Guest post: The Yoga of Eating

Guest Post: The Yoga of Eating by Mary-Alice Quinn | - image via Death to the Stock Photo

A person with strong digestive fires can convert poison into nectar, while someone with weak digestive fires will turn nectar into poison.
(Vedic saying)

Hello, Kaileen here. With January in full swing, I am thinking more about my habits and which ones could use a little improvement. Today’s guest post from Mary-Alice Quinn uses the teachings of Ayurvedic medicine to illuminate one habit that most of us do three times a day – sometimes more. Her words are an important reminder for me… and I think you will find them helpful too!

If you are unfamiliar with Ayurveda, it is a 5,000-year-old system of natural healing that has its origins in the Vedic culture of India1. Ayurveda literally translates to “the science of life” and the practice involves addressing an individual’s unique physical, emotional, and spiritual makeup.

Mary-Alice is a certified Ayurvedic practitioner and teacher, and an instructor for the California College of Ayurveda. She is a Practitioner Member of both the National Ayurvedic Medical Association and California Association of Ayurvedic Medicine. Her private practice blends Ayurvedic lifestyle and nutritional guidelines, as well as personalized herbal remedies and body therapies, to assist her clients in achieving and maintaining healthy, satisfying, and balanced lives.

And now, I’ll let Mary-Alice take over…

For decades, dietary trends have shifted from low fat, to low carb, to high protein, to vegetarian, to vegan, and to raw — all in search of optimal health. But in that searching, have we missed the most important aspect of nutrition altogether?

What we eat is clearly important. Yet, how we eat may have a more significant impact on longevity than what we eat.

To understand how the way we eat impacts health, we have to examine what controls the digestive process. Digestion is a function of the nervous system. The nervous system regulates the quantity and timing of digestive secretions, the rate at which food moves through the various stages of digestion, even the amount of blood flow to and away from the gastrointestinal tract. And what controls the nervous system? The nervous system is strongly influenced by our state of mind and stress levels.

Our state of mind often dictates the way we consume food. This in turn has a great influence on digestion and the absorption of nutrients. Improper digestion can increase toxic residue and decrease quality raw material in our bodies.

State of mind is extremely important to the yoga of eating. Other influencing factors include: where we eat, how quickly we eat, and what we do after we eat. Mindful food consumption helps us approach all other aspects of eating in a conscious way.

When we are feeling emotional, stressed, anxious, depressed, worried, annoyed, judgmental, hurried, or distracted while eating — the sympathetic nervous system, also known as the “flight or fight” response, is triggered. In this state, the following happens:

  • Degenerative stress hormones are sent coursing through the bloodstream
  • Blood is shunted away from the digestive system to the skeletal muscles
  • Digestive secretions and the motility of the intestines decreases

These effects are not conducive to proper digestion, to say the least! So, how do we shift our emotional state to optimize digestion? The following are a few guidelines to aid in the practice of conscious consumption:

  1. Begin by checking-in with your emotional state. Bring attention to your state of mind and acknowledge it as the first step toward a conscious shift.
  2. Take a few deep, slow breaths. Inhale through the nasal passages, utilizing the full capacity of your lungs and slowly exhale by releasing, relaxing, and letting go of the breath. Release the observed emotions.
  3. Engage your senses while eating. With each bite, observe the colors, take in the aroma, feel the textures, and savor the taste in your mouth.
  4. And finally, release all judgments or criticisms that may come up during the process of eating. Each meal is unique and perfect in its imperfections!

Before your next meal, remember that nutrition starts with your frame of mind. Practice the yoga of eating to contribute to your wellbeing in mind, body, and spirit for years to come!

Image via Death to the Stock Photo



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