Eating is an aspect of human life that takes up a large part of our mental energy. So many questions run though our minds on a daily basis, not only “What should I eat?” but also when to eat, who to share it with, whether or not we are going to eat gluten or animal products, how much sugar to consume, how much protein, how many plants, etc. The list can be exhausting.
The other day I was talking to a fellow yogi about the idea of “eating for yoga” in other words, what we fuel our bodies with for a yoga practice. While we both agreed that we don’t like to eat a heavy meal before any sort of yoga practice, our in depth answer was of course, different for both of us. My fellow yogi explained to me that she follows a strict vegetarian diet, choosing not to eat animal meat for moral reasons. This reasoning I completely respect. She mentioned that she loves how energetic her body feels moving in a yoga class, not having to expend energy digesting meat. For myself, I like to base my food decisions more on the quality of where it came from and what it will do for my body and the implications it has on the environment. Whenever possible I like eating locally, instead of eating food that’s been shipped thousands of miles to get here, and I like eating food that will sustain my energy through a rigorous practice. My favorite pre-yoga morning fuel is a banana with a Vega One protein smoothie. My fellow yogi loves wheatgrass shots and oatmeal.
Naturally there are pros and cons to any diet we choose to follow as humans. Not a single diet is perfect for every body type, not even for every yogi. The one characteristic I realized that both my fellow yogi and I had in common when choosing what we were going to eat was that we both made our decision consciously. Though our reasons were quite different for our food choices, we both had put deliberate thought into these choices. We chose to eat certain foods over others for reasons that were more than just “because x tastes good” or “because y is cheap”.
Michael Pollan explains this concept of eating with consciousness perfectly in Omnivore’s Dilemma, “To eat with a fuller consciousness of all that is at stake might sound like a burden, but in practice few things in life can afford quite as much satisfaction. By comparison, the pleasures of eating industrially, which is to say eating in ignorance, are fleeting.”
Eating, just like yoga, can be more enjoyable and more meaningful when we do so mindfully. We already know that in yoga, letting go of the need for a posture to look flawless, or to have perfect alignment every time we practice, we are left with mindfulness. Similarly, letting go of the need to eat perfectly, or eat in one certain way we believe is right, we are left with the practice of mindful eating. When we take the mindfulness that we learn on our yoga mats, into other areas of our lives we can derive deep pleasure and satisfaction.