Yoga is about more than just exercise. It’s a way of aligning the body, focusing the mind, and reconnecting with ourselves and the world around us.
So it makes absolute sense that the what we eat can have a profound effect on our yoga practice. After all, food doesn’t just impact the body – it has an important effect on the mind too.
Traditionally, Ayerdedavic yogis ate a Sattvic diet to keep their minds clear, happy and at peace. This translates into eating produce that’s not just healthy, but ethical too. Traditionally, meals rich in Prana – believed to be the energy that permeates through objects – includes foods that are vegetarian, organic and rich in nutrients.
Although these guidelines are thousands of years old, they’ve never been as relevant as they are today. Even for those who simply practise yoga for health reasons, the ancient principles of the Sattvic diet are centred around nutrition, ethics and simplicity – important lessons for us all.
Food has a fundamental effect on our minds, and as such, to our yoga practice. Speaking to the Yoga Journal, professional yogi Scott Blossom described the importance of diet to his practice: “Eating is perhaps the single most important act for one’s yoga practice, because nourishment of the body’s tissues forms a foundation for nourishment of the mind and emotions.”
In can be difficult to imagine quite how influential diet is to our brains, but imagine trying to practise yoga after binging on caffeine, sugar and carbs for a week. It’d be almost impossible, right? That’s because our brains are tightly connected to our stomachs, meaning eating the wrong foods can leave us feeling sluggish, distracted and off-kilter.
So what to eat? Well, Blossom says to listen to your body. If you’re feeling a little more tired than usual, eat foods rich in iron like legumes, leafy green vegetables or sprouted seeds. Or if you’re in need of some invigoration, sip at a ginger and turmeric tea. In short, there’s no set diet for optimum focus – simply be mindful of what your body wants, and your brain will thank you for it.
Just as you should let your mind and body guide your diet, you should also listen to it when deciding on which supplements to take. In a world where the lures of multivitamins and protein powders are everywhere, it’s important we don’t overload on extra nutrients just because we’re told to.
Instead, apply the yogic principles of balance when buying supplements. So if you’re feeling achy after a particularly strenuous practice, try adding some extra anti-inflammatory turmeric powder to your meals. Or if you’re feeling tired after a long winter of inside practice and reduced sun levels, you might want to up your Vitamin D dosage.
Often yoga teachers tell their students not to eat before class, but let’s face it: there’s nothing more distracting than a growling stomach. So don’t be afraid to eat an easily-digestible snack an hour or so before your practice. Not only will it ward off that rumbling tummy, but it can leave you energised and focused.
Make sure you choose a snack that’ll won’t end up in a blood sugar spike. Bananas are a good choice here – rich in potassium, they go some way in keeping your body hydrated, while the magnesium will help prevent cramps and bloating.
A handful of almonds is another top pre-workout snack. Just one handful contains enough potassium, magnesium and Vitamin E to give your muscles staying power.
It’s really important to hydrate before yoga practice, so drink a good amount of h2o before getting on the mat. Drinking a glass of green juice at least an hour before practice is another great idea. Whizzing up a mixture of spinach, apple, celery and ginger will leave you hydrated and energised.
Sometimes we don’t have the time to rustle up a quick snack or drink before yoga practice. But that doesn’t mean you can’t refuel in a healthy way. There are loads of dried fruit and nut bars on the market – just make sure you choose one without any additional sugar or oil.