The Yoga of Eating
The Yoga of Eating
Because of it's popularity these days, the focus of yoga tends to be on the physical aspect only. You can go to classes and practice at a studio or you can follow along with digital classes online. The physical benefits of yoga are well documented, but if you really want to support your body in transformation, then taking a holistic approach will fit in well with the physical practice. Ultimately yoga is a practice that will teach you to build respect and acceptance towards your self and your body, so part of this process is keeping your body and mind fueled with clean nutrition.
So much of what we think, say and feel is connected to the food we put into our bodies, and this connection gives you the power to choose better, cleaner foods without added sugar and preservatives. It's said that the body is a temple, a temporary vessel for the soul. If you take this to be true, then supporting your soul in this life with a body that is strengthened by a yoga practice and fueled by clean food is a good start to finding balance and inner peace.
You've probably heard the saying 'you are what you eat'. I would agree and add you are also when, how, where and why you eat.
- What you eat. Thanks to the information age it is easier than ever to understand exactly what is in the food we buy, whether it's fresh or not. Choosing fresh food will always give you cleaner energy and give your digestive system a fighting chance. The great thing about yoga is that when you combine it with good nutrition choices, your body's digestion and elimination processes become regular and predictable. Go for fresh fruits and veg with lots of color and variety - from leafy greens to berries, and citrus fruits to squash. Pick clean proteins like raw nuts and seeds, wild fish, cage free eggs, quinoa, hemp hearts, chia seeds, lentils or beans and cottage cheese or Greek yogurt. If you do include wheat in your diet, try to make it whole grain items with low sodium.
- When you eat. The body responds well to a schedule or routine, so planning your meals for at least the majority of the week will be beneficial. But with all the conflicting demands and priorities that we deal with now-a-days keeping a consistent schedule can seem like a daunting task. Start with tackling the bad habits like grabbing breakfast on the run (not home made) and snacking late at night. New habits change into routine before you know it, so plan ahead and try something different for at least a week. When considering eating before doing some yoga just remember that a full belly will not feel good when forward folding or upward dogging.
- How you eat. One of the biggest problems with nourishing your body to care for your soul is the habit of wolfing down your food because you don't have enough time or mindlessly eating until you feel stuffed. Both of these things are extremely stressing to the body and will seriously impact your digestive health. When it's time to eat you really want to have at least 30 minutes to sit in a relaxed posture, with no distractions like smart phones, tablets or tv, and really taste the food you're eating. Another important piece of this is liquids and hydration. I encourage you to drink warm or hot water with meals rather than icy cold water or sugary beverages.
- Where you eat. Again this can be a tough one because of limited time and habit, but making a clear distinction between where you work and relax and where you nourish your body with food will help to keep your relationship with food healthy. Eating dinner in front of the tv is one of the most common bad habits and it sets the stage for mindless over eating. Sitting at a dining table will allow you to connect with your body in that moment so you can actually sense when you are satisfied to prevent overeating. The same principle goes for any kind of eating on the run, generally speaking, multitasking and eating don't mix well.
- Why you eat. Eating is a social mechanism as well as a necessary function of living, but I bet if you stopped to think about why you're eating when you're eating, most of the time it wouldn't be because you're hungry. We eat for emotional reasons like a bad day at work, fights with friends or loved ones or loneliness and boredom. Bringing a yoga practice into your life will help develop mindfulness as you become more aware of your body and the messages it's sending you. Next time you feel the urge to eat, stop and ask yourself why you want to eat and try drinking a glass of water first. Hunger can often be thirst in disguise.
- With whom you eat. If you stop to think about the kinds of food you eat and who you're with at the time, you may notice some startling connections. Maybe you indulge with certain friends but not others, or you take cues from those around you about how much to eat. It all really comes back to building a relationship with your body so that you know what food and amount is appropriate for you, rather than partaking just because everyone else around you is.
- Awareness. The common thread with all of these topics is awareness. The good news is that with the practice of yoga comes the opportunity to tune up your mindfulness muscle; your awareness of what is going on for you at any given moment in any given situation. Once you build that awareness and mindfulness of your surroundings, your feeling, your thoughts and your urges you have the power to change unconscious habits and reactions, and really embody the true spirit of yoga and personal wellness. This will make you feel better about yourself and your relationship with food in ways you may have never imagined.