Mindful Eating: Practicing Yoga Off the Mat

The power of yoga is not just in the action of the practice, but also in the application of awareness, clarity, and joy that the practice provides afterwards. Take the benefits of your yoga practice and invite them into simple daily actions like eating. Eating should be treated as a celebration of the abundance we have in our lives. Eating slowly and with clear consciousness takes this average task and creates a moment of joy.

Eating mindfully starts with the practice of tapas, which is the niyama (observance) that encourages one to keep the body in good condition and apply discipline with the body, speech and mind. In this case, tapas can be observed by eating only when one becomes hungry and by eating modest portions of food, all of which controls calorie consumption and helps maintain a healthy body weight. We are bombarded with super-size meals which leads to excessive calorie consumption and to an over-loading of the digestive system.

Eating from smaller dishes will reduce the habit of overfilling one’s plate. Avoid “all you can eat” establishments.

Drink a glass of water or herbal tea before meals to slightly fill the stomach to reduce initial cravings.  Also start main meals with a generous mixed greens salad to help ‘pre-fill’ the stomach which will reduce over-eating for the rest of the meal.

Do not skip meals especially if you are aware that you will be shopping for groceries. This will reduce the temptation to purchase pre-made, processed food items.

Overall, create habits that help maintain discipline in eating proper amounts and at proper times. Just before eating, remove excessive distractions so your focus can be taken more deeply into the experience of eating. Take a moment to say “I am thankful for this glorious abundance offered to me in this moment”. This intention of gratitude with each meal establishes an aurora of gratitude throughout the day.

Before eating, we observe that this meal is energy that nourishes our cells. From this observance of respect and awareness, we can start to appreciate more and more the benefits of eating only clean foods full of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Our body becomes more and more accustomed to balanced diets with proper combinations of proteins, carbohydrates, healthy fats, and micronutrients. We start to listen more clearly to the body’s overall responses to food choices and ignore the misleading cravings of the tongue.

Eating can become a meditative practice by taking in smaller bite-size portions. Chewing slower and more methodical so the flavors saturate the mouth. Help the digestive system by complely chewing and breaking down the food and allowing ample time for each portion of food to be swallowed and received by the stomach.

Enjoy a period of rest after each meal so the digestive system can efficiently absorb the nutrients and energy offered. Create an event with each meal by fully receiving the energy and sensations of eating. Let your yoga practice remain bountiful and expressive in all of your daily activities.

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