How we can increase our body and brain with foods and certain practice for your yoga journey
Your body and mind perform best when fueled by healthy and satisfying foods. Our goal of using foods to help increase flexibility, brain function and overall health will give you the strength and energy for your asana and everything else you have created in your life.
While there are guidelines and tons of advise on how to eat real skill is tuning in with your own personal needs on that day. Intuitively knowing what works for you as an individual is key and can take practice but like anything in yoga it’s worth it!!
Developing a mindful practice while eating will help you with this. To think how many times I rushed through food not realizing what I’m actually tasting least alone how it’s making me feel. Taking time to admire your food, to chew it probably and feel the textures and taste will allows the mind to absorb how this food is effecting you both physically and mentally.
There’s not just one rule fits all!! You and only you can be the judge of this.
Some foods to help your flexibilty
Barley Grass Extract: Barley grass is an excellent source of nutrition and is recommended for every yoga diet. This green food is packed with vitamins, minerals, amino acids and enzymes. It also contains high levels of chlorophyll, which can stimulate tissue growth and accelerate the healing of wounds. Barley grass is full of beta-carotene, iron and calcium for strong, healthy bones.
It can be found in dry form at herbal shops or you can buy the seeds and sprout them yourself.
Spirulina: This super algae has countless health benefits and is one of the best yoga foods. It contains ten times more concentrated beta-carotene amounts than carrots in order to help your body’s natural defense systems and to help improve your eye health. In addition, spirulina is loaded with the rare but essential fatty acid gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), found in mother’s milk to help develop healthy babies.
Spirulina is the only other whole food with GLA and also has the highest source of B-12 for healthy nerves and tissue (essential for vegetarians). For your yoga diet, this plant allows you to intensify your yoga because it helps create and mend muscle mass.
It can be found in tablets and in powder form in health shops. Try taking a tablet each day as a dietary supplement or add a scoop of powder into you blended health shakes before or after a yoga class.
Chlorella: This algae is found in fresh water and has more chlorophyll per gram than any other plant. The chlorella plant has been known to have very beneficial body and blood cleansing attributes due to its detoxifying effects. There is evidence that supports chlorella’s ability to alleviate chronic bad breath and constipation. Chlorella is often used to prevent or curb the spread of cancer, promote a healthy immune system, balance good bacteria in the gut, and to lower blood pressure.
Adding this plant to any yoga diet can be overall very beneficial to both health and flexibility. It can be found in tablets and in powder form at health shops. Try taking a tablet each day with meals as a dietary supplement or mixing a scoop of powder into water or juice. *Note: Do NOT take if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.*
Sulfur: Sulfur is known to heal and repair connective tissues in the body and is needed to manufacture the proteins for muscle formation. It contributes to fat digestion and absorption and also cures muscle soreness naturally. Intake of sulfur can make your hair, skin and nails shiny and healthy as well as regulate blood sugar levels.
Sulfur is also found naturally in many foods such as meat, eggs, parsley, onions, chives, leeks, garlic, oysters, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, cress and brussel sprouts. Try making a sulfur-rich meal at home to improve your yoga and diet.
For the Brain
Some of the great advantages of practicing yoga include mental calmness, reduced stress , body awareness, and spiritual clarity. Yoga and diet can coincide to make your brain healthy and keep it functioning properly. As the old adage says, “a mind is a terrible thing to waste”. The following yoga foods, in addition to a well balanced diet, can dramatically increase brain function.
Cold Water Fish: Fish is often described as one of the original “brain foods” because it contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and oils. The best candidates for brain function are cold water, wild-caught fish like salmon and cod. Omega-3s promote neuronal growth and strengthen myelin sheaths.
Try baking a filet of salmon or cod with sulfur-rich spices like garlic, chives and onion for a healthy meal for both body and mind.
Fruits: Fruits rich in antioxidants can have tremendous effects on brain function. Antioxidants can prevent cell damage, repair damaged cells, and reduce chances of developing neurological diseases. They have also been shown to slow the aging process. Fruits that are full of antioxidants include all berries, especially acai and goji, apples, lemons, limes, grapes, mangos, apricots, pineapples, tomatoes, pomegranates, coconuts, and blood oranges. It is recommended to try and eat 3-5 or more servings of antioxidant-rich fruits per day.
Try making a fruit salad with sliced pecans and sprinkled cinnamon, which are also very high in antioxidants.
Vegetables: Vegetables can also have high levels of antioxidants, which may reduce the risk of developing cognitive impairment by diminishing oxidative stress. Keep in mind that it is recommended to add antioxidant-rich foods into your yoga diet instead of trying to use supplements. Vegetables that are jam-packed with antioxidants includ kale, squash, carrots, peppers, spinach, broccoli, soybeans, artichokes, and red beets. It is recommended to try and eat 5 or more servings of antioxidant-rich vegetables per day.
