It took me a long time to notice the parallels between what happened on my yoga mat each morning and my daily life. Was who I was on my yoga mat congruent with who I was out in the world? Did my yoga practice inform the way I lived my life? How did what happened on my yoga mat show up -- or not -- in my life? As my practice deepened, I began to ask myself these questions.
What You Eat Matters
One of the things that shifted for me was the food I was putting on my body. I still remember the first time I walked into a natural foods market -- it was on my way back home from a 2-day yoga workshop. I remember thinking that I wanted to maintain the light, healthy feeling in my body and realized that what I put in my mouth made a big difference.
What Happens on Your Yoga Mat Doesn't Have to Stay on Your Yoga Mat
Around this time of year I always get the same desire -- to eat healthier, lighter, fresher foods. The sluggishness of winter wears off and my cravings for hearty foods fall give way to the desire to eat lighter. After my last blog post, I've been thinking more about bringing the qualities of my yoga practice to my health, and more specifically, my food. When I'm on my yoga mat, there's a lightness to my mood, spirit and body and there's a consciousness to my actions, which are supported by an intention.
What if we applied these principles to what we eat? As I've been applying them for the past few weeks, I'd say that not only would we lose weight, but we'd be healthier and more satisfied both physically and emotionally.
Applying Yogic Principles to Your Food Choices
Try this for a week and see what happens:
- Make an intention around food -- what do you want from your food? Do you want it to nourish you, support you physically and emotionally, energize you, satisfy you? If you're noticing that the food you're eating isn't making you feel good, perhaps you could make an intention to treat your body as a temple and only feed it healthy, whole foods that support, honor and nourish it. That has been my intention as of late, and having it has certainly made a difference in what goes into my mouth and why.
- Cultivate awareness around food -- take some time to notice your food. What does it look like, smell like? What are the textures of the food on your plate? Before diving into your food, take a moment to say a brief thank you for having such a meal and state how you want to feel during and after you eat it. When you start eating, slow things down and take your time. Chew your food. Rather than shovel it in, take the time to chew and notice the tastes on your tongue.
- Be conscious -- before you put something in your mouth, ask your body what it's needing. Does it really want those potato chips or would it rather have a warm glass of spiced rice milk? Does your body want that chocolate bar or would it rather have a sweet, juicy piece of fruit? Check in with your body and notice what's going on physically, emotionally, and mentally. Are you eating a particular food because you saw a commercial for the same food on TV and you're having an unconscious response? Are you eating a particular food because you've been thinking about it? Are you even hungry or are you bored, stressed, tired, or angry? Feel before you eat. Notice first then eat.
- Bring a lightness to your food consumption -- rather than beat yourself up over what you're putting in your mouth, enjoy the food you're eating (whether it's french fries or watermelon). If you're eating something that you feel you "shouldn't," instead of beating yourself up mentally, try cutting the portion way down. That way, you don't deny yourself, but you also don't go overboard, which will lead to more mental suffering. Just as you would on your yoga mat, do the best you can in the moment. There are days I eat uber healthy and then there are days that I don't. Regardless, I stay happy and light with regards to my eating. It's a lot more fun than mentally bashing myself over the head with "shoulds."
Pledge to Honor Your Body and Yourself
I recently urged everyone to make a Pledge for Health (if you do so, please share your pledge URL in the comments section) to enhance overall well-being. Why not pledge to apply yogic principles to your food? Rather than diet and suffer or follow a fad that could potentially harm your health, pledge to honor your body. By doing so, you'll be honoring yourself. Before I started applying theses principles, I never gave much thought to what was in the food I was eating or what chemicals were in the products I was putting on my body. Now I do, and I'm much healthier for it.
Helpful Tools and Resources
Just like you need a mat, comfy clothing, and perhaps some props to practice yoga, you also need some tools to help you eat more healthily. Here are just a few of my recent favorites:
- Healthy -- but Simple -- Recipes: I'm not all that handy in the kitchen, so I love simple recipes. Here are 12 pages of healthy, delicious, easy-to-prepare recipes.
- Support -- if you want to live an Ayurvedic lifestyle, one of my favorite Ayurveda specialists, Dr. John Douillard, recently created an online forum. It's just getting started, but the topics are informative and the community is growing.
- 14-Day Nutritional Cleanse Program -- I've enjoyed Maya Fiennes Kundalini DVDs and was delighted to see that she offers a downloadable 14-day nutritional Kunalini program. Not only is the food easy to prepare, but it's tasty and satisfying. I especially love how she recommends food for nurturing each chakra.
- Weight Loss the Yoga and Ayurveda Way -- I mentioned this book in my last post, but it's worth another mention. While the title, The Yoga Body Diet, sounds a bit commercial, the book (which is co-authored by John Douillard) is excellent. The book is easy to follow and it's filled with healthy recipes and excellent tips for eating to maximize your metabolism and support your dosha. I especially love the 4-day detox plan included in the book. It's just what my body needs this time of year. I have another book recommendation on the topic of Ayurveda -- Stop Your Cravings: Satisfy Your Tastes without Sacrificing Your Health. Just like The Yoga Body Diet, this book is written in simple, easy-to-understand language and doesn't get too mired in the complexities of Ayurveda.
- Cleanse -- If you want to jumpstart your health, a cleanse is a good way to do it. One of my favorite books on this topic is The Body-Smart System: The Complete Guide to Cleansing and Rejuvenation. This book is thorough and extremely informative.
- Emotional Eating -- It's easy to turn to food even though we're anything but hungry. If you'd like to improve your relationship with food and look at nourishing yourself in a whole new way, I highly recommend the following books: Women, Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything, The Yoga of Eating: Transcending Diets and Dogma to Nourish the Natural Self (I mentioned this in my last post as well, but I love that this book encourages a paradigm shift around eating, so I'm mentioning it again) and 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food.
My Favorite Eats
I'd also like to share a few of my favorite happy eats lately:
- Sip warm water throughout the day -- I learned this long ago and recently came back to it. I'm so very glad that I did. I notice that I drink more when my water is warm and I absolutely positively feel the detox effects.
- Cooked Almonds -- My favorite new morning meal is heated almonds. I put a little ghee in a frying pan and warm it for a bit. I then add a handful of almonds. I stir constantly until the almonds start to pop. After transferring the almonds to a bowl, I add a dollop of raw honey. I love this dish because it's tasty, satisfying, and healthy.
- Sweet and Savory Watermelon -- Lately my lunch of choice has been spinach and watermelon cubes garnished with slivered almonds and mixed with either honey mustard dressing or balsamic vinaigrette. I love the sweet and tangy taste!
P.S. Don't forget to make a Pledge for Health. You can win a $20 gift card for doing so. Read this post for all the details.