When I finished my Holistic Nutrition diploma in 2016 I had learned all the things, but wasn’t sure what type of practitioner I was going to be yet. I felt confident about educating others about the benefits of whole foods, but didn’t know how to bring the lifestyle component into it without sounding like a hippie witch doctor. Coming from a science background I knew whatever I recommended needed to be science based. I started exploring the research around yoga and mindfulness. This ancient practice has seen lots of studies about its benefits in the past 10 years. Researchers have found that yoga boosts executive function (our decision-making area of the brain), energy levels, and helps calm an overactive nervous system (1,2).
I’ve dabbled in yoga since 2010 and I’ll admit I hated the first class I took. I was used to bootcamp classes, not slow gentle movements. But something drew me back, maybe because my mind felt calmer afterwards? Or maybe it was the promise of buying a new workout wardrobe? Let’s call it fate that drew me back, because fast forward seven years and I’m now a Yoga Instructor! I get to share with others this beautiful practice combining breath and movement. You may wonder what the heck this has to do with nutrition…read on my friend!
Yoga cultivates mindfulness by forcing us to be present in the moment; a skill that translates off the mat to mindful eating. Most of us have lost touch with our hunger cues and have no idea how to tell when we’re full. The result is we’re left feeling bloated and unhappy. Using breathing techniques and re-directing attention to certain aspects of eating can allow you to tune into your body’s needs and restore balance in body and mind. This practice, just like yoga, takes time to build. Here are my five basic principles for mindful eating:
Set up your calm space
You need to be relaxed in order to digest fully. Having a calm and uncluttered space helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system, sending the signal to your body that it’s time to chow down and there’s no immediate danger. This means putting the phone away and turning the TV off!
Take 5 slow deep breaths. Tuning into your breath helps clear the mind.
Engage the senses
Look at the food in front of you, describe what you see, smell, feel, and then taste.
Chew like you’ve never chewed before
One of the biggest overlooked areas of digestion is thorough chewing. Work on chewing between 20-30 times, even longer for harder items like nuts or raw vegetables.
Take your time
I usually suggest taking at least 20 minutes for a snack or meal. This gives your stomach time to send the signal to your brain that you’re full.
1. Paddock C. Just 25 minutes of yoga, meditation 'boosts brain function, energy'. Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319333.php. Sept 7, 2017.
2. Ross A, Thomas S. The health benefits of yoga and exercise A review of comparison studies. J Alt Complement Med. 2010. 16(1); 3-12. https://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2009.0044