Yoga and the Art of Eating
by Katie Papo (Ambika)
When I think back to my teenage glory days, mindlessly shoving pizza nuggets into my face while watching TV, "art" is not the first word to come to mind. Yet, as my yoga practice evolved, so did my eating.
Here's why: when we practice yoga, we practice two key concepts that are the same main ingredients for a mindful eating practice:
First Ingredient: Awareness
During yoga practice, we open our awareness to include body, breath, sensation, environment, and external influences. And then we deliberately turn our attention inward. Why don't we make a to-do list, read a book, or call the electrician while we are practicing yoga? Because these practices scatter our senses, distracting us from the magic that's happening inside. When we are present in the moment, we hear subtle messages our bodies tell us.
Yet somehow during mealtime, we kick awareness to the curb. We watch TV, read, drive, or wander around the kitchen for something else to nibble on. Even if we make healthy food choices, often little awareness is devoted to how we eat. The solution lies in yoga. When we apply awareness to eating, we notice colors and textures in our food, and chew slowly to savor every bite. Suddenly food bursts with flavors we've never noticed, and eating becomes a rich experience. Bonus: When you listen to your body (like you do in yoga), it will tell you when it's full. Goodbye overeating!
Second Ingredient: Gratitude
As our yoga practice deepens, we begin to see life as sacred. We can't help but offer gratitude for our practice and to those who handed down the teachings. To honor our yoga practice, we make sacred space by clearing the room, saying a prayer, lighting incense, or closing our eyes to become truly present.
It's about time we remembered that eating is sacred and food is our friend. It nourishes our bodies, just like our yoga practice, and deserves sacred space. Eliminate distractions. Give thanks to the people and things who made your meal possible — to the farmers and growers, to the rain and sun. Give thanks to your job that provided you the financial means to afford your meal. Every piece of the puzzle deserves your gratitude.
Third Ingredient: Practice
To start a new mindful eating practice, you can follow these simple yogic tips (and develop some of your own):
- Offer gratitude or say a prayer before taking your first bite
- Put down your fork while you chew
- Chew thoroughly
- Sit down while you eat (in front of the TV doesn't count!).
It can be challenging to change a habit, but remember that you already know the secret to success: repetition. Keep up your practice (like your yoga!) and your eating will soon become a masterpiece.
Katie Papo (Ambika) is a Sivananda Yoga teacher and director of Shane Diet & Fitness Resorts in New York State. She is also a certified sports nutrition specialist, fitness trainer, holistic life coach, and weight-management specialist who emphasizes integrative approaches to stress management, self-care, and eating.