Food is much more than fuel, specially when you do yoga practice. Your relationship with food, body and weight is a direct reflection of your view on life – your struggles with receiving and being in this world. What’s on your plate is a direct reflection of who you are, what you believe about yourself and your overall values.
As a followup to last article focusing on the spiritual aspects of nourishment, I will in this article be going over some specific eating strategies to nourish and support you while embracing your yoga practice.
Yoga practice is not just something that you do for an hour – yoga is the change that takes place on a soul level, in the way you think and treat yourself and others. Yoga is a way of life in which food is one of the fundamentals to master – self-nourishment, love and acceptance. Show me your plate and I will tell you who you are, is something that is very true, and a saying I use in my work as a Nutritionist.
Here are THE YOGI’S TOP 7 diet planning strategies – to support your yoga practice
1) Digestion: Start Your digestive fire in the morning by drinking a tall glass of hot water with 1/2 a squeezed lemon with a pinch of celtic salt or other natural salt.
Why? The heat helps to move your bowels, eliminate waste and activate the production of digestive enzymes for the day. Lemon aids the liver in producing bile and gives you a basic immune boost by providing you C-vitamins.
Natural salt is a highly bioavailable way to obtain trace minerals we need for optimal health, and if your adrenals are weak, you need even more salt for them to recovery – not the refined white table salt, mind you, we are talking natural sea salt or Himalayan salt.
2) Meal Timing: Breakfast 8AM, Lunch 12PM, Snack 3PM and Dinner 7 PM.
Why? Your body has a circadian rhythm where digestive enzymes are secreted according to specific time intervals. When you honey that, your digestion will be strong and you will combat fatigue, cravings and weight gain.
When you ignore your internal clock, your body responds by holding on to food as if it were in starvation mode; and your hunger/satiety switch gets disrupted over time. In other words: binge behaviors become more of a struggle regardless of how healthy you are eating, if meal timing is off.
3) Let Breakfast Be LIGHT.
Why? You want your first meal of the day to provide nourishment, yet be easy to digest, so that you are not sluggish throughout the day. Your digestive fire is strongest around noon, you want to cater for this by planning your heaviest meal for lunch.
A basic body balancing smoothie made from the formula: 1 cup greens + 1 cup fruit + 1 cup nutmilk + 1 scoop hemp/whey protein powder + 1 tsp. spices (cinnamon, turmeric, cardamom, ashwagandha, astragalus etc.) is a great way to start your day nurtured and energized. And this is also perfect after yoga practices to balance your blood sugar, yet not overload your digestion.
4) Drink More Chai Masala.
Why? Chai Masala is the perfect hot beverage aimed to balance all body types, making it the perfect pick-me-up without the caffeine jitters from coffee. The spices used such as black pepper, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg all help relief bloating and digestive discomfort. Sweeten with some raw honey, stevia and some almond milk to make for a delicious treat.
5) End Your Day With Ghee.
Why? Ghee is clarified butter and is used medicinally in Ayurveda to balance the body and heal the digestive tract. It helps bind and eliminate toxins and provide relief from constipation. Take 1 tbsp. of ghee and melt into a hot glass of almond milk with a dash of turmeric or cinnamon. This hot nighttime beverage also helps relieve stressed nerves and thereby being an important component in minimizing emotional eating and any binge urges late at night.
6) Make Your Plate.
Why? Making new habits require consistency. Fill up half your plate with mainly light cooked vegetables, which are easy to digest. Drizzle with either coconut oil or organic butter to provide satiety from fats and help stabilize your blood sugar. Fill up a quarter of your plate with something raw, like leafy bitter-greens to stimulate the production of bile and aid digestion. Fill up the last quarter of your plate with a protein type that you are craving at the moment.
Do not force yourself into going vegan. No diets fits all, and change is only made by taking the next step from where you are in this moment in time, not by forcing yourself to run a marathon overnight.
Also be aware that Ayurveda, which is part of the philosophy of Yoga, does indeed prescribe meat, and believe it to be important especially when dealing with certain weaknesses. Be gentle with yourself, and your body will tell you what it needs with time.
7. Eat slow.
Why? How we eat immediately signals to our body which state we are in – and in turn our emotions stimulate the production of stress hormones incl. cortisol and insulin in addition to regulating our digestive enzymatic production. Cortisol and insulin are two key hormones involved in blood sugar regulation, fat storage and cravings. Even more important than WHAT we eat from a yogi’s perspective, is HOW we eat. Pay attention to every bite. You are engaging in a yoga practice to develop mindfulness and master the moment.
Take this practice with you to the table and let your eating be a reflection of your ability to be in the moment, focusing on just one thing. Indeed yoga is in every bite, every moment… and every breath we take.