Inbox: Yoga, Diet and Appetite

Here’s a question that was emailed to me recently concerning someone who is new to Yoga and how he feels it is affecting his diet and overall health. Since I fully re-engaged in the Yoga “lifestyle” – and particularly since I entered Yoga Teacher Training – I have seen tremendous changes in my diet and how I view food. I thought this would be a good chance to respond and sort out my own thoughts and feelings on diet and how the physical body responds.

Question

Lately, especially the last couple of days the foods I normally eat without thought seem to upset my stomach. I mean, I feel them inside and each of them I’ve sworn off now. Before you think I’m crazy or need to see a doctor: my wife is a RN and has been for 20 years and is pretty smart about these things so I know I’m not ill.

Additionally, my appetite has decreased, in fact I notice when I’m full. I’m not a big eater at all, but it’s obvious to me when I become filled or full.

Is that Yoga related, as in being tuned into my body now or do you think it’s just my imagination?

Answer

I’ll give you my own personal thoughts and observances, as I’m not a doctor nor am I trained in the medical field.

I think that as you practice Yoga more regularly and consistently, your physical body begins to rebel against the foods that:
A) are not really good for it or are not actually food (processed foods, white breads, sugars that don’t come from fruit)
and
B) your body becomes more adjusted and attuned to its own wants and needs over time.

In my opinion, our physical bodies have “minds” of their own and if left to its own devices (and if someone chooses to be quiet, still and listen to it, as I do), the body will gravitate towards what IT needs rather than what your thinking mind tells it it needs.

I realized awhile back that the fact that I crave cookies (processed sugar) and potato chips (trans fat grossness and god-know-what chemicals and preservatives they put into them) at particular times of the day is not necessarily ME wanting to eat cookies and chips per say, it is addictions that I and my body have acquired throughout the years. And it is my MIND telling me that by eating these foods, I will satisfy whatever emotional needs I may have at the time depending on my life circumstances.

I was a smoker for over 24 years *shudder* and I quit over 5 years ago. One evening I was CRAVING potato chips, and I had not been particularly physically active around that time so I knew that it wasn’t me needing to replace lost sodium due to sweating and exercise. It suddenly occurred to me that the feeling/craving that I was having was EXACTLY the same feeling that I used to get when I smoked and found myself craving a cigarette – which was pretty much all of the time. I thought about this more and more and found that I was able to apply that same feeling of craving a cigarette to pretty much every form of food craving that I had, and still do. Knowing this has made it much easier for me to fight off the urge to eat anything that comes in a package or a bag now. It’s the not the food I crave, it’s the chemicals in them that we are all addicted to on varying levels.

This being said, I don’t know what foods you regularly eat so I’m only speculating that your body is rebelling against the typical Westernized diet type “foods” (cheap carbohydrates dipped in chemicals really) instead of steamed broccoli, fresh asparagus and lean proteins.

Another beautiful thing about Yoga is that it’s a wonderful system for healing and balancing the body. I tend to look at it as taking my car in to have the tires rotated and balanced. The only difference being that you are now “rotating and balancing” your entire skeletal, muscular, nervous and limbic systems. Like everything in the universe, your body is seeking the middle ground, the point of balance and the center. Eating foods that don’t lend themselves to your body attaining that balance will be rejected either on a mental, emotional or physical level. This is probably what is happening to you.

As far as your appetite goes, perhaps you’re adjusting to the amounts of food that your body actually needs to live and thrive rather than to what you’ve become accustomed. AND, if you’re eating more and more of the proper types of food, you are more likely getting the nutrition that you now need, therefore requiring you to eat less. I can tell you that since I began my yoga teacher training, I have lost 10lbs that I didn’t really want to as I only weigh 140lbs as it is. I’m much leaner and more cut though which is good. And I eat like a horse – I have to to keep the weight on. There is something about yoga (and my dietary choices) that makes my metabolism explode.

No, you’re not crazy, you’re awake, alive and tuning in to your needs. This is generally not what we’re taught to do in Western society so it can feel a little unnatural at first. Trust me that you will become rapidly acclimated to this new way of living and being and wonder how you ever got by before. Enjoy.

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11 thoughts on “Inbox: Yoga, Diet and Appetite

  1. I’m far from it but, I know that eventually I want to teach Yoga, most likely Vinyasa or some form of power yoga. What would you suggest is the first step towards that goal?

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    1. Get some good videos by some instructors you like and learn them inside out. Then sit down with the video and as you are watching it, write down the order of postures as they are being done. You can then begin to get a good idea of why the instructor is sequencing the poses in that particular order and how they are thinking.

      From there, use that notes that you made to make your own power sequence. This is where you’ll really start learning because you’ll see that some things work and some don’t. Keep molding your power sequence until you get it just how you want it. And then try to teach it to someone.

      One thing to research is “bell curve yoga sequencing” what you find. This is how you arc a power sequence so that you get nice and warmed up, hit the power part of it, and then come down to savasana nicely. There is definitely an art to sequencing.

      The video I used to model my personal power sequence is Rodney Yee’s “Total Body”, plus, my girl Melanie Ulrich at the studio I go to. I pick her brain all the time.

      Let me know how it goes.

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      1. Oh, another thing. Get this book “Teaching Yoga” by Mark Stephens…I’m almost done reading it and it’s excellent.

        He has another book coming out in September called “Yoga Sequencing” that I’ve pre-ordered already. Can’s wait.

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      2. Got it yesterday.  Haven’t been able to put it down except for working hours…lots of info to soak up.  I also got ‘Yoga for Dummies’ and looking into chair yoga(!)

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      3. Thanks for the pointers!  

        I presently have an issue that I think may be helpful to others in the future. I’m sending a separate email regarding that.

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      4. Thank you for taking the time to do all this. I want to make the best of this learning experience and be able to be honest and forthright as possible with the results.

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  2. I’ve noticed a change in how food effects me since I started doing yoga 9 months ago.  Maybe I should I rephrase that, I’m more aware of how the food I eat effects the way I feel.  The feeling that eating poorly gave me was probably the same I was just less self aware.   In yoga we spend a lot of time focusing on how our body is feeling.  As I enter this pose, where am I feeling the stretch?  are my knee’s locked or engaged? are my feet aligned? am I opening my hips?  Doing this practice of focusing on what’s going on in the body is going to not only develop the muscles but also it works the portions of the brain that monitor them.  It only stands to reason that we would be more aware of how food effects us.

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    1. Absolutely. Sounds like you’re on the right track for sure…this kind of ‘noticing’  definitely begins to take front and center stage when you begin to really start knowing yourself and following through with comparison and contrast.

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