GUEST POST: THE YOGA OF EATING DURING THE HOLIDAY SEASON
How can you learn to trust that the body is a friend who speaks the truth? Your body is the vehicle that you are traveling in throughout this lifetime. It is meant to be used and what it needs, changes over time. Luckily human bodies are resilient and strong. Actually, your body is heroic in its effort to take care of you, showing up 24/7 to assist your every need. Even when a part falters, the rest of the system carries on. If you eat too much sugar , your pancreas will work overtime to process it. Have too many cocktails and your body will willingly sacrifice liver cells to keep you balanced. It constantly sends you messages too; some subtle and others not so subtle, like pain. Seriously, it has important messages; we just need to learn how to communicate with it.
The good news is we are already doing this each week on the mat when we practice the asanas (yoga). We move our bodies in ways that support, honoring our edges, receptive and open in the moment, allowing the body to release . It is such a kind hearted practice to be with yourself just as you are, listening to the body and not pushing it to do anything that causes discomfort. It is amazing to discover that when the mind is kind, the body opens and releases. So let’s bring food into the equation and find out more about what the body has to say in the realm of eating ? You can bring mindfulness to eating to discover what the body will tell you about the food you give it. Let’s begin this exploration with unconditional love for the body that has carried you everywhere and a bit of patient understanding. Stay curious rather than judgmental , as you notice how you are fueling your vehicle with what you choose to eat and drink .
Daily you make decisions about what to eat and not to eat and during the holiday season the abundance of celebratory foods increases, making your choices more confusing . Often by the time the new year arrives you are feeling the effects and wanting to reign it in. Eliminating the things you “shouldn’t" eat and moving toward the food you are told you “should” eat. This approach to eating calls for you to rely on outside sources and will power to enforce the better eating behavior. It indicates that you think what you really want must be bad and self indulgent . Ultimately, this approach does not lead towards enjoyment, sustenance or balance.
So let’s explore another alternative: aligning enjoyable, nurturing eating with the real needs of your body; figuring out what you need and what you crave, what your body needs and what you actually eat . So the question becomes, how do you discern which foods enhance you and which foods deplete you ?
This is where the breath can become an invaluable tool. You center yourself in the present moment by feeling the inhalation and exhalation of breath. Then you ask your body what it wants. “Body, are you hungry ?” “Body, do you really want this?” “Body are you full?” It’s important to take the time to imagine the entire experience of eating including before, during and after…especially the after part.
Taking the analogy of the body being a vehicle a little bit further, let’s imagine you gassed up at a particular gas station and as you began driving the car sputtered, stalled, and backfired. Do you think you would return there to gas up again? We need to bring discernment to what we eat. Through eating mindfully and staying present for the after effects we enhance our chances to shift a depleting eating pattern. You need to let yourself feel the discomfort if it occurs; take note of your energy levels and pay attention later to how you eliminate. After investigating the before , during and after, you will know which foods are enhancing you and which foods are depleting you . It takes courage to sometimes give up things we think we need but through compassionate awareness and self remembering, we can find what truly is enhancing and supporting.
To learn and read more about this approach to food and eating, we can't recommend this book enough! The Yoga of Eating by Charles Eisenstein
Chris Morton, M.Ed., RYT, has been a yoga teacher for over twenty years. Her earlier career teaching young children inspired her to learn more about the mind body connection and ways to optimize intellectual and emotional understanding. She has taught college courses in fostering emotional intelligence through, mindfulness, yoga and creative conflict resolution.
Currently she is teaching yoga and meditation in Newburyport at Ajna Yoga Center and seeing clients individually in her home. For more information contact: