To Eat or Not to Eat?
The yoga body has an interesting relationship with food. As we learn to listen to the internal rumblings of the stomach, organs and emotions, our preferences for food tend to change. FEELING the burger in your stomach a few hours after you ate it is a gift and a curse when it comes to mindfulness. Yes, I’m happy to have a relationship with my body that reflects the truth about how I feel. No, I’m not ready to give up the savory lie that is a Shake Shack burger.
I’ve found the best way to reason with myself (and actually keep up with the logic in action) is to eat healthy snacks before practice and allow myself to indulge afterwards. A before practice meal might consist of a few handfuls of nuts, a salad with fruit cut into it or even a healthy juice. I try to eat light while drinking enough water to reflect the demands of a practice’s intensity. While this trick seems pointless to those that want to lose weight or maintain a healthy eating habit for socially conscious reasons (save the whales), for the average yogi this is a great way to start mindful eating. Making the decision to not eat unhealthily before practice counts as a good decision that not only feels great but is effective in enhancing the practice itself. There’s nothing like feeling energy that has no strings attached when you’re expanding the limits on your perceptions. Feeling more is what the practice is all about. Experience is best unfettered by gas, bloating, upset stomach, nausea or headache. Pepto anyone? The experience of yoga is based on the moment! So when eating mindfully I focus on getting the best out of the coming moment of practice and reflection.
Afterwards is a whole different story. My focus after a class is to actively enjoy the body and mind I’ve developed over my practices and over the last hour. If I want a beer (I generally do after a really intense practice) I have one. Ribs? Sure! Fried Chicken? Yes. But there’s a catch. The body, my body especially, being much smarter than the mind is generally sated by the rigors of a good practice. The mind is naturally more at ease and wants LESS when the yoga practice is done successfully. That means that the smorgasbord that danced around in your mind before and during class appears a bit duller after savasana. Many times I find that either my stomach is settled and I’m just not as hungry as when I started. Sometimes I feel the energy in my body coursing smoothly and providing a natural high that I’d generally use food to achieve. Many times my mental and emotional body is so relaxed that a healthier option sounds even tastier than the heavy, rich foods I fantasized about before.
Trusting the practice will allow for you to live the life you’d like to live while living the one you’re “supposed” to. I’m a huge proponent of expanding one’s experience through just that: Experience. See more. Do more. Be more. Sometimes that takes us down dark paths riddled with unhealthy food. Walking that path with a clear mind will give us the pow