Yoga and Nutrition — Mindful Eating, Part 3

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Yoga and eating both hold so many potentials for our health- nourishing our bodies, repairing imbalances, steadying our minds, boosting our energy levels and improving our self-awareness.  Yoga and eating can also be seen as practices.  When I practice yoga, I strive to do so with mindful attention, aware of my body's signals and with loving kindness. I use the breath as a physical tool to keep me grounded in the present and in my body.  When I eat, I strive to do so with mindful attention, aware of my body's signals and with loving kindness.  I use my physical senses, like taste, smell and sight to stay in the present while eating and I stay tuned in to my body after eating to notice how I'm digesting, my energy levels and my mental balance. It's a powerful shift to begin thinking of eating as a practice.  A practice implies that it requires some thought, effort and concentration.  It implies that it is a skilled action that develops over time with effort.  It means that there are intricacies and foundations to learn. It also suggests that there is the opportunity to grow as a person, to gain a deeper understanding of yourself, through the process of honing the practice.  For myself, it also means there is the opportunity for forgiveness and revival when I slip or forget.

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Many of us have never considered eating to be a practice, like yoga or meditation, but I find there is such an opportunity to profoundly understand oneself through mindful eating.  In our society, we tend to eat out of habit, due to emotions, due to social pressures, due to stress, due to the desire to fill a hole or to suppress a feeling.  We are taught how to eat by our parents and by our televisions.  We are advertised at before we can crawl, leading to sugar addictions and a plethora of unhealthy food choices.  We eat because the box looks good, because it was on sale, because our friends are ordering something, because it's what we always eat during the holidays, because it reminds us of when we were happy.

In the first part of this series, we began with the exercise to simply begin bringing our awareness to our food.  When we eat, how the food tastes, how it feels in our mouth, how we feel after we've eaten it.

In the second part of the series, we started paying attention to our hunger signals.  Noticing if we were waiting until we experienced hunger to eat or if we were eating mindlessly.  We often eat out of boredom, sadness, habit or because we are with others who are eating.  It can take time to develop this discernment of true hunger.

This week, I'd like us to continue with the practice of bringing awareness to our eating and then to use this information to make mindful choices.  So, as we become more attentive of our bodies, can we begin to wait to eat until we truly feel hunger?  Can we stay mindful while we eat, noticing the smells, textures and tastes of our food?  Can we keep our awareness on during digestion to see how that food feels in our body and affects our mind?  Can we stop ourselves when we begin to eat mindlessly?  Can we mindfully practice forgiveness and non-judgment with ourselves, remembering that this practice is simply a tool to learn about ourselves?