Since my first Ashtanga class many years ago, I’ve been a long-time yoga-lover. Like most yogis, I appreciate my practice for the mind-body connection, but until just a few years ago, I was guilty of filing yoga under fitness. Right there with running, spinning and barre methods.
After becoming a health coach and undergoing my own transformations, I began to consider how yoga extends beyond the mat and into the real world. It applies in all situations, from waiting in line at the store to dealing with difficult people.
In my coaching practice, I often work with clients on elements of mindful eating. It’s a topic that's becoming more commonly discussed in holistic circles, and one where I’ve found yogic philosophy to be particularly relevant. Below is how this philosophy can help you eat more mindfully.
1. Ananda (Bliss)
Feeling calm and relaxed is important when sitting down to a meal. This can take many forms, but ideally it means eating in an environment free of distractions — not in front of a computer or TV, in a car or on the run. Creating a peaceful environment (perhaps with candles, soft music, nice dinnerware and good conversation) eases digestion and slows down the eating process so you’ll likely eat less than you would in a stress-induced situation.
2. Ahimsa (Non-violence and Compassion)
The practice of pacifism and belief in the freedom and equality of all beings is what drives many yogis to adopt a vegan diet and lifestyle. Regardless of whether veganism is right for you, we can all practice ahimsa by voting with our fork. If you choose to eat animal products, select those that are pasture-raised, hormone and antibiotic-free and grass-fed to ensure they lived a healthy, happy life.
3. Satya (Truthfulness and Non-judgment)
We’re faced with a daily onslaught of every food and meal option created, grown or manufactured, and unhealthy choices do sometimes happen. Whether it’s over indulgence, stress eating, sugar addiction or something else, practicing non-judgment with yourself is essential. When a yogi falls out of a pose, she gets back in. Similarly, as she transitions to the next pose, she leaves behind the last one. Likewise, I coach clients to adopt the mindset that every meal is a new opportunity to make a healthy choice. Slip-ups will happen but judgment and self-punishment arguably only make it worse.
4. Santosha (Contentment and Non-attachment)
When it comes to being healthy, it’s common to chase perfection. Santosha reminds us that wherever you are on your journey is perfection and there is peace and beauty in acceptance of that place.
How can you apply the yoga sutras to your own experience of eating? In which areas would you like to focus?