What Does Yoga Say About Diet and Nutrition?


yoga and nutrition

You may work out and train for health, or to be the best in what you do. In both cases, your body and mind have to be in prime condition to feel great.

There is a lot of good information available on diet and nutrition. The ancient science of yoga is truly a science for optimum health.

Here are four pieces of wisdom.

1.  Eat food that is easy to assimilate.

When food is easily assimilated by the body, clarity of thinking and mental calm follow. Eat food your constitution can digest easily. You know that eating a big meal of rich, heavy food slows your body and brain down. For someone like me, who is high energy, a bit of rich food once in a while calms me down. For someone who has a slower metabolism, it may glue you down on the couch. A big meal without an active lifestyle makes me irritable and uncomfortable in my body. When I am active, I have no problem digesting.  An elite athlete can eat a big meal because he or she burns thousands of calories in a workout but the elite athlete may not necessarily feel good mentally and physically from doing so.

A particular food may aggravate your constitution while another feels nourishing and balancing as your body absorbs it. Be vigilant. Notice whether what you eat gives you the right amount of go power for what you are doing. When food digests easily, your body and mind absorb the nutrients easily. Then you can focus on the task at hand. Ask yourself, do I feel light, powerful and energized, mentally calm and clear? Be present to how your body responds to what you put in it. If the body assimilates easily, the mind will follow suit.

2.  Eat food that is in season and fresh from the area in which you live.

Fresh from the garden is vitamin rich and nutritious. If you eat frozen or packaged food, be sure to get items with no preservatives for better absorption of nutrients in your body.

On the same track, foods from different groupings digest differently. Fruit digests more quickly than milk or protein. My personal rule of thumb is no more than two food groups at a time because my constitution assimilates well when I do this. I may wait fifteen minutes after fruit to have a protein and vegetable combo. See what works for you. You may do fine assimilating a complex combination of foods in one meal. This is about experimenting, noticing whether you feel fantastic or not so great after eating.

3.  Fill the stomach half with food, a quarter with water and leave it a quarter empty.

A good friend of mine who is a doctor says most diseases are from too much food intake. When we leave space in the stomach, the digestive fire is strong so you can best digest and assimilate what you eat. Give plenty of time between meals as well so the stomach can empty out and rest. Just as we all need time off to recuperate, resting the stomach keeps the digestive system in good condition. Further, the digestive fire needs to blaze to keep the mind sharp.

I love this healthful saying though I don’t know where it originated, it makes absolute sense: Nap after lunch and stroll after dinner. My rule of thumb for strenuous exercise is three to four hours after eating. Even if I have a light snack, I wait half hour before jumping into serious exercise. Many Europeans rest after a lunchtime meal, closing their shops for a few hours or more. I wish we Americans would follow their wisdom. When you give time to your digestive system to do its work to serve you, your body and brain are ready and willing to work for you instead of splitting your precious energy between what you are commanding and the need to get the food to the right departments for optimum functioning of body and brain. I eat a lighter evening meal when I can, a good three to four hours before I go to bed, so my stomach empties out and my sleep is deeper. I also have positive dreams when my stomach is not full.

4.  Chew your food well.

For optimum absorption of nutrients, the yogis say to chew each bite twenty-one times. The point is not to count your chomping. When you chew well, the enzymes in your mouth can break down the nutrients and send them where they will do you some good.

5.  Think good thoughts. Harbor good feelings.

The cook at a restaurant may have had a fight or was angry when he made your meal. You eat that person’s feelings. What you think while preparing and eating your food impacts digestion and the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. For optimum nutrition, prepare meals yourself and do it when you have time to relax and have fun. While washing and preparing foods, try being silent or listening to music that gives you pleasure or calm. If you are with others, discuss positive ideas while you are cooking.

I once visited a Cordon Bleu restaurant of the highest ranking. That chef maintained a silent kitchen, with absolutely no talking during preparation of food. It was like a pristine Zen garden in that kitchen and the reputation of the food was international. Good thoughts equal delicious meals, lead to our good absorption of nutrients and good digestion. It also affects our thinking in a positive way. On this note, when eating out, sit quietly before jumping in to eat. Let your mind settle into good feelings and become calm. Say thank you or a short prayer, and even place your hands above the food for a few seconds to bring your own good energy in your meal.

Your dining company also affects how you digest your food and how much your body and mind receives from food. When negative vibes are in the air, decide whether you will put the meal aside or put the issue aside until the meal is over.

And here is another very important point about atmosphere and attitude around food. Were you ever with someone who had sworn off sweets who was glaring at you as if you were a wanted criminal for eating a piece of cake? How about your own mind when it sabotages your joy? An ancient yoga text says, the highest attainment comes from focusing on the joy of eating. I am not condoning eating whatever you like as a rule. It is your attitude toward yourself, your attitude while preparing food, and your attitude toward what you eat which gives good digestion and assimilation. Put kindness, self-respect and love into your mind and it goes into your food and comes out not just with good digestion and assimilation but in your subsequent thoughts, feelings and actions.

For more information on taking your performance from great to outstanding, or to set up a free consultation, visit www.dananellen.com.

About Kamala Nellen

Author's Website    Kamala Nellen is a coach and consultant for elite and professional athletes and high achievers. She is the creator of The Art and Science of Working IN™ for Peak Performance, a credentialed Life Coach (ICA CPC, ICF ACC), and a Certified Yoga and Meditation trainer with 37 years of experience. Dana has a B.A. in Philosophy from New York University.

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