I am a long time yogi...15 years to be exact. Being a Vancouver Island girl, my introduction to yoga ironically occurred the one time I ever joined a gym. Initially, I liked yoga because it was unusual (just think! there was a time when yoga studios weren't on every corner) and since I was naturally flexible, I was good at it. At 17 years old, chanting "Om" was too intimidating and I couldn't pronounce all those funny Sanskrit names.
15 years later, I can speak from experience regarding the power of this ancient practice. I didn't come to yoga for any reason than to have fun getting bendy. However, as one of my teachers had said: yoga will have its way with you. Practicing the postures (asanas, in Sanskrit) brings balance and health to the mind and body and leads you down a path of living better, even one that you might not expect. As I practiced yoga, I began to devote myself more to the study of yogic and Buddhist texts. I became more interested in how to create true well-being at a time when most of my contemporaries were interested in sneaking into clubs and drinking their faces off. My commitment to my new found vegetarianism grew. Sure, I snuck a few drinks in there too...I was a teenager after all!
As the years went on, my practice deepened. I found ashtanga yoga and started practicing daily. My passion led me to study at Moksana Yoga Centre in Victoria under Jess Freedman and become a registered yoga teacher. While in university, I taught asana classes, mostly to my friends until life became so busy that I had to stop. In fact, one of the greatest ironies is that at the time you need yoga most, you usually practice it the least. While any time spent on practicing the postures is restorative, a traditional practice is 90 minutes a day. No small commitment in this crazy world! Since beginning my career as a registered dietitian, I maybe get on my mat once a month. But as I said, yoga has its way with you. Over the holiday break, a lovely little studio called Che Baba opened on Kingsway near my home and it hastened a return to practice that has my body literally singing with happiness.
Enough blabbing about myself! I wanted to give you some background on why yoga is so important to me but what does this all have to do with healthy eating? Well, many things, actually. The word yoga means union, or to yoke. The practice of yoga is meant to bring all things into union: you with your body, mind and the divine within; you with others; you with a higher purpose. And so, as asana practice is the foundation of a life in yoga, it is important to integrate the practice into your life off the mat as well.
One of the central principals (or yamas, in Sanskrit) of yoga is ahimsa, or non-harming. Ahimsa can be interpreted in many ways. Traditionally, one of the interpretations of ahimsa is to choose a diet that does not harm other living beings - a vegetarian diet. I connect with this mission personally and my primary reason for choosing vegetarianism is to reduce harm to others. However in this crazy world, sometimes foods like milk and eggs can also harm. And what about foods grown in developing nations? Fair trade is an option that is growing in popularity as we recognize more acutely that we are all interconnected and our purchase of bananas, sugar or tea affects the lives of those who come into contact with that food.
Non-harming also means not bringing harm to yourself. When we honour ourselves by choosing wholesome foods that nourish and repair our tissues and our minds, we practice ahimsa. Poor quality foods bring dis-ease to the body and are an act of self-harm. In addition, we need to address our thoughts and behaviours around our bodies and our eating habits. When we let go of guilt, self-hatred towards our bodies and other negative emotions surrounding food, we practice ahimsa.
In my next post, we will talk further on how to practice ahimsa with regards to your diet and give you practical tools to help find yoga on your plate.