Mindful Eating Before and After Your Yoga Practice
Yoga is all about finding balance in the mind and body- learning how to find stability and inner peace. When you look at it that way, learning mindful eating should be a big part of your yoga practice. But for many yogis, healthy eating often gets pushed to the back burner.
If you often find yourself grabbing a lot of take-out, eating while you’re on the go, or mindlessly forking down your food while you stare at the screen on your phone or laptop, you’re not alone. Even though many of us practice yoga regularly, we’re often too busy to think about what we’re putting into our bodies throughout the day, much less before and after practice.
But, one of the most wonderful things about yoga is that it strengthens our connection to our bodies. Learning to listen to your body before and after class can help you determine what to eat and when. You can learn to trust your body’s inner wisdom to help you eat consciously… you just have to take the time to listen.
What works best for one person may be completely different from what works for you. But the following guidelines will give you a solid foundation in developing mindful eating habits that will support your yoga practice.
Mindful Eating Before Yoga Practice
Nutrition is a key component of integrative medicine programs, according to experts in the field, because much like yoga, it plays a major role in both your mental and physical health. Choosing a nutritious meal or snack before practice will improve your mental focus and make it easier for you to concentrate.
That said, be sure to choose food that’s easy to digest. Try to allow at least two hours to digest a meal and an hour to an hour and a half to digest a snack. Pick foods that give you an energy boost without leaving you feeling weighed down or bloated.
Remember, the most important thing is to listen to your body and do some experimenting to determine what and when works best for your body. The last thing you want is to become light-headed during class or be distracted by hunger.
Most importantly, pay attention to how you feel during class and note what and when you ate beforehand. Make adjustments until you find what works best for you. Here are some ideas to help you get started
Energizing Snacks with Healthy Fats and Protein
Healthy fats and protein are a great choice for when you’re heading into a particularly long or demanding class, or for those days when you feel like your energy levels are low. They’ll give you that energy and staying power you need to perform at your best. Some good options are a smoothie with a scoop of protein powder, whole grain toast with avocado, or a piece of fresh fruit with some nut butter.
Simple Carbs and Fiber
Simple carbs are a great choice for those times when you need a quick boost of energy. Adding a bit of fiber to your snack will help your energy boost last longer. Some great options in this category include hummus with veggies and/or whole-grain crackers, avocado on whole-grain toast, or an apple with peanut butter.
Eat a Full Meal Two Hours Before Class
For some people, a light snack shortly before class may leave them feeling too full. Or, it might not give them enough fuel to perform at their best. If that sounds like you, you might want to try eating a full meal about two hours before class by using the principle of mindful eating. This will give your body enough time to digest your meal, while still providing it with the fuel it needs to keep you focused and energized throughout your class.
Avoid Spicy, Acidic, or Fatty Foods
Stay away from spicy, acidic, and fatty foods before yoga practice. These foods take a longer time to digest and they can upset your stomach. This could leave you feeling uncomfortable and affect your ability to focus during class.
Some Good Options for On-the-Go
If you’re in a rush or on the go, some other good options to consider before practice include granola/protein/energy bars, protein shakes, or nuts.
You should also ensure that your body is well hydrated before class. However, you definitely don’t want to go into class with a tummy full of water. Drink small amounts of water regularly throughout the hours leading up to class, but don’t overdo it.
What to Eat After Yoga Practice with Mindful Eating
After yoga practice, you want a meal or snack that will help your body refuel. Complex carbs, healthy fats, and protein can all be good options. Here are some suggestions:
Protein plus Carbs
After a vigorous yoga class, your body will need fuel to get your energy levels back up. Try a healthy meal or snack that has a 3 to 1 ratio of complex carbs to protein. This combo will restore your energy levels while supporting muscle repair. Some good snack options are a quinoa bowl with legumes and tofu, a smoothie with fruit and silken tofu, or Greek yogurt with fruit, granola, and chopped nuts.
If you take the time to listen, you’ll probably find that your body is screaming for hydration after class. Drinking water is a great start, but you can also try hydrating foods like fresh fruits and veggies. Coconut water and bananas are both great for replacing electrolytes because they contain potassium. Getting your body re-hydrated is key for overcoming mental and physical fatigue and helping your body recover.
Wrapping Up of Mindful Eating
Remember, these are only suggestions. You are the one who lives in your body, so only you can determine what makes you feel the best.
And, if you normally practice first thing in the morning, you may not want anything in your stomach at all. On the other hand, if you practice late in the day, you might need that meal or snack to get you through.
One thing is for sure, mindful eating before and after yoga practice will help be in the right place, mentally and physically, to perform at your best during practice. There’s no question that yoga is incredibly rewarding, but it’s also challenging, so you need to give your body the fuel it needs.