I find that many yogis/yoginis are confused about what they should/should not eat to support their practice. We may excel at sun salutes and pranayam but sometimes when we think about our next meal we have doubts. You might ask: should I eat vegetarian, vegan, raw or even wheat-free? What foods should I emphasize? How much do I eat and when? There are also myths and gimmicks adding to confusion thanks to an overzealous media and health food industry preoccupied with with silver bullets like super foods and supplements that may be hard to come by for some of us. Anyone with me here?
I was once there: conflicted, confused and ... well, hungry. Thanks to a regular yoga routine the digestive fire is continuously being stoked, which stimulates appetite. So, what to feed it to keep it properly fueled? A good digestive fire (the ability to digest, absorb and assimilate one's food and life experiences) is one of the aims of yoga but when eating habits and food choices become less than yogic then the benefits of our physical practice can be compromised.
If you're passionate about yoga, you should also know about Ayurveda, its sister science. They were developed side by side in India over thousands of years creating a powerful technology for yogis to not only protect and maintain their health and well being but to stay true to the path of their dharma and eventually enlightenment. If asana is the main tool of Yoga then diet and lifestyle are the main tools of Ayurveda. When asana combines with observing yogic foods and routines there is a profound synergy that provides the whole self with everything needed to live a full and abundant life: vital energy, glowing health, mental well being, balanced emotions, etc.
One of the keys to understanding yogic diet and nutrition is understanding your body type. In Ayurveda there are 3 principle energies that dominate each type: vata (wind), pitta (fire), and kapha (earth and water). Once a yogi understands their dominant energy, they aim to keep it balanced throughout the seasons. Vata-types need warming, grounding practices and substantial nourishment, Pitta-types need grounding practices as well and aim to keep their fire contained so cooling practices and nourishment are emphasized, and finally Kapha-types require more stimulating practices and lighter nourishment. I've included a link below if you don't know what your type is.
Maybe you already have some idea of your body-type but still confused about what to eat? Yes, there are countless food lists online but notice how easy it is to come across conflicting information. It can be highly confusing and frustrating for newcomers. If you want to cut to the chase come to my workshop at Kanyakumari Ayurveda on June 3rd at 9am. We'll cover the basics about body types, diet, nutrition, seasons and enjoy yogic foods together for a light vegetarian lunch. I'm offering a special discount to Kanyakumari and Yama Yoga teacher trainees. Find the details at my website: http://www.annapurnayogaayurveda.com/
Here's a link to a quiz and learning about the body-types: http://www.annapurnayogaayurveda.com/links.php
You can also contact me for a private Ayurvedic consultation especially if you have pre-existing conditions, food allergies, are pregnant, etc.
Remember, whatever it is you eat today say a prayer of gratitude, eat slowly, mindfully and all will be well. For the rest of us Vata-Pitta inquiring types, see you June 3rd!
Heather Burkart, RYT
Ayurvedic Eduator & Practitioner (intern)
Annapurna Yoga & Ayurveda