While some may argue that yoga is primarily a meditative practice, there is no argument that the physical component of the discipline plays a significant role. In fact, for many practitioners out there, physical practice (or asana) is seen as a way to prepare the body for the stillness of meditation.
The physical components of yoga, i.e. poses and transitions, are impossible without expending energy. Even lower-paced styles such as Yin or Restorative Yoga require physical effort. As such, nutrition plays an important part in our yoga practice, whether we like it or not.
Fuel the Body, Nourish the Mind
First and foremost, food is fuel. When you incorporate yoga into your daily or weekly routine, you need to make sure to supplement the energy that you spend through your practice. Some types of yoga are more physically demanding than others (e.g. Ashtanga or Vinyasa Flow), which means the body’s nutritional needs would be higher than usual.
When it comes to adequate nutrition, it’s very important to listen to your body’s signals. Thankfully, establishing the connection between your body and mind is a huge part of yoga practice! Unlike other forms of physical activity, yoga teaches you to listen to your body and follow your gut. Quite literally, in this case!
Food and Philosophy
Part of the yogic philosophy are yamas, a set of behavioral practices for ethical living. And while these guidelines should be applied to all areas of one’s life, some can be specifically interpreted to help you discern how to approach nutrition when you practice yoga.
Ahimsa is a yama that refers to non-violence in thought, word, and action. It’s important to remember that for every practicing yogi, it also applies to themselves. And so, what ahimsa may signal to us is that in order to keep our body and mind functioning properly, we should not deprive ourselves nor harm ourselves through food.
Other yamas that relate to nutrition are aparigraha (non-greed) and brahmacharya (moderation of senses). Aparigraha teaches us that material things don’t define us or our value. Brahmacharya teaches us the importance of self-restraint to avoid overindulgence. Remember that the goal of eating is to fuel and empower the body. Overabundance can lead to poor health or even inability to practice.
Healthy Snack Ideas
It can be tough to choose what to eat before a yoga class. On one hand, you want to ensure that whatever you eat is enough to give you plenty of energy and contribute to your performance. On the other hand, you don’t want to eat something that will make you feel bloated or sluggish, as it may stand in your way of getting the most out of your yoga class.
A smoothie with a high protein content is a great way to get your body off to a good start. Blend your favorite berries and greens with some water or almond milk, and add a scoop of protein powder. So easy!
Hummus and Veggies
There is a good reason why this is a go-to healthy snack for many athletes. Hummus is a great source of protein and healthy fats, while veggies are a light yet filling source of fiber. Best of all, you can adjust the serving size to your liking, depending on the intensity of the upcoming yoga class.
Nothing beats the simplicity of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich! You can use sourdough bread, tortilla wraps, or even rice cakes as the base, and you can add some banana slices or dark chocolate chips to enhance the experience.
Most importantly, remember: some food is better than none! If yoga teaches us anything, it’s that you don’t have to strive for perfection every time you do it. The same approach can be applied to food. If all you have is some leftover pizza, it’s better than going hungry.