Healthy Foods to Fuel an Awesome Yoga Practice
Besides your state of mind, the number one thing that can affect your yoga practice is inner inflammation. Our bodies send out many signals when it is in an inflamed state, which could be anything from joint aches, nasal congestion and asthma, to rheumatoid arthritis, bunions, and digestive issues. Unfortunately many of us have certain degrees of inflammation in our body, and we are also the ones responsible for pulling ourselves out of it.
2 Ways Inflammation Can Occur In Your Body:
1. You are eating foods your body is having a hard time digesting.
Food allergies and sensitivities can show up in a variety of ways, from a runny nose and sinusitis, depression/mood swings, joint aches and pains, to the most obvious: digestive issues. If there are foods you think you may have a bad reaction to, don’t think having Pepto-Bismol and calling it a night will be okay (after all, a runny nose never hurt anyone right?) Ignoring those warning signs will result in a lot of damage to your gut in the long run, resulting in poor absorption of nutrients, as well as causing many other health problems.
2. You are in an acidic state.
Your body will be in an acidic state if you consume too many of the acid forming foods (animal products, soda, alcohol, grains) and not enough of the alkalizing sort (green leafy veggies, most fruits).
WHAT TO EAT
Dark Leafy Greens
Yoga Type: Essential for all, and for proper breathing
*best as smoothies or juices
Dark leafy greens are incredibly cleansing and will help with flushing out acidity in your body, promoting flexibility. They are also extremely good aids for those who are suffering from cravings (maybe you are trying to eat less meat, or forgo your beloved French rolls). More cravings? More greens!
Chlorophyll, aka “plant blood”, helps to increase red blood cell production, resulting in our cells receiving more oxygen – great for deeper breathing.
Tip: If you don’t have a juicer/blender and are on a budget, try using liquid chlorophyll drops (from a health food store) in your water. These don’t replace (nor are as good as) fresh juices, but they can help in alkalinizing your body.
Flax, Chia, Hemp – The Omega 3s
Yoga Type: All, particularly Yin Yoga
For promoting a flexible body and mind, it is essential to feed your cells with high quality sources of Omega 3s. The fat you consume becomes part of your cell membranes, and to increase flexibility, fluidity, and decrease inflammation, you want them unadulterated (and non-trans). Good sources are raw soaked nuts and seeds. Soaking them makes them much easier to digest, especially for an already struggling digestive system. If you use an oil source, take it with foods rich in antioxidants (or an antioxidant supplement), as Omega 3 oils oxidize rapidly upon exposure to air. The antioxidants will help to prevent this from occurring.
Tip: Don’t buy store bought roasted nuts, as the oils they coat them in (and the fragile fats in the nuts themselves) go rancid through the roasting process.
Water and Electrolyte Rich
Yoga Type: Bikram, Hot, Moksha
Not only are you sweating out toxins during Hot yoga, but you’re also expelling the major electrolytes (mainly sodium and potassium) that your body uses to send electrical impulses throughout the body. The right balance of these is important in maintaining muscle action, so this is something you don’t want to lose mid pose! Don’t resort to Gatorade, use natural foods such as coconut water, bananas, avocados, celery, cucumber, sea weeds, and kale. If you know you will be sweating heavily bring coconut water to class to sip on, and make a green juice after a workout to replenish your electrolyte stores.
Vitamin A Foods
Yoga Type: All, proper breathing and Pranayama breathing
Sweet potatoes, carrots, red cabbage, kale – all of these veggies are very high in the antioxidant Vitamin A. Vitamin A nourishes and soothes our mucosal membranes that line the gut and lungs.
The Other Antioxidants (Vitamins C and E, Selenium, and Zinc)
Yoga type: All
Antioxidants protect your body from free radical damage, and are excellent fighters of inflammation. Foods loaded with Vitamin C and Zinc are particularly good for healing the gut lining when having digestion and nutrient absorption issues.
Tip: Avoid oranges, as they can be pro-inflammatory.
Vitamin C: Kiwis, berries, lemons and grapefruit (if you aren’t sensitive to citrus).
Vitamin E: Soaked nuts (almonds)
Zinc: Hemp seeds, cucumbers, pumpkin seeds
Selenium: One or two brazil nuts a day is all you need.
FOODS TO REDUCE OR AVOID
If you notice nasal/lung congestion, runny nose, and/or a need to chronically clear your throat, it is wise to reduce your dairy consumption. It is highly mucous forming and is usually the cause of those symptoms. It can take several weeks after removing dairy from your diet for these symptoms to go away, so stick with it!
Very acid forming and pro-inflammatory.
Sodas and Coffee
These are burdening to the body, are highly acidic, and interrupt with healing and detox.
Practicing yoga will help you get more in tune with yourself and will help you notice any signs or symptoms when something is not right. It is your job to follow those gut instincts for optimal health!