How we eat directly impacts every aspect of our day, from how we interact with others to how productive we are in our work to our mood and self-perception. We are lucky to live somewhere that grants us so much flexibility with our food: we can choose what to eat, when, and how much. Choosing to tap into the effects of our food allows us to become more in touch with ourselves and more respectful of our bodies.
Take a second to consider how the foods you ate yesterday affected you. Did you feel fueled? Sluggish? Restless? Calm? Invigorated?
I like to think about food as an adventure in mindfulness, which ties in nicely with the awareness brought about by a regular yoga practice. There are many tenets of yoga we can apply to our food, and in doing so, we can use our nourishment to support our yoga practice. (Even if you don't practice yoga, these considerations can play a huge part in rebuilding a relationship with food. It can be very valuable - and enlightening - to explore anything that offers an opportunity to connect more fully with how we eat.)
Below are some key elements of practicing yoga that translate pretty smoothly into eating habits. Think about how you can incorporate these into your week -- and see how an awareness of your fuel can really positively impact your time on the mat!
Like Warrior III or Tree Pose, we can find a lot of strength and growth when our eating is balanced. Aim to incorporate a variety of different whole foods throughout the week, including flavors from the six taste markers [sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent]. When we eat a variety of foods, we lessen the likelihood of nutrient deficiency and increase our palate's ability to distinguish new, natural tastes. Listen to the body: it will let you know when it is out of balance. Honor what it's telling you and seek out nourishing foods that will help restore the even keel that allows us to thrive!
Help your body find the power of Chaturanga by fueling with plant proteins: these rebuild muscle tissue and allow for growth and strengthening. Proteins provide lasting energy and sustained mental clarity, too -- strong body, strong mind. Work these into each meal for the biggest benefit: your muscles will thank you!
Lifting + Energizing
Foods can help us feel lightness and lift, allowing us to truly 'take flight', both on and off the mat. Eating a variety of raw foods and juices help the body easily assimilate nutrients, leaving more energy to do incredible things. Similarly, cutting down on processed, packaged foods that zap our life force can increase our energy: experiment with a week of eating nothing with a label and see how much more energy you have to devote to getting off the ground in your arm balancing poses!
Different foods provide us with different energies. Root vegetables, in particular, are a wonderful way to incorporate the feeling of groundedness into a day. Carrots, sweet potatoes, turnips, and burdock impart the energy of the earth directly to the body, which can help us find a sense of calmness and solidity throughout the day. (Think of the effect of eating a hearty stew.) Incorporate these underground goodies to inspire strength in poses like Warrior II and Tadasana. These foods help settle the mind in the body and connect to the support of the ground below.
Cleansing + Detoxifying
I regularly take classes with a teacher who says "yoga is 99% waste removal". We can help the body regularly cleanse and detox just by incorporating leafy greens and fresh juices. The plethora of phytonutrients easily available to the body in these foods support the liver, allowing it to filter toxins effectively and maintain a free-flow of energy. Just like twisting poses help move the 'gunk' out of the internal organs, eating live foods and enzyme-rich veggies can help us to keep up cleansing in an ongoing way.
We can use principles of mindfulness we learn in yoga to build healthy eating habits - as mentioned above, we have all kinds of options when it comes to food (where, when, what, how much...). When we are tapped into our habits, we can best support a thriving body and calm mind. This includes eating with awareness of the body's cues (are we full? are we eating in response to emotional stimulation? is this food serving us?) and a sense of focus (eating without distraction). Also, a sense of connection to the food itself (where it came from, who grew it, who prepared it) allows us to more fully fuel the body and mind.
Use these principles to thinking about food like a little mini yoga practice in itself. By eating in a way that promotes clarity, focus, and calm, we can set ourselves up to sail through tricky times - be they tough poses in a class or a tough situation elsewhere in life. Seek strength and balance and feel great about the choices you're making with your highest wellbeing in mind.