Monday, February 20, 2017

Coffee: Friend or Foe?

How I Quit the Brown Juice
by CSOY Alum Gabriella Cascone
Just over two years ago, I made the leap, delved into the unknown – the world of life without coffee. The decision at the time seemed common sense, yet radical: Give up coffee for the duration a one-month intensive yoga teacher training, while living on a ranch in the mountains just north of Napa Valley with thirty-five like-minded human beings from all over the world. Easy.
The part that scared me was that I had just finished a temporary job on a political campaign, working more hours in an eight-month period than I had ever worked before. I was exhausted. With only a three-day break from one intense experience to another, giving up coffee was never the plan. Turns out I learned more about myself during this month of extraordinary consciousness than I had bargained for. What surprised me from the month-long “experiment” is how I was able to challenge my long-held belief that coffee is not only a prerequisite, but a necessity, to sustain a high-output lifestyle.  

But why quit coffee altogether? The choice was motivated by our teachers, Gina Caputo and Kathryn Budig, who encouraged us to think about quitting the brown juice, at least for this one month, for the sake of our learning experience while in an intense immersive environment and our ability to meditate. As it turns out, caffeine has an effect on your natural energy levels. Go figure.
During the training, I was surrounded by a group of individuals who are deeply invested in self-care and the quality of their energetic output into the world. I noticed at least half of them were not hooked up to a coffee IV, unlike most of my usual high energy, extroverted colleagues. Instead, the most popular beverage at our "yoga camp" was kombucha - the poster child for mason jar-carrying, yoga mat-toting modern yogis - a fermented tea made with probiotics that tastes like tangy club soda spiked with ginger or berries. If all of these amazingly upbeat, healthy, and happy people were getting along just fine without coffee they must be doing something right. Right? OK – all of that sounds nice, but how am I seriously supposed to keep my eyes open every morning for a two hour long, 8am lecture without my morning jolt?
Honesty hour: the first month wasn’t all rose petals and unicorns.  I definitely had a rocky ride during this adjustment period. What I found – and continue to find true since switching to hot tea – is that quitting coffee actually helped me feel MORE energized, especially in the long term. No longer am I beholden to a relationship of pick me ups and let downs, riding my personal rollercoaster wave of energy highs and lows. Rather, I find that I am much more capable of sustaining a relatively consistent level of high energy throughout the day, taking the rest I need when necessary. With tea, my energy levels are more like a bell curve than a stock chart. 

So, how do you make the plunge? Here are five easy tips for making the dive:
1: Start small. Cold turkey works for some, but not others. If you’re on three cups per day right now, make a plan to wean yourself down to one per day over the course of a month (or however long you deem necessary) then eventually a handful of times per week, and eventually a couple of cups per month, etc.
2: Consider timing. I’ve found that when I start my day with coffee, I’m likely to continue. As an alternate morning pick-me-up, I recommend any variation of black tea or my new favorite ritual – rubbing 2-3 drops of peppermint essential oil into your palms and taking three deep breaths, then blending with carrier oil and dabbing the remaining oil onto any muscles that need an icy hot treatment.
3: Break complacency, try something new. Steering away from coffee opened my mind up to a wide array of tea varieties I previously didn’t realize existed. I have a lot of respect for the diversity of coffee culture and those who take the time to study the nuances in taste and texture of these oh so magical beans based on their terroir and origin, but have you had a turmeric almond milk latte lately? They’re dope. The world is your oyster.
4: Know WHY. They say habits take at least three or more weeks to build or break – that takes a lot of commitment. Make sure you’re in tune with your intentions and be clear on them being your own, then own it.
5: Lastly - be kind to yourself. All lifestyle changes take time. The benefits are usually worth the journey.
I still drink coffee or espresso occasionally because I genuinely enjoy it as a drink (cappuccinos please!), especially on particularly long and grueling days. Added perk: long road trips only require one cup of coffee because I am now so sensitive to it.

After giving up coffee and then spending another year and a half on the campaign trail I’m still surprised I have been able to defy my own expectations and live relatively coffee-free. Sometimes what once seemed necessary turns out to be more of an illusion we’ve convinced ourselves to be true than anything else. If you’re ready to come over to the dark side, you don’t have to go cold turkey, but you do have to be patient with yourself. Isn’t that what change is all about anyway?