With no doubt, the quality of food we ingest is very important. The philosophy of Yoga states that “he who commences the practices of Yoga without first controlling his diet becomes a victim of many diseases”.
We all know that what we eat truly matters! Food not only influences our physical well-being, but also our emotions, thoughts and self-esteem. I’ve compiled the 5 most important things you need to know about how food affects your yoga practice (and well-being of course!).
1. HOW IT’S OUTSIDE IT’S INSIDE
Let’s be honest, how the body feels inside is projected on the outside. Overindulging on the “wrong” kind of food will make your internal body feel heavy resulting in a difficult yoga practice. The right “amount” of food is no longer quantified into calories, cups or grams. If you listen to your body you will know when to stop eating. If the majority of the food you consume is light and calming, I guarantee you that your yoga practice will be equally light and calming. The body absorbs the benefits of your yoga practice better when it’s adequately nourished with the “right” kind of nutrients.
2. INFLAMMATION-YOGA CYCLE
Recent medical research has focused on inflammation as a major contributor to many kinds of diseases. Here is why: Our bodies are in constant state of inflammation caused by trans-fats, sodium, preservatives, GMOs…
But what is inflammation? Let’s clarify. Inflammation is a protective response that involves immune cells, blood vessels and molecules. It happens when our body is trying to eliminate internal harm and heal itself. Inflammation comes from different sources such as unhealthy food, toxins in the environment, extreme exercise and poor life style choices such as heavy drinking and lack of sleep.
How is this related to Yoga anyway? Well, when your body is under a lot of inflammation you can start suffering from joint pain, stiffness, digestive issues… If you continue to practice yoga under one or more of these circumstances, the pain and discomfort increases triggering your body to release cortisol*, which creates even MORE inflammation! (*stress hormone).
Take a breath, STOP THE CYCLE! Incorporate more anti-inflammatory nutrients in your food before and after practice. Some examples of these nutrients are omega-3 fatty acids, resveratrol, tumeric, probiotics, vitamin D, fiber and antioxidants.
3. SUGAR CAN MAKE YOU STIFF
Yummmm, who doesn’t love the smell of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, the flavor of delicious cinnamon rolls, or the refreshing sip of a cola drink? Ahhhh…Sugar. Always so sweet but truly bitter. I like to call it “su-grrrr” because it’s upsetting what it does to our bodies. Let me explain with 4 words what sugar does to your body after you eat it: You get “sugar aches”.
A sugar-ache results from the inflammation that sugar causes in the body. These aches appear in the form of stiff joints (I am sure we all know about those!), achy muscles and migraines. Practicing yoga under any of these conditions can lead to injury, aggravate the pain (if postures are not adjusted accordingly) or make you feel like yoga is not for you. If you are in pain you will also have to decrease the amount of days or times that you practice yoga because you think “yoga hurts”.
If you have a hard-to-deal-with sweet tooth, my recommendation is for you to substitute some of the processed sugary items for naturally sweetened foods and drinks such as fruits and herb-teas.
4. YOGA AND FOOD, HOW ARE THEY SIMILAR?
Both can be beneficial or detrimental: What you put in your body during meals matters as much as how you move your body through your yoga practice. You want to eat nutrients that are good for cellular regeneration and health as much as you want to make your yoga routine a healing practice.
Both can be detoxing: Food and yoga can help you eliminate what your body doesn’t need. This includes extra calories, constipation, fatigue, distress, you name it!
Both can make you gain what you want: If you are in the search of wellness, energy, balance and vitality, you found the secret = Healthy diet + Healthy Yoga.
Three questions I recommend asking yourself after eating and after yoga (just to keep yourself in check):
1. Do I feel lighter after I eat/practice?
2. Do I have more energy after I eat/practice?
3. Am I more comfortable inside myself after I ate/practice?
These three questions are good guidelines that will help you “measure” how your food and yoga practice affect your well-being.
5. THE FOOD AND YOGA CONNECTION
There is really no one-way of eating and there is really no one-way of practicing Yoga. I believe in “flexitarianism” when it comes to eating and yoga. Eating mostly a plant based diet and practicing Mindful Yoga is what I recommend. You establish a true connection with yourself and your well-being when you listen to your inner needs and give our body the kind of food and movement it is asking for. When it comes to physical well-being, you have to take into consideration YOUR OWN needs and follow a nutritional and yoga program that works for YOU!
Remember this: There is no one way of eating and practicing yoga, but there is one right way for you!
Yours in Health,