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Article by Blue Banyan Meditation Products

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Wellness

Part 1: Improving well-being through healthy eating

 

Week 1: How Yoga and Meditation can influence diet

While there are many ways to improve well-being, eating can have a large impact. The foods you eat and the way you eat them can have far-reaching effects on your well-being, which includes health, happiness and prosperity. Healthy foods in turn can improve the health of your body, whereas unhealthy foods are likely to have the opposite effect. In addition, emotional eating, overeating, eating too quickly and other practices can affect your health and well-being.

Although you might not think yoga and meditation have anything to do with your diet, they can actually play a role if these practices become a regular part of your life. Engaging in practices like meditation and yoga can help you see your body differently and create changes in the way you feel. Yoga in particular can provide respect for what your body is capable of and appreciation for the many functions it carries out for you every moment that you take for granted, such as breathing, walking and the beating of your heart. Through meditation, you notice more about your body and you can also realize that there is more to life than body image, including love, contributing to the world around you and a connection to a higher power.

Because of these different ways of thinking, you often want to take better care of your body. You want to nourish it and help it carry out the many functions it performs for you. Through the awareness created by yoga and meditation, you realize how much better your body feels when you give it proper nutrients and when you minimize unhealthy foods. You can start to realize that unhealthy foods can make you feel bloated and sluggish, and give you symptoms like heart burn and stomach-aches. You can get into a healthy cycle instead of a vicious cycle: when you perform more meditation and yoga, you tend to want to eat healthier, and the healthier you eat, the more you want to engage in other healthy activities like meditation and yoga.

Mindfulness

In addition, meditation and yoga bring about mindfulness and awareness. This means that you start to pay better attention to the world around you, to your inner thoughts and feelings, and to the connection you start to feel toward others and the divine. This change of focus can have a definite impact on your eating habits. For instance, you might start to slow down and appreciate the flavours and nourishment of your food if you previously shovelled it into your mouth as fast as you could. You might have more gratitude for your food and not take it for granted with unhealthy eating practices. If you are paying attention to your body, you will notice when you are becoming full and stop so you don't overeat.

A January 2011 review in the journal Eating Disorders looked at the effects mindfulness-based eating might have on binge eating disorder. The review found that mindfulness-based eating can help people with this disorder to have better self-control over their eating, to have fewer binge episodes and to have fewer depressive symptoms. Even if you don't have this disorder, this review can show you how mindfulness-based eating can help anyone eat in a healthier way.

Emotional Eating

Mindfulness can also counteract emotional eating, which often occurs when people deal with an emotional issue by eating large amounts of food – generally unhealthy junk food. While this type of eating might make you feel better for a little while, the feeling doesn't last, plus the binge and the unhealthy foods will probably make you feel even worse. You might feel shame that you ate so much and the excess of sugar and fat can make you feel sick, bloated and sluggish. Also, if you continue to eat this way you will become overweight. And in the end, your problem doesn't go away with this type of practice.

Meditation and yoga can help you notice when you are emotionally eating, and help you become aware of the problem that is causing it. You can then focus on that problem in your meditation and yoga sessions and try to work through it. In addition, you will know that healthy foods will help your body and emotions more than the unhealthy ones.

Yogi Diet

Traditionally, yogis would follow a specific diet to go along with the yoga lifestyle. It is debatable whether this type of diet is actually healthier for you than a well-balanced diet of healthy foods. Plus, many people would currently find this type of diet difficult or undesirable to follow. Nonetheless, it's worth knowing more about it in case you want to give it a try. Also, it's another option to try some of the tenets, instead of following the diet precisely.

In the past, yogis would mainly eat very specific foods, according to The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga (1988) by Swami Vishnu-devananda and The Complete Yoga Book (1977) by James Hewitt. These foods include whole grains like barley and wheat; dairy like ghee, milk and butter; and sweets including sugar, dried ginger and honey. They would stay away from certain foods thought to interfere with their inner balance, including meat, fish, green vegetables and foods that are sour, hot, bitter or fermented.

The idea is that there are three types of foods. Sattvic foods are considered pure – these are fruits, vegetables, dairy and grains. Rajasic foods are thoughts to be stimulating, which isn't necessarily positive in the traditional yoga system. These foods include strong and spicy foods. Finally, the foods to completely stay away from are the Tamasic foods, which are considered impure. These are overripe or fermented foods, which include alcohol. Yogis thought that you would eat more pure foods as you became more pure in mind and body, and that some foods would cause harm to the body while others would improve it. Animal products, except for dairy, are thought to cause harm to the body, plus they encourage violence which is against yoga beliefs. Because of these reasons, traditional yogis were vegetarians.

While you can see that this type of diet is very limiting, especially in the world of today, there are some themes in it that are positive. To follow a modified version of this diet, you can cut back on meat and eat mostly whole, natural foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes.

Ayurveda

Ayurveda is a system of health from India that is thought to date back around 5,000 years. Yoga and Ayurveda have deep roots together, so their methods are often combined. Ayurveda is a holistic system that includes the mind, body and spirit, and eating is one facet of the system. The Ayurvedic system follows the belief that there are three different personality types, and that you should follow the specific diet, as well as additional health guidelines, for your type. Nonetheless, sometimes there can be an overlapping of more than one type in a person, so this could change your diet plan. If you are interested in learning more detail about an Ayurvedic diet, you should consult an Ayurveda specialist because this is an in-depth, specialised field.

The three types within Ayurveda are vata, pitta and kapha. According to the book Yoga as Medicine (2007), edited by Timothy McCall, M.D., vata types are spacey, creative and easily distracted. The best foods to balance their personalities are foods that are naturally salty, sweet and sour. Pitta personalities are hard workers who are driven and intense. They should for the most part eat foods that are naturally sweet, astringent and bitter. Kapha types are slow, stable and strong, but they can be lazy. They should eat mostly foods that are naturally bitter, spicy and astringent. Sweet foods can include fruit, bitter foods can include leafy greens, astringent foods can include artichokes and asparagus, and sour foods can include citrus fruit and yogurt.

We hope you enjoyed the first in our four part series. Look out next week for: Wholesome and Nutritional Food.

3 Oct 2012

Article/Information supplied by Blue Banyan Meditation Products

Disclaimer - Any general advice given in any article should not be relied upon and should not be taken as a substitute for visiting a qualified medical Doctor.

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