your office, OK then I’ll get out…” I threw away the prescription in the first bin I found and began to dive deep in Google. (It’s not my advised move when it comes to health issues but I still considered it a better option than to live on drugs. At age 21…)
I read articles after articles and collected book recommendations. The first thing I started reading up on was how dehydration effects our body. I got hold of an ebook going into details of stages and symptoms of dehydration. Being thirsty is one sign that you are dehydrated, but there are many others which we simply never learn to pay attention to. Dry skin, lost focus, joint pain are just a few. Because I am from a warmer climate for me dinking water always happened naturally. When I was thirsty. My Mum also always makes tropical weather in the house during winter, literally keeping it so warm that now when I go home I complain and I am in shorts and a t-shirt while there is -20 celsius degrees outside.
So when I was in Wales where I almost always felt cold indoors and outdoors, day in day out - same now that I live in England - I lost my natural drive to drink water. Also I was cold which effects the joints so a dehydrated state did not help them feel any better.
I didn’t know this back then but I thought drinking an extra glass of water 3 times a day instead of Ibuprofen can not hurt me. So I did. It didn’t cost me anything but within a couple of days I felt better and I was able to go up and down the stairs without shooting pain in my knees. I was super proud of myself doing something good for me, simultaneously I was quite disappointed in my GP. Why did he just not tell me to drink more water? I mean, isn’t healing their field of expertise?
I didn’t spend much time being angry with my doctor but learnt an important lesson. It’s better prevent any health problems and not even ending up going to the doctor if I can. If it’s that bad, sure, we must go. But there are people who see their doctors more than their own mother. Every little problem they have they go in and hope a prescription will solve the problem. Not quite so. A prescribed drug may aid the symptoms, but the underlying problem of bad habits and lifestyle choices will stay just the same. So good luck feeling better once you’re off the pill.
This article is not about bashing the health-care system but me telling the story how I got to this idea that health needs to be sustainable.
Seeing my doctor every week or taking pills three times a day is not sustainable for me. There has to be a way to be able to take care of myself to an extent when I only use the system for emergencies.
Life continued and years later when I lived in Hungary I came across with Gary Yourofsky’s “The best speech you will ever hear” and went vegan from one day to another. One of the steepest moves I ever made considering I had no clue what to eat on a vegan diet, but I soon began to learn about food and nutrition so I can plan a healthier diet for myself and avoid all the diet related health problems that run in my family. I knew I had to make different choices fo myself if I didn’t want to end up having the same issues as them. I am still learning and experimenting with what foods make me feel the best that I can still make easily within my budget, but I feel I know so much more about where my food comes from and I have a totally different relationship with what I eat. I look at whole foods as real nourishments and highly processed foods as secondary options when nothing else is available or I am restricted on time or energy to prepare better, or I go out and celebrate and who cares what you eat then it’s about the people and occasion. They are not my major source of energy and therefore do not compromise my health. But indeed I aim to eat healthy around 80% of the time.
The same time I was introduced to yoga by my colleague at the time who was training to be a yoga teacher and led free classes at her place. Back at that time my only kind of exercise was running with a bad posture and cycling to work so if felt quite refreshing to do something different. I got hooked pretty easily and ended up practicing my sun salutations on a hard floor in our one bedroom flat with my ex. And when I say one bedroom, I mean one room. That room served as our bedroom, living room and working space where we had the desktop for editing videos. So when I was saluting the sun religiously at 7 am he was sleeping next to me - or at least trying. He never complained though, which I was always grateful for.
Years went by and I continued using my food as my medicine and my running and workouts to train my body, and even followed yoga videos to continue on with practicing yoga - as most people I thought yoga is only the asana practice, but little did I know about what yoga really is until I came to England and I had the opportunity to do my 200 hour teacher training course. Learning about yoga philosophy, the subtle body and the mind opened doors to studies that taught me how to truly reflect on myself. I mean it is a journey and there is much more to get to know about myself, but my personality changed for the better, I can look at and understand my emotions, patterns of behaviours, relationships from a different angle and detach myself from things that do not serve me and work towards the ones that do. I am learning still, of course, but I also feel that the knowledge I gain and practice I follow help me get through the tough bits in life, which is super helpful when noone else is around.
If I can influence you to do something, that would be to keep on learning how to be sustainable and find what works for you. Taking responsibility for all aspects of our lives is a must once we are adults (no, it’s not always fun I’m afraid, but it is rewarding in a long run).
You are better off learning to maintain a healthy lifestyle as opposed to putting your health into other people’s hands that may not even care about your long term well-being.
You are better off learning about your body, how it works and what maintenance it needs in order to stay healthy and fit - this doesn’t mean you need to be a gym shark, but being able to climb 3 floors without spitting your lungs out is a reasonable goal I think.
You are better off learning about food and knowing what nourishment your body needs to be your best.
You are better off learning to deal with mental difficulties and having your cooping techniques than taking pills or developing destructive habits or addictions.
With this being said it doesn’t mean that you should never rely on any supportive system. But aim to not be dependent on them. Get a hand when you need to pull you up after you’ve fallen on your beautiful tush, but remember that you will only move forward by learning to walk on your own legs.