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Nutrition: The High Price of Being a Yoga Lover

Posted May 31 2011 10:14am

I worked in Marketing for years, so I'm the last person to be pointing fingers here, but I just have to get this one off my chest because there seems to be a proliferation of yoga-lover nutritional products. When I first started practicing yoga regularly, I did become more concerned with what I put in my mouth, so I see how yoga practitioners and nutrition go together in a marketing peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The question is -- are we really boosting our nutrition or are we just being deceived into thinking that we need some over-priced yoga practitioner-specific formulation?

The whole diet/nutrition issue is a hotbed of debate for yoga practitioners -- meat or no meat, vegan, vegetarianism, raw foodism, supplements for yoga lovers, organic, blah, blah, blah. I've read all of the reports about us not getting enough nutrients from our food. I've seen firsthand the pressures to eat a certain way when one lives in the yoga world. In fact, this very topic was covered at the NYC Yoga Journal Conference a few weeks back, when Michael Pollan hosted a keynote discussion . Frankly, I'm getting a bit sick of all of this should/shouldn't talk about yoga practitioners and food. I've been ridiculed enough for my choice to exclude meat from my diet but include fish that I wouldn't wish the judgment on anyone. I tend more towards the view of my body is my temple therefore I decide what to put in it. What's happening with the temple of others isn't my business and it's not my place to offer up food dictates under the guise of yoga mores.

That said, the food debate has led to an interesting deluge of nutritional products, many of which are specifically aimed at yoga practitioners. Way to add another marketing niche, folks! As I mentioned at the start of this post, I spent over a decade in Marketing, so I'm not in the position to throw stones. My beef, so to speak, isn't about the marketing of these products but the price. Call me cheap, but if I'm already buying organic (which can be costly) and shopping at natural food markets (let's face it -- while the food at these stores is often excellent, you can't deny the steep prices), how the heck am I going to spend another few hundred dollars on supplements each month?

Now I caveat this by saying that I've had the belief that spending a little more on food is worth it (I take hits on this one all the time and many have accused me of needlessly overspending on food) because I only get one body in this life and I like to take care of it. Now, one could argue that if one is spending more money on higher quality food (or should I say, allegedly higher quality food?), then why does one need supplementation? I'm neither a nutritionist nor a food expert, but I've seen enough media to know that food ain't what it used to be ( Food Inc. anyone?). In fact, all of the information out there is enough to make me never want to eat again. I guess that's where these nifty supplements come in.

And I guess this is my point -- if I take all of the supplements that everyone is pushing to the yoga practitioners of the world, I wouldn't be able to afford food. Here are some of the supplements that seem to be everywhere you look these days along with a common sense quandry from yours truly:

YogaEarth -- these folks have some hardcore yoga niche marketing and a bunch of high profile yoga teacher testimonials/spokesyogis to endorse their "yoga nutrition." Forgive my snarkiness here but YogaEarth is the supplement purveyor that I love to hate. Getting hit over the head with big name yoga teachers hawking this product is enough to make me want to boycott it outright. Still, I can't hate it because I liked it when I sampled it. The Marketer in me loved the packaging (earth-friendly, convenient, and aesthetically pleasing) and I loved the ingredients and the taste of these drink mixes. Here's my issue -- a 30-pack of these individual mix-ins will run you just under $60. And since there are two formulas available -- Balance (pre-practice nutrition) and Vitality (post-practice nutrition) -- which imply that you need both to enjoy well-rounded nutrition, the price increases to over $100/month. That means that in addition to your food bill, you're going to be paying an extra $100 per month (on supplements that don't cover all of your nutritional needs)...which doesn't take into account any other supplements you might want to buy. Ouch! My wallet is crying already.

