How your food choices affect your yoga practice (part 1)

 In Practice

Yoga and food is an emotive topic. There are so many opinions surrounding what people who practice yoga should eat, that we tend to place a lot of expectation on ourselves. It easy to become confused by conflicting  information, and feel both judged and guilty when we perceive that we aren’t following the stereotype of the skinny, vegan, wheatgrass-drinking yogi.

For example, have you ever:

Felt judged by your fellow ‘yogis’ for not being vegetarian – or felt inadequate when compared to your vegan friends?

Thought about buying organic, mentally added up what it would cost, and then swiftly conceded that Woolies will have to do, this week?

Proudly purchased your locally-grown fruit and vegies from the farmer’s markets, shortly followed by your supplements and super foods, freeze-dried, powdered or packaged  in a far away land? (Goji berries, anyone?)

Eaten or drank something strange that is supposedly good for you, but you actually had no idea why? (Spirulina, I’m pointing the finger at you)

Avoided eating something that is supposedly bad for you , without knowing the reasons why? (Gluten? Grains?)

And what about…

Have you ever felt like your body – or parts of it- has betrayed you, for being fat and heavy? Or weak and skinny?

Have you ever convinced yourself you’ll start your new diet, next week?

Have you ever convinced yourself you’ll stop dieting, for good?

These are all conflicts I have personally experienced somewhere along my yoga path, and I’m sure I’m not alone. This is my heartfelt call to anyone who practices yoga to stop judging yourself and others, let go of guilt, expectations and simply start embracing mindfulness when it comes to eating. If you feel like eating a donut, then go for it! But be conscious about the process. Take a moment to pause, and think WHY, WHAT, and HOW?

WHY am I eating?

‘Food is for the body; your mental, emotional and spiritual needs should be nourished by other sources.’ – Matthew Sweeney, Ashtanga Yoga As It Is

You should eat to fuel and nourish the body. Simple. Unless you have a medical condition or a really, really good reason why, there is no need to count calories or ‘diet’. Society places unbelievable pressures on people – both men and women – to look a certain way. Yoga frees us from these shackles as we start to heal the disconnect between mind and body. Slowly, with consistent practice, we begin to recognise that our body is an amazing system that supports us and carries us faithfully through this life. We begin to truly feel that our body is our temple. You wouldn’t put rubbish fuel in a Lamborghini, so why would you put anything other than the purest source of fuel in your own body?

The problem many of us face is that we often eat for many other reasons than the primal need to transfer and sustain energy. In the modern world we tend to eat food just because it’s there in front of us, or because we’re bored, seeking to satisfy an emotional or using it as a social tool. While that’s fine and indeed normal, you may find yourself doing this less if you practice mindfulness, and pause before you eat to ask the question ‘why am I eating right now?’

by Melissa Baker

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tune in tomorrow for Part 2 of 3…..

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