Yoga and Nutrition — Mindful Eating Part 2

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Last week I left you with the question, 'If Buddha came to dinner, what would you serve and how would you eat the meal?'.  Most of us would aspire to use the freshest ingredients, organic and local, we would prepare the meal with love and care and we would sit to eat, slowly and mindfully.  We'd probably even take the time to digest and be thankful.  How would our bodies and minds feel if we ate Buddha meals all the time?  My guess is we'd feel pretty great.  So, why don't we?  And how do we get to Buddha meals? One of the practices in yoga that has helped me to become a more mindful eater is the practice of coming back to the breath.  Both during my asana practice and during meditation sits, I use the breath as a tool to find the present again.  When my mind wanders, when I get lost in a story, when I lose myself in an emotion, the breath is a tool to guide me back to the present.  When I first began using the breath this way, I literally had to use all my attention to keep my mind focused- I would mentally say the word 'inhale' as I inhaled, and 'exhale' as I exhaled, in an effort to occupy more of my mind so there would be no room for another thought to jump in.  When I would sit to meditate, it felt more like a battle than serenity.  I would sit this way for about 5 minutes and at the end of which, I would be exhausted.  And angry.  Angry over how little control I had over my mind. Over the years it got easier, my mind became more settled, more accustomed to the practice and now it's become my home base, a safe place.

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Last week I left you with the exercise of bringing awareness to eating- noticing what you ate, when you ate, how the food felt on your tongue, your emotions when you were eating and how the food made you feel.  It seems like such a simple exercise, but for many of us it can be challenging.  We are a culture that rushes to eat, that chooses foods for their convenience and that has a disconnect to our bodies.  The practice of bringing attention to food, to eating, can be a very powerful one.  It is a first step towards shifting your relationship to food.  Indeed, in almost every transformational therapy, one of the first steps is bringing awareness to current behaviours and patterns.  For myself, when I began this practice, I noticed how often stress made me choose sugar, I noticed that certain foods left a film on my tongue, others gave me gas, others made me irritable.  While at first this practice made me feel sad at how poor my relationship was to food, it soon shifted and became empowering- I was learning about myself by bringing attention to my habits.  What foods I was eating began to tell me what emotion I was suppressing, if I was feeling rundown, if I was avoiding dealing with something.  With this attention, I was gathering information about myself.

For this next week, I'd like to keep using this practice of bringing awareness to our eating habits, but this week instead of just noticing what we eat, I'd like us to bring our attention to our hunger signals.  Notice when you eat if you are really hungry.  If the answer is no, just ask yourself why you are eating.  Are you eating socially?  Are you eating emotionally?  If so, can you bring awareness to what that emotion is?