YogaBodyNaturals -- when I first saw this site years ago, my eyebrow raised over the whole idea of taking a supplement to help with my flexibility when I was already doing yoga daily. This Web site has gone from offering that one flexibility supplement to now offering a wide variety of good stuff. I've taken the stretch formula (I like the herbs included in the formula) myself and like it, but it's not something that I would continue to take regularly. What I do like is the Liquid Clarity B that the site sells (right now that's the only supplement that I buy from this site and I like the under $20 price for a two-month supply). Overall, while I'm not sold on the need to take all of these supplements, the prices are a bit more reasonable on this site. Overall, I like the selection of products but I cringe at the thought of combining a bunch of these to cover all of my nutritional needs -- that would get pricey.

Banyan Botanicals -- this site is one of my favorites for anything Ayurveda. Again, the prices are reasonable, until you start buying multiple products to cover all of your health needs each month. The good news is that this site offers up problem-specific supplements, so you can focus on what you need to without breaking the bank. The prices are very reasonable at Banyan and if you buy into the science of Ayurveda, this is a good source for supplements.

Dr. Mercola -- I'm a fan of Dr. Mercola, but I do acknowledge that the prices for his supplements are a bit high. Still, if you stuck with his simple multi-vitamin you'd spend just about $130 for a 3-month supply. All in all, that's not unreasonable, especially if it's your main source of supplementation. I like his Krill Oil, Vitamin B, and Vitamin D spray. If I buy all three of those supplements, however, I'm looking at roughly $57/month. Add in the multi-vitamin and we're looking at little under $100/month. Considering some of the other supplment prices I've seen, that's not too bad.

VegaHealthOptimizer -- I was interested in this supplement when I first saw it advertised in a yoga magazine. Then one day I was browsing through my local natural food market and saw the price -- a whopping $75 for a two-week supply. WHOA! My first thought was that if I mixed up a shake with this mix once a day, I'd have to cut way back on the amount of food I could buy to balance out the exorbitant cost. And it would be cost prohibitive to buy supplments in addition to Vega. Then again, if Vega is offering all of the benefits that a wide range of supplments has to offer, then perhaps it's worth it. According to Vega marketing, their Health Optimizer covers everything from eyesight to digestion to hormonal balance to fiber to 100% of daily vitamins and minerals. Hmmmmm...perhaps $150/month is worth it if it would replace supplements altogether.

eBoost -- a friend recommended this stuff to me, so I tried it. Years ago, I used to use another powdered drink mix-in that eventually turned me off because of all of the nasty ingredients it contained. That experience made me a bit wary of eBoost, but I figured I'd give it a try. I liked the Pink Lemonade flavor but found the Orange flavor to taste a bit overwhelming (it has a strong Stevia taste, in my opinion). Yes, the ingredients seem better than those included in the old mix-in I used to use but there are a few in there that I could do without. Combine that with the monthly price (although the free shipping is a good thing) and this was not for me. I realize eBoost is the sexy new thing but I'm not buying.

True Bloom -- this company offers unique pure, organic fruit and herb seeds in thoughtful formulations. I like the unpretentious marketing and the prices are beyond reasonable (dare I say, cheap?). Paying under $10 for a month's supply of their Woman's Multivitamin is a breath of fresh air. I'm left a bit speechless by this company, as they seem to be completely killing the idea that you don't have to pay more for high-quality whole foods. 

[Blogger's Note: Now there's always the question of the ingredients in supplments and their effectiveness, but that's a whole other blog post.]

I'm not trying to condemn any one company here -- I'm just sharing my experience and wondering where the line is between necessary supplementation and marketing hoo ha to yoga practitioners. I've gone through periods where I think that supplements in general don't offer what they promise and these days I've vastly cut back on the number of supplments I take. Heck, the sheer volume of available supplments -- and the debate over what we need from a nutrition standpoint -- is enough to make your head spin.

Do yoga practitioners really need all of this supplementation? How much is reasonable to spend on supplements each month? If we're eating whole foods and organic foods, how much do we need in terms of supplments?  Does yoga-specific marketing make you more inclined to buy a specific supplement and/or pay more for a supplement?

As I wrote this post, I realized that I don't know how to think of all of this. What say you, oh wise blog readers?

Namaste!

 

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