How Yoga Makes You a Mindful Eater
Unless you are using your yoga mat as a picnic blanket, odds are you don’t connect the dots between yoga and eating. As my alter-ego title would imply that is pretty much the only thing that I think about. Food and yoga. Yoga and food. And dogs. Perhaps a duck or two. But largely it’s food, and it’s yoga- not necessarily in that order. So, to me mindful eating and yoga just flow together (see what I did there?) let me tell you why.
From the moment we step on the mat our entire world becomes about the practice. Focus. Breath. Linking movement and breath. Engaging muscles, relaxing tension. Relaxing. We become single minded- free.
Unlike the rest of life where we try to fit as many things into as little time as possible. How many activities can we perform at once? Read the daily news, brew coffee, listen to the weather, pack kids’ lunches, find hubby’s keys, rub the dog’s belly with your foot…all before 6:30am, possibly all at once!
How many things do we attach to meals? Screen time, working, driving, mentally reliving a conversation with your boss that you totally blathered through, scrolling through the latest shoe trends, banking, mentally tamping down a stressful event, and on and on! It’s no wonder we have staggering statistics around GI disease, a recent Google search told me that 1.6 million Americans have inflammatory Bowel Disease and upwards of 30% of the population has GERD (aka reflux). Ugh. We need to take food more seriously.
Any dedicated yogi will tell you that regular yoga practice will seep into every area of your life, but how does it work and how can it help us be more mindful eaters?
1. Yoga practice teaches you to be present. Whether you spend 5 minutes or 75 minutes on your mat, the sequences and poses require your full attention. Even classes where poses are held for long periods of time, the process of staying present in the moment is a quite a job on its own. You can use this practice to create a presence at meal time by eliminating distractions, taking time with your meals, focusing on flavors and textures, and chewing slowly.
2. Yogi’s learn to breathe through their nose. Learning to breathe seems redundant, but most people hold their breath when they eat. Once you spend an hour with someone telling you “breathe in…breathe out…..” you come to appreciate the value of breathing with intention. Then when you apply that to meal time it forces you to pause between bites.
3. Yoga encourages heightened awareness. Through breathwork and challenging poses you become more aware of what is going on both on and around your yoga mat. You become aware of sounds, smells, and all the sensations of your surroundings. How much more appealing is a meal that is full of enjoyable sensations rather than a meal you don’t remember eating.
4. Yoga practice let’s you hear what your body is saying. Similar to the last one, but more specific to your body as opposed to your surroundings. When you hold a tricky pose for a period of time you become acutely aware of how your body feels. This can be applied to hunger signals. When you take your time eating you can learn how hunger feels to you, when you are full but still eating, eating in a hurry because you are starving, and even eating to fill some other kind of need (think boredom, anger, stress, fun).
5. Meditation is no joke, and comes in many forms. So we all know the sit crisscross-applesauce on the floor variety of meditation, but did you know that there are other types as well? Moving meditation, meditation with chanting, meditation with candles, mantra meditation, visualization meditation…I could keep going. Regardless of the form, the benefits remain clear- meditation makes you a better human. How could you incorporate that into mealtimes? It doesn’t take long and can be done any time and any place.
There you have it- yoga and mindful eating just naturally go together- like peanut butter and….
Don’t take my word for it, go to yoga. Can’t get to a class…. how about taking one with me wherever and whenever you want? Well Fed Yogi studio launches September 27th!