If I ask you to describe your yoga practice, you might immediately conjure up images of your yoga mat, your local studio, your favourite yoga teacher or even DoYogaWithMe.com.
Great! But isn’t the whole point of yoga about your practice off the mat?
Now what if I ask you to stop and describe your last three meals: How present were you? How was your posture and breath? Did you or someone you know prepare them? And did you truly enjoy them?
We all eat multiple times every single day and I’ll bet that most of us are pretty distracted while we do.
With this month’s theme focusing on nourishment, I’d like to discuss how we can carry ourselves off the mat and into the kitchen all the while embodying what we practice in yoga when we’re on our mats.
As one of DoYogaWithMe’s teachers, an Integrated Nutritional Health Coach, a thrivor after a debilitating eating disorder, a foodie and feeder of a family of four, I’d like share ways that I’ve found have really helped me to be present–as I am on my mat–while engaging with food. First, I’ll address some of the main inhibitors in today’s world that hold us back from really being present and in union with our meals and the world around us. Second, I’ll share some easy ‘baby steps’ you can take to start bringing your yoga practice into the kitchen and beyond.
Food is nourishment, so what’s getting in the way these days??
When we talk about different forms of nourishment, it’s clear that most people think first of the food that sustains our physical form day in and day out. Culture is built around food: customs and traditions, celebrations and ceremonies, connection, love, history, and so much more. Food is deeply woven into our lives and carries many other nourishing factors like connection to family and a sense of where we came from.
Physically, we NEED food to survive. Even the early yogis and spiritual teachers (who often spent months subsisting solely on water) shared how we should not neglect our physical bodies while we are present here on earth–our bodies allow us to live a meaningful and purposeful life and therefore we need to nourish ourselves!
These days, most of us don’t have the liberty to hole ourselves up in a cave for months at a time; Our lives have become incessantly busy and fast paced. Plastic-wrapped-ever-lasting ‘food' is available at every turn in our modernized world, and many of us eat on the go, while working, or simply like vacuums barely tasting the morsels we pop into our mouths.
Often, our food no longer nourishes us the way it once did, as unseen pollutants and chemicals riddle our vegetables, soil is devoid of once rich nutrients, and corn and soy by-products make up the majority of the processed foods that line grocery store shelves. More often than not, we’ve never met the person or machine that prepared our most recent meal. A distinct separation from the earth, from the hands and heart of the chef, and from our own satiation has grown.
Many factors keep us from being present and engaged when we’re meal planning, prepping food, consuming it and digesting. As I mentioned above, the fast food culture is certainly one of them. It’s just so friggin’ convenient! But convenient doesn’t necessarily mean healthy or wholesome, and everything worth having (like health) is often hard work.
On top of the fast food culture we’ve got the ridiculously addictive presence of our smartphones and social media, which we often engage in (guilty!) while wolfing down our breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. We have learned unconscious coping strategies and emotional crutches that involve the consumption of food.
The reasons go on and on…
Facing this daunting mountain that keeps us from being present with our meals is undoubtedly overwhelming. I know it. So how can yoga help?
Like climbing any mountain, we need to begin one baby step at a time. Don’t expect to arrive at the top of the blissfully-present-pure-food-mountain on your first try!
(And don’t forget, you can always fall off once you get there.)
So, whether you’re an experienced yogi or are just coming to this website and the practice of yoga for the first time, you’ll know and find that your teachers really emphasize a practice of focusing on the present moment through simple steps called mindfulness. Mindfulness is the aspect of yoga that today I’m encouraging you to bring into your kitchen.
Below you’ll find some of my favourite simple steps you can start taking immediately!
Mindfulness in the Kitchen: Baby Steps
1) Set an intention to nourish yourself!
- Start your day with the intention to nourish yourself to the best of your abilities. In each moment you’ll have the choice to stop, breathe, and then engage with food. Morning yoga practices can really help set the tone for the day, like the one I’ve created specifically for this month’s theme of nourishment. Keep an eye out for that one in a couple weeks!
