For anyone on the yoga path, at some point there is eventually a light bulb moment that occurs.
It’s the moment we realise what we do on the mat is just preparation and practice for how we live life when we’re OFF the mat.
Ok not a new concept…
…but one of the most important, and often neglected, “off mat” activities that we do every day is EAT.
We all want to grow in our yoga practice, even if it’s just in the physical sense, and our food is an integral part of this process.
In this article I give you a list of five foods you can try avoiding, as an experiment, to see how it might positively impact your Yoga practice, both on and off the mat.
(if you want to go straight to the list you can scroll to the bottom)
Before we review them though, some perspective…
Like everything in yoga, it all starts with awareness.
The RIGHT foods nourish us, feed our cells and fuel us with energy. They help us to grow and evolve and they can even impact our emotions and mental state.
It seems like such a “common sense” statement but it’s one so many easily forget.
In short, our food choices can help us or harm us.
So part of the practice is to develop awareness around the foods we choose to eat and how they make us feel.
In yoga and ayurveda the impact our food can have on us has been clearly understood for centuries and there is a clear concept that certain foods are appropriate for certain people at certain times.
As an example, some of the ancient yoga texts recommend a minimal diet of vegetables, rice, mung and ghee, so some students reading this may think that is how they should eat.
But everything needs to put into the right context, so although that recommendation may be suitable for a renunciate, sitting and meditating most of the time in seclusion, it may not be the ideal diet for someone living a busy lifestyle and raising a family, who also happens to practice some yoga.
Both their circumstances and needs are different, so it makes sense that they would need to eat differently.
This is a concept often missed by modern yogis, so when you read through the following list please keep this in mind. It’s meant as a general guide for you to experiment with and assess for yourself the impact it could have on your practice. It's not a doctrine.
The 5 Foods to limit or avoid:
- Fried foods (or the bad fats) - The negative health effects of any foods that fall into this category are a mile long but in relation to your yoga practice here are a few things to consider: Fried foods are pro inflammatory (meaning more stiffness, aches and pains), nutrient deficient (meaning no energy) and difficult to digest (making you feel foggy and sluggish). There is nothing here that helps your practice.
- Excess refined sugar - In yogic terms there is nothing wrong with consuming foods that are naturally sweet like fruit. The problem lies with the increased quantity of sugar that we now consume because it is added to almost everything. In the 1800’s we consumed on average 2 tsp of sugar a day. Today it’s more than 22tsp/day! This ruins your insulin sensitivity, causes energy swings, contributes to chronic inflamm and has been linked to almost every serious life threatening modern disease. Too much sugar makes you feel weak mentally and physically and also makes your joints feel sticky.
- Excess processed wheat and gluten containing grains. Wheat isn’t the same as it was 100 years ago. It’s been modified, contains pesticides, is over processed and generally has way more gluten than we were originally designed to consume/digest. Its like glue for the body and also contributes to a host of health problems like Chronic inflamm, IBS, Leaky gut, thyroid issues and autoimmune diseases. Grains weren't bad until man messed with them and started eating too much of them. Try just using rice for a while instead and see how you feel.
- Chemically laden packaged foods: anything with more numbered ingredients than food based ingredients in it shouldn't even be classified as food. Your body thrives on what’s referred to as sattvic fresh foods close to nature. It doesn't recognise chemical numbers as food because they’re not food they are toxic and a toxic body does not grow in yoga.
- Excess Caffeine (especially at the wrong times): Many of you will hate the fact that this is listed here, but caffeine not only dehydrates and overstimulates (terrible for your yoga practice) but it also makes the body excrete essential minerals like calcium, magnesium and potassium. it’s best avoided right before or straight after your yoga practice.
When it comes to your yoga practice and food, the main objective is to avoid overly stimulating, acidic or pro inflammatory foods because they make you feel stiff, sluggish, weak and irritable. It’s the exact opposite of what we are trying to develop with our yoga, but this is obviously only half the story.
There are also important foods that you can eat to assist your practice (which we will cover in a future post) that are just as important as what to avoid. But for now start with these small steps and begin developing your awareness around what you eat and how it impacts your yoga practice. You might be pleasantly surprised at how much of a difference it can make.