How we practice yoga is deeply personal. Every day our body changes and so should our yoga practice. The types of movement, the pace and our breath work. Yoga is practicing our awareness and consciousness in the moment, and in this body we are in.
The aim of yoga is not to have a great derrière.
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This is just a by-result of a consistent and mindful yoga practice. The aim is to begin to reconnect with our soul’s calling and the wisdom we all carry within. The intuition of responding to our unique needs, that we tend to loose due to society’s brainwashing, search for external perfection and yo-yo dieting.
When we practice yoga, we train paying attention to the moment, how our body feels and accepting it as it is. Accepting our being as we are, and thereby creating room to move to the next level in our spiritual development, instead of obsessing of our current shortcomings and holding on to self-hatred, resentment and bitterness.
Acceptance is the first step towards long-lasting change.
This is paramount to align our energies and learn to reconnect body, mind and soul. This is the first step towards changing our relationship with body image, food and feelings. Being present in the moment. This translates into eating habits.
What we feed our body, also serves to nourish our soul.
This is true because how we eat, and what’s on our plate is a direct reflection of our values. Are we eating with grace, paying attention to the taste… savoring the flavors of life. Or are we rushing through life; eating scattered leftovers over the sink. Always being somewhere else in our head, just stuffing ourselves, not caring about the details in life? Are we grabbing the diet shake, as a means of repentance for our “bad behaviors”, not because we like it, but rather because it is low calorie and “safe food”? Are we forcing ourselves to stick to a certain dietary regime, because this is the current vision of “the perfect life”, not because it makes our body feel good – rather we often go to bed hungry and cranky, but at least we can call ourselves “vegans” “paleo-hacks” or whatever dietary “religion” we are following.
Just as yoga and mindfulness practice should be matched to your current stage, so should your eating habits. This for many, is the most difficult step: understanding that change takes time, and that it is the journey, not the destination.
Often we will find that we have cravings for certain types of foods, as we gain more mindfulness through our yoga practice. The most important thing, is to follow your urges once you have developed some mindfulness. If your goal is to be a vegan, that’s fine. Just know that we are all wired biochemically different, and what works for one person, may be an absolute disaster for another. Your body will tell you clearly what it needs as you dive into a mindful practice.
Do you feel satisfied and nourished?
The key is to begin to recognize how different foods feel in your body, not only as you are eating them, but also after several hours.
Typically, we will want to eat less meat, as we dive into our yoga practice – meat is heavier to digest and gives our body a feeling of heaviness, that we often crave, when our central nervous system is extremely stressed, as we are not able to feel grounded, so meat gives us a similar sensation in pulling us down, even though only mimicking true balanced grounding, it serves at times for a life vest. I can tell you from experience: you don’t see many a vegan on WallStreet – and there’s a reason for that. If you are in an extremely stressed environment, going vegan overnight will cause you to feel incredibly “airy” and stressed out encouraging binging behaviors. Mindful practice and smaller dietary changes that make you FEEL good in the skin you are in comes prior to grand dietary changes, if they are to last and match you constitution.
So, taking into account your current lifestyle is needed, when considering if now is really an ideal time to change diet overnight.
When you begin to make internal changes, the external change will happen effortlessly – you will simply no longer crave the foods, behaviors and substances that may have served as your life vest, when you needed it.
When we force ourselves to take up extreme dietary changes, it feels almost like an addiction we are trying to give up. Both because our digestion and biochemistry gets used to a certain type of diet, and this takes time to change – and also because, we need to consider our individual constitution – if what we are not eating match our biochemical make-up we will feel cranky, worn-out and drained.
In Ayurveda the 3 primary body/food types are known as following:
PITTA: Thrives best on cooling + sweet foods such as salads + sweet fruit, very sensitive to meal timing.
VATA: Thrives best on grounding foods such as cooked grains + oily foods to feel balanced.
KAPHA: Thrives best on heating foods such as hot spices + limiting grains/oily foods to feel energized. Meat is also heating; Kapha needs more protein-heavy food sources whatever your food philosophy choose accordingly: fish, poultry, red meat or vegan alternatives.
Rolling with resistance
In both yoga and mindful food practice, it is essential to remain conscious and present in the moment and avoid the tendency to get stuck in “the perfect way”. The moment we follow a rigid regime, we disconnect from our inner wisdom and that body, mind and soul connection, that we are trying to nurture.
3 Questions To Ask Yourself To Develop Nourishing Eating Habits
1. Am I really hungry or is this a craving?
2. What will fulfill my need right now – how will this food I am craving feel after I’ve eaten it, and how will I feel a couple hours from now?
3. Am I pushing myself to levels of ravenous? In Ayurveda meal timing is of utmost importance, because our digestions peaks and plummets at certain times throughout the day, and pushing through those times is like putting a pot over the stove with no food in; the pot gets burned and once you put food in the pot, that turns toxic as well, because too much heat (stomach acid) has been created.
Need more actionable steps on how to eat like a yogi? In next article I will be focusing on specific foods and eating strategies to nourish your spiritual practice.