Taking a wild guess, I would bet that you have some sort of food rules that you follow or at least you feel you should follow. As a yogi(ni) you may at least want to strive to follow a yogic diet: eating satvic by following ayurvedic principles in your diet and/or observing ahimsa (non-harm) with a vegetarian or vegan diet so avoiding harm to animals and the environment. Following a yogic diet is great, particularly because it is often nutrient-rich, so generally considered as quite healthy; however, if you just follow such a diet because you ‘should’ do it, you are falling in the trap that so many people fall into when they are trying to diet expecting that it changes their life. The yoga community can also be quite opinionated on what is yogic or not when it comes to food with its kale smoothies and raw vegan collard wraps and the perfect happiness lifestyle that is portrayed in much of the public media around yoga today. It’s easy to get completely wrapped up in just eating more and more perfect. The result: a really skewed relationship with food and sometimes even with your body. You will find yourself fighting your mind as it wants different types of foods than the ones you are allowing yourself to have or your body as it craves foods from which it knows it will receive the minerals it needs and does not get on your restricted diet. You will find yourself getting obsessive about food, overeating, binge eating, emotional eating all interspersed with phases of having a perfect diet.
Yet, it does not need to be like that. If you are courageous enough and if you do yoga, rather than just asana, yoga brings you back to yourself. It centers you. It brings you in direct connection with yourself. Your ego. Your desires. Your attachments. Your brilliance. Your uniqueness. Your essence. You as a whole. With this connection, comes an amazing recognition about your own power, your own wisdom and clarity about your role in this world. It also brings clarity about your needs and your body’s needs meaning you intuitively know how to care for yourself both with food and non-food nourishment.
Then, yoga helps us to switch our mindset about food and changes our attitude about ourselves. Yoga helps us to start recognizing what food actually is: physical nourishment. It helps us separating our emotional and cognitive needs from our physical needs, so giving food less power over us and our lives and improving our relationship with ourselves and our bodies. Yoga helps us to slow down around food and meal times, letting us enjoy our meals with full pleasure and engaging our relaxation response. Not only do we feel better in our bodies and feel more empowered in ourselves, the slowing down also has a positive effect on our digestive system. A better digestion is metabolically more efficient and increases nutrient absorption. Being better connected with ourselves we stop eating when full and are less likely to overeat. It helps us to stop fighting food and start embracing it. Yoga helps us to stop having unrealistic expectations towards our bodies and start providing for them. And amazingly, without us even noticing, it will heal our relationship with food as there is no longer any doubt about what is right for us. Now imagine, how empowering could this feel like?
Yoga is an amazing tool to reconnect with yourself and I love to use the mindfulness techniques from my yoga practice in my health coaching. Why? It’s quite simple: yoga has the potential to give you an unobstructed view on yourself, the tools to look at yourself in an honest, open, inquisitive, non-judgemental way and the clarity to embrace yourself just the way you are: weaknesses, blind spots, prejudices, judgements, ego and all. What this has to do with your relationship to food? Everything! Why? Because your emotional eating (or other food) issues have nothing to do with food and everything with what else is going on in your life. Yoga helps you to look closely at our relationship with food and our bodies, so uncovering what really is behind your issues with food.