Sick of cleanse & detox bullsh*t, yes I am. ~ Shana Sturtz

Via Recovering Yogi
on Jan 26, 2012
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 Originally published by our elephriends over at Recovering Yogi on January 23, 2012. 


Sick of cleanse and detox bullsh*t, yes I am.

By Shana Sturtz

My roots are in Oregon, where the commonalities of my childhood were marijuana growing in my neighbors’ backyards, Rice Dream, and attempts at making tofu as delicious as dead flesh. Having a sweet tooth, my Dad opted for the Sweet-n-Low alternative, swearing this was a healthy option, but for most, sugar — including the artificial sort — was not tolerated. This was the 1970s though, before detox, cleanse, and gluten-free were everyday language. It was also before food alternatives dominated the US consumer market.

There were some preachy diet folk in my neighborhood who restricted their children’s diets to an extreme. This resulted in kids stashing candy under their beds for regular feasting, as well as lifelong food issues and eating disorders. My parents weren’t that restrictive (my mom grew up on things like tongue and salami), and so it wasn’t until I entered the world of yoga teachers and trainings that I became increasingly food-focused and paranoid.

How much diet transformation was enough?

My yoga TT experience was full of people attempting to be raw-foodies, juicing their veggies, and cleansing by ingestion of salts and herbs. And there were glowing reviews of colon cleanses, something my Grandma used to administer to my dad (against his will) in their bathroom, but not something I wanted to pay hundreds of dollars for. I felt some pressure and doubt about my resistance to the world of cleansing. Should I be fasting and only drinking lemon water like my fellow teachers? Did my insides need cleaning? Did I need to do this sh*t so I could talk about it with my students, or could I admit my true belief — which was to drink water and lay off alcohol, and that would be enough of a cleanse?

A little history: Every year while growing up I was semi-expected to forgo food for Yom Kippur to repent for my sins the previous year. Sure, what sins? I would make it maybe two hours into the day, and then binge on lasagna while standing at the refrigerator. The only year I managed to fast for six hours was after partying late the night before and sleeping through most of Yom Kippur day. My point: I don’t do fasting. I am a hungry person. And as far as mysterious herbs and other flushing mechanisms, I don’t trust them and never felt the need to go there.

But again, I felt a nagging guilt about this in the yoga world. Everyone else seemed to be game and paying the big money for detox programs.

Fast forward to now. I am a yoga teacher living in Guadalajara, Mexico, land of the meat everything, where “vegetarian” means you don’t eat beef, but you still eat pig’s ears; where you are considered a picky eater if you don’t eat tripe. Here, nobody talks about food elimination, and in fact, Mexico may fall as a society if forced to eliminate Coca-Cola. People eat what they like. For my husband, this move was prompted by a job change, but for me it was a welcome escape from what I saw as a competitive and self-indulgent Portland yoga scene. A scene that put too much emphasis on what people should and should not eat, and where anyone could lead their own cleanse, and did.

Living in Mexico, I am struck by peoples’ unadorned, guilt-free pleasure of food. I also love the pride most women seem to have in their bodies. The women rocking it at the gym are strong, muscular, and eat heartily. Nobody talks about cleansing; no one talks about wheat vs. gluten-free. How liberating to see people enjoying food without so much baggage and analysis. I try not to judge the diet here, even though I think most people back home would have considerable difficulty with acceptance.

I am, however, not shielded from the growing cleanse talk in Portland and around the US, especially exploding with popularity in the New Year.

Recently, I attended a yoga gathering in Mexico filled with Americans, and I left even more disillusioned with the US yoga community. The food served at our retreat was healthfully prepared with fresh ingredients that had to be brought in on a boat from Puerto Vallarta, because of our remote location. Preparation of fresh and healthy meals was labor intensive for a variety of reasons. I was overjoyed to eat this kind of food in Mexico, not to mention that the staff was so thoughtful in their preparation. However, some of the group did not share my joy, and continuously asked questions like, “Did this strawberry touch a kiwi?,” and “Did this piece of fish come in contact with a sea turtle?” Even though many people had legitimate food concerns, the requests and pickiness seemed way overdone.

I felt heartbroken by all the fussiness, all the food sent back, wasted and untouched. I hated the fact that our group was so high maintenance, and that the people who served and cooked for us were working and trying so hard. And so, I guess this is some of the perspective that living away from Oregon has given me: Yogis, try to let go of your control around food just a little bit, especially when you are in another land. And, cleanse if you must, but then just enjoy food for awhile, no strings attached.

About Shana Sturtz

Shana Sturtz is a certified yoga teacher and survivor of the exploding Portland, Oregon yoga scene. She currently lives in Guadalajara, Mexico with her husband, Tom. She continues to teach yoga and tutors in English. She has practiced yoga for 15 years, and yes, she is older than most yoga teachers. She is currently looking for more ways to occupy her time in this new land where she hasn’t quite grasped the language, and she is too scared to drive. Coming from Portland, you only learn to ride a bike. While no longer living in Portland (where a new yoga studio opens every hour) she is forced to practice her yoga within the comforts of her home, often with her cat looking on admiringly.

Artwork by: Vanessa Fiola 


About Recovering Yogi

Far from the land of meaningless manifestation, vacuous positivity, and boring yoga speak lives Recovering Yogi, the voice of the pop spirituality counterculture and an irreverent forum where yogis, ex-yogis, never-yogis, writers, and readers converge to burst the bubble of sanctimonious rhetoric. We are critical thinkers and people who just love to laugh. Visit us on our web site for some straight talk, join the discussion on Facebook or Twitter, or buy a t-shirt and support our mission.


15 Responses to “Sick of cleanse & detox bullsh*t, yes I am. ~ Shana Sturtz”

  1. Locayoga says:

    Thank you for this article. I currently live in Santa Cruz, CA, the detox/cleanse/vegetarian capital of the US and feel like all eyes are on me when I dare walk through Betty's Burger for a meat fix. I have been teaching yoga for over 10 years, drink wine, eat "toxic" food regularly, and enjoy my cravings. Screw guilt, everything in moderation is my mantra

  2. Shana says:

    Thanks for reading! My thing these days is to try and voice my opinion, even when it does not mesh with the culture of yoga, the culture of my friends, and where I came from. I am happy people are relating to the article in a variety of ways.

  3. Cathy Geier says:


    Interesting article and perspective.

    I wish to comment.. ‘Americans” means residents and citizens of South and North America; NOT US citizens. I think you were meaning to refer to US citizens. I also hope that you talked about your concerns about the pickiness to the retreat coordinators so they could discuss it a bit with the visitors so the staff was nto too terribly infected or taught that US citizens are too picky.

    I am curious about the coment that you are an older than most yoga teacher. perhaps some day you will write about this.

  4. bootsinflow says:

    Just heard an NPR story last night about human behavior towards things that disgust our senses. An example was made by indigenous Peruvian folks that regurgitated corn with other ingredients, spit up the saliva into a bowl and the mixture had some sort of alcoholic drink. To us, estranged from that community…we would be absolutely disgusted. but to them, it was part of their life, so it was beyond reproach of being repugnant. What I got out of it was that "disgust was the privileged of those who have a choice." Which i thought was a profound statement. We do the best we can with what we got and we shouldn't expect anything but gratefulness to people we know sincerely want to share their world with us.

  5. Shana says:

    Yes, I do realize that the correct usage would have been North American, but people down here just refer to me as an Americano, and therefore I thought it felt repetitive to say Norte Americano.

  6. Shana says:

    You bring up some interesting points, for sure. I am not suggesting that anyone's relationship with food in the world is simple or that as US citizens we are somehow more enlightened and complex when it comes to food. However, the community I come from (in the US) definitely has a different relationship with food then my friends here in Mexico. And yes, there are plenty of intricacies I cannot know because of the language barrier – but this is my perspective – what I have seen and heard from the people I have talked to here in Mexico. The relationship to food here is different, but not simple.

  7. Lorin says:

    Interesting "food" for thought!
    Posted to Elephant Food on Facebook and Twitter.

    Lorin Arnold
    Blogger at The VeganAsana
    Associate Editor for Elephant Food
    Editor for Elephant Family

  8. Paleo Yogini says:

    Well written and thought provoking article! I know in the yoga retreats and trainings I've participated in, there have been really high percentages of people with admitted eating disorders (so probably more that are still closeted) and I wonder whether the yoga world attracts those with issues or provides an environment where any latent tendencies can flourish. I've dealt with eating disorders and cleanses, and in my experience, they go hand in hand and feed off each other. The fewer cleanses I do, the fewer I need.

  9. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
    Follow on Twitter

  10. I think most cleanse and detoxes are pretty much hype, but some also have some value. We live in a society where we have a lot of toxins and even ingest many things that we were never meant to. Over the years this can wreck havoc on our systems causing inflammation, disease, and lots of discomfort. As someone who has dealt with an eating disorder for over half of my life I do find that I can be drawn to cleanses for the wrong reasons, but also have found much physical healing through some that are not calorically restrictive or done for weight loss reasons, mostly those following Ayurvedic principles. These can reset the body in amazing ways and then allow me to start branching out in what I am eating without discomfort.
    I've also found that by doing these types of cleanses/detoxes I can reset my own patterns in very valuable ways focusing on real meals without guilt.

  11. Kelly Larisey says:

    Wonderful article – great view point! There must be a balance between enjoying food and having a healthy relationship with food and cleansing/detoxing – I do believe both are necessary. Moderation is key!

  12. Louise Brooks says:

    Cathy, you know darn well that "US citizens" often call themselves "Americans". Much of the world identifies someone who says they're American with being from the US. Therefore, we Canadians never refer to ourselves as American. We do say North American sometimes but when someone asks my nationality when I'm abroad I say Canadian. The US has co-opted the word American.

  13. Colin says:

    Nice article…new to Yoga on a 40 day power yoga programme demanding no alcohol, caffine and sugar….all ok…but I was invited to Italy for my Birthday and enjoyed some divine wines and prosecco…felt fabulous…but was made to feel mildly guilty on return…well I agree…moderate in everything is a great mantra x (UK)

  14. cathy says:

    wow Louise, get a grip. If mos tpeople jump over the cliff does that mean you have to remind someone else that they know darn well that mos tpeople do it?
    US means United States citizen.
    North American means a citizen or resident anywhere in North America. American means of either South or North. I travel in both places and some people from central or south America find it 'stupid' or insensitive or magnaminous of US citizens to pretend they ar ethe only Americans. Its called big ugly US tourist syndrome.
    The bigger issue though is that the big bad yoga retreat participants -US citizens- were so picky and mean spirited about their food., Again, mean ugly uS citizens.

    I believe that people no matter where they are from are equal. But maybe I darn well amnto thinking straight!

  15. Joanna says:

    "She has practiced yoga for 15 years, and yes, she is older than most yoga teachers." Wow…15 years, congrats! That's a decent amount of time to "practice." Also, you're older than most yoga teachers? What does that mean? Are you 60 years old? Are you better because you're older? Just curious, I'm not sure what that statement is implying. Namaste.