You may not realize it, but nutrition is integral to your Yoga practice. In fact, the “Yamas and Niyamas” or do’s and don’ts, of Yoga provide specific guidelines for consciously nurturing the mind and body.
But if you need more convincing, Western science has proven that poor nutrition contributes to most chronic diseases, from cancer and heart conditions to diabetes and high blood pressure. Optimizing your nutrition not only improves your overall health but also reduces or even reverses the symptoms of disease in many cases.
According to Yoga teachings, a proper diet is essential to overall well-being. It can boost your energy levels and improve your moods. Here’s a closer look at the role nutrition plays in the success of your Yoga practice.
The Fundamentals of a Yoga Diet
One of the fundamental teachings of yoga is to do no harm. That means you shouldn’t be eating in a way that harms others… or yourself! That’s why many Yogis choose to follow a vegan lifestyle. Modern science also teaches that a vegan diet is better for your health.
For similar reasons, it makes sense to consume only organic food whenever possible. We know that chemicals like pesticides can contribute to chronic disease, not to mention the damage they do to the environment and ecosystem.
Why Nutrition is an Integral Part of Successful Yoga Practice
- Nutrition is what heals and nurtures the body and mind. A wholesome diet is essential to your performance in all aspects of your life.
- Proper nutrition delivers nutrients to your mind and body during yoga practice, which helps you maintain your focus and form.
- Nutrition is key for optimal energy levels. If you’re training like a Yogi, but not eating like one, you’re bound to feel a bit worn out and your overall performance will suffer.
- Yoga and good nutrition complement each other. Not only will you feel stronger and more focused when you prioritize both, but you’ll also be taking an active role in slowing the effects of aging on your mind and body
Optimizing Your Nutrition to Support Your Yoga Practice
As you know, Yoga utilizes a variety of poses, or asanas, many of which require bending, inversion, and reverse positions. These positions can put pressure on the digestive system and lead to discomfort if you eat too close to practice.
It’s also important to note that improved blood flow is a key benefit of yoga. If your digestive system is busy digesting a meal, all of that effort will go into the digestive process instead, so you’ll lose out on those benefits
However, low blood sugar and lack of focus due to hunger don’t support a good Yoga practice either. Choosing the right foods at the right time is crucial for providing necessary nutrition without leading to bloating that can interfere with your performance.
So, what can you do to provide your body with the right nutrients to optimize your performance without overeating and compromising your workout?
Plan on eating a nutritious snack or small meal about one hour before practice. This gives your body enough time to digest while providing your body with the nutrition it needs to perform at its best.
Fruit, nuts, and oatmeal are all great choices for long-lasting energy. Stay clear of refined sugar and saturated fats, which can lead to an energy crash during your practice.
Taking a high-quality, organic multivitamin with your pre-Yoga snack or meal is also a good idea. Organic gummy vitamins made from natural ingredients are easy to digest and they’ll fill in any nutritional gaps in your diet.
Key Nutrients for Successful Yoga Practice
- Potassium: Potassium helps to prevent bloating and muscle cramps. It also helps the body maintain proper sodium levels, which is key for staying hydrated. Bananas and avocados are a great source of potassium, so they’re the perfect pre-Yoga snack.
- Fiber: Choosing foods that are high in fiber will help you feel full without feeling bloated. They’re also good for digestion. Pears and apples are both high in fiber, low in sugar, and they’re hydrating.
- Natural Sugars: While refined sugars can lead to energy highs and lows, natural sugars are fantastic for providing lasting energy before practice. Raisins and prunes are great choices for those days when you’re feeling a little sluggish.
- Magnesium: Magnesium is key for hydration levels, as well as preventing muscle cramps and fatigue. Most nuts are an excellent source of magnesium, and they’ll provide valuable protein, vitamin E, and potassium, too.
- Phenylethylamine and Caffeine: These two nutrients are key for increasing alertness and mental focus. Dark chocolate is a great source of both, and it also works to stabilize blood sugar levels to improve concentration during practice. This is super important for the mindfulness and meditative aspect of Yoga.
- Healthy Fats: Healthy fats are key to the Yogis diet because they’re easy to digest, rich in nutrition, and provide long-lasting energy. Omega-3 fatty acids are especially important for reducing inflammation and supporting heart and brain health. Seeds and nuts, as well as seed and nut oils, are great sources of omega-3s. Seaweed is also a good choice, and it’s often included in high-quality vegan multivitamins.
The Bottom Line
Remember that good nutrition nourishes the body while poor nutrition can lead to illness and disease. Prioritizing nutrition every day is key for successful yoga practice, as well as maintaining good health and quality of life.
Choose organic foods whenever possible and prioritize fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Avoid alcohol, processed foods, and sugar as much as possible. And remember to stay well hydrated with plenty of water, herbal and green tea, and vegetable juices.
At the end of the day, optimal mental and physical health starts with good nutrition. If you want to get the most out of your yoga practice and maximize your performance in other areas of your life, you need to give your body the fuel it needs.