Yoga and Nutrition. These things are assumed to go together,but why? I started looking into this and it turns out there isn’t one simple answer. One of the things I am asked about all the time is vegetarian diets. Many people assume that I am veggie because I am a yoga teacher, but the truth is I am not. I was vegetarian for about a decade but started eating meat again before moving to Ethiopia and I’ve never gone back to the vegetarian lifestyle. It turns out I personally feel better as an omnivore! Now that doesn’t mean I am scarfing down Big Macs or eating a steak a day. Mainly I’ve become more aware of where ALL my food comes from. I only eat meat when I know where it came from, and when that place passes the ethical standards of a happy healthy life for the animals AND the workers. I also, as much as possible, want my food to be locally sourced. I care about the environment and eating strawberries flown in from California in January goes against my values. These values actually contributed to why I STOPPED be a vegetarian even when I returned to a place where it was easy enough to keep being one. Reading numerous books on the global food system (The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: Our Year of Seasonal Eating are two of my favorites) I began to realize that I had no idea where my vegetarian food was coming from, who produced it, or in many cases, how it was produced. Who was growing the soybeans going into my tofu? How were they paid? What did it cost to ship the wintertime kale to my local whole foods? Whose land was it grown on? I started becoming a more informed shopper and eater, informed in part by the yogic teachings of Ahisma, compassion for all living things. Some people see this to mean eating vegetarian and vegan, and I applaud them for that. Yet to me compassion isn’t about sparing an animals life. It is also ensuring human workers have rights. It is ensuring that we aren't harming the earth as it grows the food we consume. Instead of taking myself out of the meat food chain it is supporting local farmers who treat animals humanely, ensuring they have healthy lives, peaceful deaths and all of their body is used to nourish other bodies and the earth.
Mindfulness also plays a role in my integration of yoga and nutrition. Mindfulness is a key component of yoga and mindful eating is one of the many ways we can incorporate more mindfulness into our lives. Mindful eating doesn’t have to mean spending hours silently chewing swallowing and digesting your food. It can just mean carving out some time (often as little as 15 minutes) to be present with what you are doing, in this case eating. Noticing the taste and textures of the food. Noticing what it feels like to be full. Noticing what it feels like to enjoy a meal without distraction. This can start as a random practice but you may soon discover you incorporate it into most of your meals. I lived with an eater disorder in my teens and I know how easy it is to allow stress and unhappiness to affect the way I feel about my body and what I put it in. Mindfulness has helped me become more aware of how I am feeling throughout my day AND at the table and more aware of how my mood effects what I eat and how what I eat effects my mood.
You can bring yoga to your table both with what you eat and how you eat it. If you want to learn more about this particular topic I have good news. I am teaming up with Nutritionist/Metabolance Owner Claudia Kaiser for 2 back-to-back Yoga and Nutrition Workshops on 11 June at Radiant Light Yoga. You can get more information and sign up here.