To take our yoga practice "off the mat," as our teachers often advise us to do, we ought to consider how to go about bringing a mindful approach to how we eat. Connecting food with the physical body and mind, means leaving emotion, temptation and guilt behind. This can prove quite challenging, as food directly affects how we think and act.
However, once you get into a flow and find that mind-body connection, your practice both on and off the mat will reach new heights.
So what is the ideal yogi diet? Well, just as we are all different from our heads down to our yoga toes, so are the foods that make each of us feel whole and alive. If you are following a structured diet written by some expert you have never met, chances are it won't work always work for you the same as it did for them.
So as you approach your yoga practice by being mindful and listening to your body, you too can tune in find the perfect diet for YOU.
To help you along your path, here are eight guiding principles to your perfect yogi diet:
1. Turn inward and journal.
Write down the following for seven days:
- What you ate (be detailed)
- When you ate (at what time)
- How you felt after you ate (happy, tired, energetic, etc.)
After about a week, it will be really clear what foods made you feel your best and what did not. If you didn't feel good all week and are not happy with your food choices, start over. This is a practice, so be patient and kind with yourself.
2. Think of food as fuel.
What you choose to eat before bed will be different from what you eat before you go hike a mountain, so fuel up for what your body and mind need for any given activity. As one of my greatest teachers taught me, “timing is everything," so generally you want to eat as soon as you wake up in the morning, and then every 2-3 hours to keep your energy going.
3. Eat whole, real foods.
Every cell in our body is made up of what you eat. If you are consuming artificial, packaged products, chances are that your body and mind will not be in an optimal state of health. When you eat foods as close to the source, as mother-nature intended, your body will recognize these foods and send them to all the right places.
4. Choose dark, leafy greens over sugar for a sustainable energy boost.
When making a choice between greens or a cupcake, go for nutrient rich greens and see how you feel, chances are you will not look at the cupcake the same after you are ready to jump on your bike, run around the block or climb that trail.
5. Go local and organic whenever possible.
Get to know your farmers market. Eating local does a few things — it keeps you eating the foods that are in season, that our bodies are meant to live on, and you're also supporting the local farmers in your area. You will also take comfort in knowing whether or not the foods have been treated with pesticides. If it costs a few cents more to go organic, I would say go for it! You can either pay the farmer now, or the doctor down the road, later. I vote for the farmer.
6. Read your labels.
When you are eating out of a packaged food box (and it happens to all of us sometimes!) know exactly what you are eating. Make sure you can pronounce all the ingredients and if possible, choose foods that have less than five ingredients.
7. Cook at home often.
Cooking at home can be one of the most nourishing things you can do for yourself and for those you love! When you hand-pick all of the ingredients to make a meal with love, this creates a unique healing energy that can only be found in your kitchen. If you are not accustomed to cooking, just take your time. Start really simple and don't be afraid to make lots of mistakes! Just like your yoga practice — the more you practice, the more comfortable you will feel.
8. Have fun and indulge!
Try to avoid creating a label for yourself if you can — you'll be more free to explore when dining with friends and traveling to other countries. Indulging and trying new things is part of life! Just as when we let go and explore new poses on the mat, we can be pleasantly surprised at how wonderful these new culinary experiences can truly be. Sticking to a way of mindful eating is necessary, but there is always a little wiggle room as you grow more flexible (pun intended).
May your journey to eating mindfully always be guided by love, light, peace and joy!
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