How do yoga and food influence one another?
We often hearÂ yoga and food discussed in the same topic of conversation. We see images of svelte bodied yogis, grinning blissfully whilst eating healthy food, and we hear that to be a true yoga practitioner, you had ought to give vegetarianism a go. But what exactly is the relationship between the two? Why do yoga and healthy food, or ‘food awareness’, go hand in hand?
I’ve asked three fellow yoga teachers/enthusiasts to share a bit about their diets, how it suits them and their yoga practice…
About 80% of my diet is made up of delicious, sexy and energising raw food. The remainder is yummy vegan food that has been heated over 40 C. I LOVE this way of eating as it really does make me feel amazing, and is very supportive of my exercise and yoga routines. Since eating more raw food, I have become more flexible, which, obviously, is great for asanas. I also have more energy which motivates me to exercise and practice yogaÂ regularly. Raw food gives me a wonderful clear mind; this helps me make better decisions in all areas of my life, and also supports meditation.
I really love food. I really love feeling great. I really love using my body and mind. Finding a way of eating that doesn’t feel a chore, but instead opens a door to a world of delicious dishes that boost my energy and supports my aim to love life, yet feel fantastic at the same time, is a true gift! When you feel amazing, you just want more! Raw food + yoga = true love forever!
Miss Best, Raw Energy Coach for Busy Professional Women www.miss-best.com
When I first found myself upon a yoga mat, I knew instinctively that I had found something that I had been seeking for a long time; mentally, physically and spiritually it felt like a homecoming but I could not have predicted just how transformational my practice would be. I had never been very good at looking after myself and my diet when I began my yoga journey was pretty appalling; an anorexic teenager, I still had the tendency to under-eat and, being busy and single, I seldom took the time to cook myself a â€˜properâ€™ meal. I also smoked heavily and drank huge amounts of heavily caffeinated â€˜dietâ€™ drinks. Thankfully, this lack of self-love was completely incompatible with an increasingly committed asana and meditation practice â€“ yoga revealed itself to be so much about compassion ( for me, for others, for the world ) that it was impossible to continue treating my body with such distain â€“ the unkind habits fell away and a hunger for good fuel grew. Now, more than a decade later, I take great delight in preparing fresh â€“ often raw â€“ foods and try to nurture my body with love and gratitude. The better I eat, the better I feel!
Janet Lockwood,Â Cambridge based Yoga Teacher.
Prana, Qi, Chi, Ki â€“ all are terms meaning vital life force energy.Â Â We all know we are made of Qi and in order to function at our optimal level we needÂ vitality.Â Â Our body harnesses Qi via certain movements (such as QiYogaÂ®) as well as sleep, meditation and diet.
Our diets need to be nutritious (meaning â€˜nutrient richâ€™) and to fuel the body with what it needs by eating with the seasons.
To be nutrient rich, I make sure my food is as whole, fresh and organic whenever possible.Â Â I avoid all processed food (except chocolate â€“ I am a passionate chocoholic).Â Â I try to eat my food within 20 mins of cutting it, to maintain maximum nutrients.Â Â Also, I try to eat at least 15 portions of whole food per day: a handful of nuts = 1 portion, a piece of fruit or vegetable is another.
Avoiding â€œwhitesâ€ is an important key to maximizing my vitality â€“ no pasta, things made with white flour, white rice, white sugar, milk etc whenever possible.
Eating with the season is something I educate all my teacher trainers about.Â Â When it is a hot dry day (ie Yang) then eat cool moist foods that are yin (such as cucumber etc).Â Â On cold and damp (Yin) days I eat warm spicy foods, therefore balancing my body with a yangÂ Â internal environment when my body is experiencing a Yin external environment.
Fiona Kaczmarczyk,Â QiYogaÂ®Â Founder www.QiYoga.org
And as for me…
Currently you can find me eating all sorts; meat, fish, dairy, bread, fruits and vegetables… even chocolate! I’m at an ‘eat what I fancy’ stage of life, and it feels good. I like a mix of discipline and freedom. Perhaps sayingÂ I won’t have any sugar today, but on Friday I’ll treat myself to a delicious patisserie! – and really enjoying it, guilt free 🙂
And as for tomorrow? Who knows. Maybe I’ll be a vegan, a vegetarian or a Frenchie again? Or something entirely new and inventive. You see, for me, one of the joys of life is flowing with change, being able to reinvent myself and shake things up whenever suits – my diet included.
The truth is that in allowing myself the space andÂ openness to eat what I fancy, I seem to quite naturally create the balance of everything I need: strength and lightness, vitality and grounding,Â nutritionÂ and pleasure. In throwing out ‘too many rules’, but still keeping some discipline, I can listen to what my body, mind and soul truly need.
Since starting yoga, I can definitely say that I’ve gained greater awareness towards the foods I choose to eat and how different kinds of foods make me feel. I value the quality of food and I notice more when I’m full, meaning I tend not to overeat. Â I know how good it feels to eat lots of healthy food: fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, salads… and the positive effect it has on me – especially after hitting the mat.
I think many of us are on a ‘food journey’, exploring different avenues and seeing what ‘fits’. We want to feel good, look good and have lasting energy – and we’re more and more making the connection betweenÂ practices, such as yoga and good diet, and both our physical and mental well-being.
Where are you on your food journey?
I’d love to hear a bit about your diet! What foods/recipes make you feel good, open up and provide you with good energy levels, and how your approach to eating has been influenced by yoga? Let us know by leaving a comment below, and happy munching!
I can honestly say that I now enjoy a treat of lovely fresh, exotic fruits as much as a big piece of yummy cheesecake! And the BIG difference is that I feel even better AFTER I’ve eaten it, while after that cheesecake or other similar indulgence, there is always that niggling guilty feeling that I really shouldn’t have had it. So I win both ways! XX
I love hearing others’ food experiences 🙂
I totally love food – and I love it even more now I’m vegan and mostly raw. Food tastes more special because I’ve really thought about it, prepared, received recipes from lovely others, and get to delight my partner with the unexpected deliciousness of a kale & avocado salad or raw strawberry cheesecake!
My new challenge is stopping eating 2-3 hours before exercise. I don’t want to feel like I’m still digesting while I’m doing Five Rhythms or yoga, but I also don’t want to be distracted by a rumbling tummy. One to experiment with for now, to find the right balance.
Thanks to Johanna, Janet & Fi for sharing of themselves.