If you've ever spent any time with other members of the yoga community or yoga teachers, most likely you would have noticed that they are a healthy bunch — and their eating habits follow suit! Healthy and mindful eating isn't just a trend associated with yoga, it is part of the lifestyle and almost absolutely necessary to a successful and comfortable asana practice. Influenced by Hinduism and Ayurvedic medicine, these eating habits might seem random but each one serves a deliberate purpose. Follow these dietary considerations for optimal health and happiness:
- Yogis eat sattvic foods. These foods are simple and easy to digest: vegetables, fruits, nuts, and legumes. Hot (temperature) and spicy foods are considered rajasic, heating the body and mind. Fatty foods and processed foods high in preservatives are considered tamasic, or harmful. A sattvic diet will lead to higher energy levels and decrease overeating, which can be harmful to the soul, mind, and body.
- Consider going vegan/vegetarian. I know, I know, it does not sound like fun. Honestly, I can't do it. I used to be vegetarian and found myself low on energy, tired and depressed. I have a super fast metabolism and can't stand being hungry which is why I eat meat — the protein fills me up. But I find myself opting for poultry and fish over red meat. Red meat creates lethargy and drags me down. Consider the yama (in yogic philosophy) of nonviolence: who are we, as humans, to take another animal's life for selfish gains? If we lived in a hunter/gatherer society like our ancestors, a meat-filled diet would be crucial for survival. However, in today's sedentary world, meat is not a complete necessity. If you can go without it, why would you not? The least you can do is simply give it a try.
- Eat once every four hours. This gives your belly time to completely empty itself, which is helpful to digestion. If you eat food with your belly already full, your digestive system has to work too hard, leading to heartburn, overeating, bloating or discomfort — all very distracting while you are trying to do yoga or meditate. Eating small meals frequently is also a great way to revv up your metabolism, helping you lose weight.
- Eat around the same time every day. This can help regulate your digestive system, as well. Be careful, though. If the clock says it's time to eat and you aren't hungry, just wait until you are. The more natural your eating habits are, the happier your body will be.
What healthy eating habits have you adopted as your yoga practice has evolved? How has this changed enhanced your asana practice or meditation?