Mindful Yoga, Mindful Food - you be the Judge!
After 2 wonderful weeks of family time, sun and swimming in the salty Mediterranean sea, I came back to locking myself indoors for 10 days of quarantine, not because I got sick but mainly as precaution (recommended by the Dutch authorities). I thought I was ready for it especially since we had already willingly done this in March for 2 months. Oh boy, I was soooo wrong. The past 9 days have been quite long and lacking in motivation! Yet despite the lethargy and feeling of boredom that stubbornly persisted at times, I was still able to keep some consistency with doing some of the things I love. It seems that no matter where I am and what goes on (or lack of it) around me, I still find myself rolling my mat to do my daily yoga practice and looking for inspiration for home-cooked FOOD!
YOGA and FOOD, both make me super-duper happy, a perfect combo! Don't make me pick one over the other!
The possibility of having groceries delivered to my doorstep is amazing. In a way I find it a tedious task clicking on food items online in comparison to going to the shop and reading every label there is on every food package that I pick up. Force of habit and yes, I am very traditional in that sense. Same way I like paper books over e-books. Then again, I do appreciate the flexibility that comes with digitization, especially in these awkward times! After all, I was still able to cook my own food at home and try new recipes without having to be a burden on my neighbours to go shopping for me!
Talking about food, one specific question to my mind. What is the "best" food to eat?
Not a question that I like though!!
Over the years we have seen so many views on what food is supposedly good (or not) for our body (type). At times we even see that a particular ingredient or food group is claimed to be very good for our health at one point, then a study comes out indicating that it is not the case anymore, until more research claims are made that it is indeed "healthy"! Yes? No? Yes? what is it? who to believe? It confuses me! In yoga, the topic is intensely covered in the practice of Ayurveda, a very interesting system that goes way back in time and also becoming increasingly popular in the West. As I am not an Ayurvedic professional myself, I will not go into the details of the principles of the Ayurvedic diet. I have no right to do so. What I will do instead is share with you how I respond to the complexity that is centered around food, starting by tweaking the question above to:
"What is the best food for ME to eat?".
I strongly believe that although there are similarities between people and certain common grounds, we are also very different. We experience things and react in different ways, we go through the day making different choices, following different patterns and so we respond to things differently. The same happens with our food intake and how respond to what we eat. What may be nourishing for myself and making my digestive system happy, might not be the same for my sister, friend or student. For this reason, I vouch for trying and testing for our own self and experimenting with different food types to see how it feels for us individually. Of course, we are always looking for suggestions from one another and become interested when we hear of ways that have helped others around us but who can better judge your own body response than you yourself?
In my own experience, Yoga has been quite an indicator of what food habits are better than others! Things like late night heavy meals and overindulgence of food are very much felt the next morning when I am doing my practice. The stiffness and heaviness felt in my body is punishing in itself! In a way, through practicing yoga, I have become more aware of how my body responds to certain types of food and if I try to ignore it, my digestive system will definitely have a say! For your own sake, I will spare you the details of my gut and instead end this note with a few points that I find helpful in maintaining a sustainable relationship to food and the choices I make with regards to what I eat.
Avoid processed food whenever possible. Avoiding completely might not be realistic unless I can find a way to efficiently become self-sufficient but there are many occasions when I have alternative to processed foods without having my own land to grow food.
My plate has to look inviting and colourful. Nope, not with food colouring but with a variety of different foods that are green, red, purple yellow in nature.
Include a food that is green in every dinner. Green is the colour of nature and is associated with freshness. Who wants to eat dull, unappetizing meals?
Keep reminding myself to sit down while I am eating and take my time to finish it. Chew food properly. Does this sound like something you heard as a child growing up as well? It's still a challenging task for me. Work in progress!
Look for new ingredients, herbs and spices to keep food interesting, find new flavours. Eating the same food over and over again can be boring. As they say, variety is the spice of life.
Stocking up on fruits and nuts in my handbag. If I'm out all day running from one place to another and start getting hungry, the food I carry helps me stay away from the tempting fast-food kiosks and vending machines in train stations.
Control the portions of food. Even if it is regarded as healthy, doesn't mean I can eat as much and as uncontrollably as I want. In my view, eating too much is being just as wasteful as throwing it away. Think about it, there is so much energy and resources required to grow and produce food, it would be a pity to waste it.
This is more or less what makes up my own food philosophy, it is not fixed but updates itself with time I noticed. By no means I am implying you should make it your own and there is surely no direct, straight-forward magic with making you more flexible in yoga :) Some of the points may resonate with you at this point in your life, some may not. Whatever it may be, I suggest to keep listening to your own body and its needs. Every day is an invitation to experiment and explore ways to make life a bit better for ourselves in areas that may be a bit challenging but don't be too hard on yourself. We are not meant to be perfect, luckily we are not programmed robots!