Eating habits have a tremendous impact on our body functions and a well balanced nutrient intake is detrimental to keep us in adequate health but have you ever considered choosing your foods and adjusting your diet through the yogic lenses?
In yoga we often refer to the term 'pranic body or energy body' which relates to one of the many layers or shields in our bodies also including the physical body, the mental body, the wisdom & intellectual body and the spiritual bliss body. These shields are also called the Koshas – the 5 layers of Being. Knowing that each one of us has all 5 layers in our bodies , we can consider that the healthier the habits , the easier it is for the body to achieve greater well being and nourish positively the Koshas.
The way the body moves, responds to external stimuli, assimilates nutrients and processes emotions is related to how well we generate and maintain good levels of Prana – also known as vital force. Prana is the ascending energy that gives life to our bodies and its responsible for the internal energetic processes that happen despite our attention, its our innate wisdom or body intelligence working on a cellular level. Prana can be directly associated with the production of energy in the body and also how well it can navigate. For example, when injured, the body can suffer from localised pain which can be translated as stagnation of prana and not necessarily a generalised low level of vitality. Prana often needs to be stimulated to move through the body and redirected to areas in need which can be easily done through simple techniques such as pranayama , asana or meditation. Prana is also directly affected by toxicity, this means the food you eat affects your prana, your thoughts affect your prana , how often you spend immersed in nature affects your prana and so on.
For Yogis, a great idea is have plenty of water, fresh veggies , fruits, vegetable fats and wholegrain cereals . Not too much or to less. Not too sour nor sweet. Not too dry nor too oily. Nothing in extreme really ... Yogis usually prefer and work better in their bodies in a reduced meat diet or vegetarian. This is not just because meat is quite acidic, hard to be digested and actually take loads of your energy and attention to be assimilated (up to 3 days!!!) but also because the meat carries all the negative, sad and stressed energy from the animal once it was killed - which has a greater impact in our bodies specially the pranic body promoting anxiety, stress, insomnia, irritability, mood swings, etc. So in order to avoid that, low or no meat diet usually suit yogis a lot better preventing from extra stress load and energy waste in foods that raise the toxicity level in the blood.
According to Yoga tradition, ideally one should practice on an empty stomach so that the energy created while practicing can be sustained and improved considerably allowing the body to shift density and cultivate Prana. By doing so the body tends to feel lighter yet energised promoting a positive flow of vitality and becomes easier to move, bend and twist. Cells and muscles are able to receive equal amounts of oxygen and split the nutrient reserve accordingly. Very different from when you still have food to digest in your stomach – the energy gets split into 2 different activities and chances are that you won't be able to perform neither of the tasks with 100% of efficacy. That can result in indigestion, bloating, reflux, burping, headache, wind – when you are not able to dedicate all or most of your energy towards your digestion and so it gets partially done or done in a rush bringing you the digestive discomfort. If you can't avoid eating - i.e. having a class at night, make sure you avoid eating on the 2 hours prior to your activity and get plenty of hydration in the meantime so your body can also flush out toxins in a greater level.
Its also important for a yogi to eat foods that are easy to digest and that are considered to be tonics to all layers of the body such as the ones that truly nourish your system. In the tonic group we can include the foods that always agree with our bodies – which means the foods that don't provoke indigestion or any negative reaction and also the Superfoods. Superfoods are foods considered to have a great nutritional density or that can deliver high level of nutrients per small serving. Great ones for a Yogi's pantry include :
Coconut water – perfect balance on electrolytes, potassium and natural sugars. Great to prevent muscle cramps, dehydration and/or imbalances in the gut as it nourishes the good bacteria – probiotics.
Spirulina – the super star for detox, liver nourishment and energy sustenance! Spirulina is also high in Magnesium, Iron, protein and antioxidants. Perfect from morning to night and even better if done daily . Improves digestive enzymes, alkalinises the blood and reduces inflammation! A must have.
Apple cider vinegar – great digestive healer, balances out the good and bad bacteria and improves digestive enzymes production. Reduces reflux, bloating and indigestion in general and its also a great improver for the immune system, skin, nails and hair !
Cacao – one of the most powerful Superfoods , its a great antioxidant, it delivers high levels of Mg, Manganese, Phosphorus and its a great serotonin enhancer – the good mood neurotransmitter :) Cacao is also the main component of chocolates (dark specially) and so that's why we feel good when we have chocolate!
Acai berry – super berry , super antioxidant , is very nourishing for the heart and the blood vessels, energy enhancer, high in fibre, good fats, iron and not mention how delicious it can be in a smoothie or a bowl! Yes, we love acai!
Turmeric – potent antinflammatory is a great spice to use on a daily basis wether to sustain a healthy immune system or to help treat injuries and pain , also a great warmer for the body – benefits the ones with yin deficiency.
Ginger – great healer, antiseptic, antibacterial , antiinflammatory and absolutely brilliant for digestion. Also a great warmer for the system and a brilliant tonic for all body functions.
Chia seeds – antiinflammatory, high in omega 3, natural essential fatty acids, optimises gut function, digestion and nourishes the brain.
Coconut oil – glucose balancer, weight controller, antibacterial and antifungal, good deal of TCM a type of fat digested via liver allowing the production of energy rather than fat storage, also a great alternative to other fats such as butter or margarine.
Hymalayan salt – removes heavy metals and toxins from your body, naturally high in nutrients.
Trying to stay mindful of food choices knowing how important it is for Prana generation and sustained well being is also part of a yogi's routine. By nurturing your body with greater awareness one can reach far more than it has ever imagined. At the end its all yogi's choice..!