I grew up eating processed foods...a lot of processed foods. Foods I wouldn't even dream of putting in my body now. Why? Because I didn't know any better. And I didn't realize how awful all of those foods made me feel (after all, they tasted so delicious and made me happy while I was eating them). Over the years I gradually changed my eating habits, but it wasn't until I started practicing yoga regularly that I made big changes and made them stick.
A few years prior to my introduction to yoga were particularly bad. I shudder to think of the type of foods I consumed. ICK! If I ate now like I did then, I'd feel awful. Yet back then feeling crappy was normal for me. A few years after practicing yoga, I went to a weekend yoga workshop during which we practiced for a few hours on Friday, much of the day on Saturday and half the day on Sunday. I had never done so much yoga at one time (up until then, I'd been practicing anywhere from 30-90 minutes of yoga per day but never for hours at a time). Interestingly enough, the first thing I did after leaving the workshop on Sunday evening, I went to a Whole Foods for the first (certainly not the last) time.
Ever since then, I've cleaned up my diet quite a bit. Do I still eat foods that aren't nutritionally sound? Absolutely. The difference now is that I try to keep it to a minimum because when I don't, I start to feel bad (low energy, bloated, etc.). Prior to my practicing yoga, I didn't much notice how food affected me. I thought that having a sluggish digestive system was normal and I didn't think anything of the stomach aches, gas, and bloating that followed my junk food feasts.
The big difference between now and then is that before I would clean up my diet because I didn't want to gain weight whereas now I try to keep my diet clean because I feel better when I do. When I don't feel good, it gets in the way of my yoga practice. I suppose this is the definition of yoga -- the linking to something that is positive and unlinking from the thing that causes suffering. I like to feel good and I treasure my yoga practice -- that's enough to keep me from going on a junk food pig out.
If you're finding that feeling sluggish, apathetic, unwell, or your suffering from aches and pains, you might want to take a good look at what you're putting in your mouth. Food matters and the better you eat, the better you'll feel -- and perhaps you'll practice more yoga because of it. The thought of a diet overhaul can be quite intimidating so here are some of my favorite books (I've mentioned some of them before but they're worth reintroducing) to get you started:
All of these books offer excellent advice, recipes, and information about using food to support your in living well (and maintaining your yoga practice).
The last two books are by well known nutrition expert David Wolfe. I heard about David through friends (who ranted and raved about how brilliant he is and how his teachings and products changed their lives for the better) and I'm so glad that I did. His Web site, SunFood, is a wealth of information and the source for everything you need to know and have to get and remain healthy.
Just yesterday David released a groundbreaking program called Longevity Now. The amount of information he's packed into this program -- which includes a 400-page book with an entire immunity protocol, a set of 7 CDs that addresses everything from getting your mind right to detoxifying to pain relief to enhancing your creativity among many other things, 2 DVDs packed with insightful interviews containing information contained nowhere else, and admission to a free 3-day event that you can attend in person or online -- is truly astounding. I've never seen anything like it before.
I must admit that the price tag seemed a bit hefty but my health is priceless to me. It's one of my top priorities and I feel like anything I spend to maintain it is a worthwhile investment. Fortunately, a variety of payment options are available so you can make it affordable. I've already ordered mine and am counting the days until I receive it. If you'd like to learn more about the Longevity Now Program, click here. These days when stress is so much a part of our everyday existence, a program that can help us combat stress using proven techniques is a necessity not a luxury.
In addition to investing in David Wolfe's program, I also recently bought a high performance blender. I chose the Blendtec but I've also heard wonderful things about the Vita-Mix, so I'd say you can't go wrong with either one. Some of the books I mentioned above offer excellent smoothie recipes designed to get the nutrition you need to live at an optimal level of health.
I know that all of these things are expensive (I was just at Whole Foods today, so I know how pricey it is to eat organic), but I speak from personal experience when I urge you to make your health a priority. If I had stuck to my old diet of processed foods, there's no way I'd be getting on mat every day like I now do. I would most likely be heavier, lazier, and unhealthy. Try little changes that fit in with your budget (like reading one of the books I mentioned above). Don't let your diet get in the way of your yoga practice, or more importantly, living a happy, healthy life.