- Put your phone away or on ‘Do not Disturb’ while you prepare and consume your next meal. In my experience, the temptation is just too great otherwise!
- BEFORE you begin to eat, place a hand on your belly and take a few deep breaths to center yourself and connect to your digestive system. This practice will help you to be more present with your food and with those you might be sharing the meal with.
2) Consider your Ingredients
- Ask yourself if the food you’re about to consume is ‘pure’ and in-line with your intention to nourish yourself wholly. For some, picturing the energetics of the food or simply the ‘vibe’ it gives off can really help. Everyone is unique in what works for them diet wise, so try to avoid blindly following fad-diet culture and tune in to what truly makes you feel your best.
- Avoid processed foods as much as possible. The more you can purchase and work with true wholesome foods (think local, organic produce recently picked versus a candy bar that can last on the shelves for years) the more your body will be able to use its nutrients in the way it has adapted to digest for centuries. Heavily modified food is very hard on our systems.
Don’t believe me? Try really paying attention when your belly acts up, you’ve got gas, you’re lethargic or your skin breaks out. Consider what you’ve recently been eating and it’s correlation to how you’re feeling. For some people keeping a food journal can really help.
- When considering the food you’re purchasing and the wellbeing of the entire world, remember that you vote with your dollars. Buying local helps support the community you’re in. Buying organic is better for the environment and better for your health. Buying sustainably and ethically produced and harvested products (especially foreign ones) helps ensure that people are not being exploited and neither is their land and ecosystems. Try to support companies that share this vision and carry it forward.
It all matters; we’re all connected. Caring about how your food is produced is one of the best ways you can help take care of the world we live in while nurturing more connection to yourself.
3) Learn something new and practice being present!
- I’m happy to share that I’ve recorded a mindfulness-based audio track for you to follow along while you have your next snack or meal. Prepare to practice being fully present! This track will be ready for you to enjoy in a few weeks time.
- Try to change your view of food selection and prep as a chore. Instead, consider how getting involved adds an extra ‘spice’ of love and mindfulness that can really improve your meal both in taste and it’s nutrition and absorbability. If you dislike cooking or feel that you don’t know how, take some lessons! Follow a cook or food blogger on social media. See what kind of tips you can pick up to make your time in the kitchen more enjoyable, and perhaps their foodie passion might rub off on you too!
- If you’re up for the challenge, try growing your own food! If you don’t have space for a garden, counter-top herbs and sprouts are so easy AND bring a pop of colourful life into your kitchen! It’s amazing how having a hand in the growth and preparation of your food can drastically improve your connection to your meals and yourself.
Please, if you have a challenging relationship with food and your body, get help. Speaking from my heart and as a fully recovered person who suffered from an eating disorder years ago, please know that you can find peace. It may take time, but with the right guided help, with your own dedication and commitment to healing yourself, you can get here too. Enjoying the beauty and delightfulness of food can and will truly nourish your body, mind and soul!
And finally, I believe that eating like a yogi in the contemporary world does not mean following a specific diet. All of us are beautiful, unique individuals with our own nutritional needs, metabolisms, ancestry, and digestive abilities. Whatever you do choose to consume, whether it be animal products, grains, vegetables and fruits or water, your mindfulness around choosing these foods and preparing them is what matters. Feel how this food connects you to the world around you, and how it can nourish you and bring about vibrant health for you.
You CAN bring the mindfulness you learn on the mat into your daily interactions with food. Choose one ‘baby step’ at a time and start climbing your own mountain of practicing the presence of yoga while you’re in the kitchen.
I’d love to hear more about what ‘baby steps’ work for you, so please feel free to share below!
Namaste from the kitchen.
Recommended Practices & Events
Livestream Discussion w/ Julia
Julia is on Instagram Live on April 8th at 12pm PDT for a livestream on this month's theme of Nourishment.
Join the Sangha Session (Community Conversation) in the forum: "What is your favorite way to nourish yourself?"
How do you stay in the loop about our monthly themes? The best way is to subscribe to our weekly newsletter, On the Mat. We will also make announcements through our Instagram, Facebook and Tik Tok pages.