Try making a vegetable casserole with a side of brown rice, pinto beans or sweet potatoes as these are also loaded with antioxidants. Wash it all down with a glass of green tea or cranberry juice for a meal saturated with antioxidants.
Chocolate: Surprisingly, the right chocolates in the right amounts can actually be great for a healthy brain. Cocoa beans (raw cacao) contain antioxidants and have even showed signs of being able to improve memory.
When searching for chocolate that can benefit the brain, choose dark chocolates with the lowest sugar content or try the raw cacoa powders. Keep in mind that moderation is key.
Water: Drinking enough water each and every day cannot be stressed enough. Make sure you drink enough on a daily basis to keep your body and brain hydrated. Dehydration can cause headaches in the immediate future and long-term neuronal damage sustained from elevated stress hormones. For your yoga diet, a good rule of thumb is to try and drink one liter of water for every 50 pounds of body weight (ex. if you weigh 150 pounds, drink three one liter water bottles).
Just as certain yoga poses are appropriate for certain people or at particular times, so it is with what you choose to eat. Food should provide energy and clarity. A “good” diet may appear very different from one person to the next, but you will know your diet is working well for you when you feel healthy, sleep well, have strong digestion, and feel your system is supported rather than depleted by your yoga practice.
Ayvanda meant only as guidelines for practitioners to follow, not rules set in stone.
Making general across-the-board statements about what we should or should not eat, such as ‘potatoes make you stiff’ is ridiculous,” Bradford says. “It’s all a matter of personal constitution. Potatoes tend to be pacifying to pitta and aggravating for vata and kapha types, but they are not recommended for people with inflammatory or arthritic conditions.”
Going for hours without eating before practicing is something many yoga students find feels that frequent and extended fasting has an overall weakening effect on the body.
“Though overeating can sabotage your practice by making you groggy and too full to go deeply into the postures, fasting and undereating can have a more debilitating effect,”
How can you perform when your dehydrated and starving!!” Skipping a meal for some is worse than others but in most cases low blood sugar and dizziness, but may lead to further health complications such as constipation, poor digestion, and insomnia.
Balance is key being mindful and intelligent when approaching either a yoga or a food practice, experimentation and alert attention are the keys to discovering your personal path to balance and growth.
You can try different ideas and if it works for you then great! “As you continue to practice yoga, an intuitive sense of what is right for your own body will emerge,” he says. “Just as you’d modify a favorite recipe to fit your own tastes as you prepare it repeatedly, so you can adapt a food system to support your practice.”
Notice patterns in your digestion, sleep cycle, breathing, energy level, and asana practice after eating. A food diary can be an excellent tool for charting these patterns. If you’re feeling unhealthy or unbalanced at any time, look back in your diary and consider what you’ve been eating that might be causing the problems. Then adjust your eating habits until you start to feel better.
Apply this same careful level of observation to how you plan and prepare your meals. The key here is combining ingredients so that they harmonize and complement one another in taste, texture, visual appeal, and after-effect.
“We need to learn how to use our six senses, our own personal experiences of trial and error,” advises Bradford. “The climate, activities of the day, stressors, and physical symptoms are things that help us determine daily food choices. We, as part of nature, are also in a constant state of flux. An important part of the flexibility we cultivate in yoga is being able to be flexible about our food choices, tuning in every day, at every meal.”
To increase your food flexibility, don’t simply accept the “rules” of others for what, when, and how much to eat. Question and explore for yourself. For instance, if you’re told that yoga practitioners don’t eat for seven hours before a practice, question it: “Does that sound like a good idea for my system? How do I feel if I go without eating that long? What are the benefits for me? What are the detriments?” Getting more and more bound up by rigid rules and restrictions, such as inflexible food dos and don’ts, only serves to further imprison us.
Just as you work in a yoga posture to align and realign with your inner core, so you can learn to recognize what foods your body needs. By bringing attention to your internal sense of what is appealing and what effects different foods have on you throughout the eating and digestion process, you will gradually learn to recognize exactly what your body needs and when you need it.
But this too should be practiced in moderation-becoming obsessed with tracking every sensation can quickly hinder rather than promote balance.
In both food and yoga practices, it’s essential to remain alive, conscious, and present in the moment. By not adhering blindly to strict rules or rigid structures, you can allow the process itself to teach you the best way to actually go about the practices.
Balance is the key, both in your overall personal diet, and in designing each meal. When developing or modifying a recipe to fit your personal tastes, you must take into consideration a number of factors: the balance of ingredients in the dish, your available time to prepare the meal, the season of the year, and how you’re feeling today.