How eating healthy makes you feel better about yourself

Yoga consists of more than bending, twisting and turning yourself upside down. Many yogis study the eight limbs of yoga as a guide to a living a meaningful and purposeful life. Although this eight-fold path offers strategies to teach you how to manage your physical and mental energy, it doesn’t go into much detail about how to feed your body. The sage Patanjali codified the eight-fold path in the Yoga Sutras โ€” but it was written at least 1,700 years ago. Needless to say, a lot has changed โ€” including how we eat.

Ultimately, a yoga diet plan means being mindful in your choices and selecting foods to help you feel most connected to your yoga practice. Your diet should provide you with ample energy and nutrients; some practitioners also choose a diet that matches their moral commitment to yogic teachings and respect for the planet and its beings.

General Rules to Live By

If you eat a cheeseburger, fries, pizza, milkshake or pint of beer before you practice, chances are you’re not going to feel great. You don’t have to swing your meal pendulum so far in the other direction, though, that you subsist only on kale, green smoothies and raw walnuts. Think of your yoga diet as consisting mostly of fresh, unprocessed foods that are nourishing and satisfying.

Follow a few guidelines when designing a diet to match your yogi lifestyle:

  • Choose foods that are light and easily digested

  • Eat a majority of your foods lightly cooked or raw

  • Go for stable cooking oils and fats, such as coconut oil or clarified butter (ghee)

  • Be conscious of the ingredients you’re putting into your body

  • Stop eating when you feel satisfied, but not stuffed

     

Is Vegetarianism Required?

Some yogis take the directive of ahimsa, or non-harming, to mean eating animals is forbidden. Ahimsa is one of the niyamas, a moral teaching of how you interact with the outside world that falls under the first limb of yoga. Yogis, as a whole, are often conscious about the environment and modern factory farming, and may refrain from eating animals to support their moral beliefs.

A yoga diet doesn’t have to be vegan or vegetarian. Some well-known yogis, including the late B.K.S. Iyengar, felt strongly that a vegetarian diet supported a yogic way of being. Other more modern yogis, including Bikram Choudhury and Ana Forrest, feel that honoring your body’s needs should come first and foremost. If you find that giving up meat leaves you listless and nutritionally deficient, you must consider the harm you’re doing to yourself by denying certain foods.

Ultimately, the choice to eat meat is one you must make on your own. If you feel connected to vegetarianism or veganism and it helps you feel as if you’re taking the principles of yoga off your mat, then by all means โ€” eat this way. But, don’t feel like you can’t be an authentic yogi if you eat otherwise. Just be mindful in your choices; that is the definition of a yogi.

If you do choose a vegetarian diet, ensure you still get plenty of nutritious foods and all necessary nutrients, including calcium, protein and omega 3 fats. It’s possible to avoid animal products, but not eat a healthy or energy-supporting diet. Chips, cereal bars and soda may be vegetarian, but they aren’t going to maximize your practice. Beans, nuts, soy protein, fresh vegetables, whole grains, seeds and fruits are nourishing ways to support a healthy vegetarian body.

A Typical Day

Every yogi is different in constitution and belief, so no one diet works for everyone. However, foods to include that maximize your energy, facilitate healthy digestion and provide optimal nutrition are:

  • Fresh leafy greens: spinach, kale, watercress, chard

  • Fresh vegetables: zucchini, broccoli, tomatoes, green beans

  • Fresh fruit: berries, apples, citrus, melon

  • Plain nuts: almonds, walnuts, macadamias

  • Vegan protein: tofu, tempeh, seitan

  • Vegetarian protein: eggs, dairy

  • Whole grains: brown rice, barley, quinoa

  • Healthy fats: coconut oil, avocado, flaxseed oil

If you do choose to include meat and poultry, select humanely raised options.

Breakfast might include whole-grain bread with peanut butter and fresh strawberries; at lunch, have a large green salad topped with seared tofu, sunflower seeds, avocado and olive oil dressing. Dinner options include corn tortillas wrapped around black beans, onions and green peppers. In between, snack on nuts and dried or fresh fruit.

Defining Healthy Eating

Healthy eating is often equated with dieting, but the two are different. A healthy diet includes all the food groups, doesn’t feel like deprivation and should be sustainable for life. To improve your diet, replace refined grains with whole grains such as brown rice, oatmeal or whole-grain bread. Opt for low or nonfat dairy products, choose lean cuts of meat and include fruits and vegetables in every meal. Avoid foods that are high in fat, sodium and sugar. Become familiar with your body’s cues. Eat when you are hungry, not because you have a craving. If you’re unsure if it’s just a craving, drink a glass of water and wait 10 minutes before you eat.

Turkeys and Tryptophan

A lot of chemistry goes into the maintenance of a positive mood. An amino acid called tryptophan helps your body produce another compound — serotonin — which plays a role in restful sleep and a stable mood. Tryptophan is found in protein foods including cheese, poultry, eggs, fish, meat, soy products and milk. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid, meaning you have to get it from your diet. Iron, vitamin B-6 and riboflavin are also necessary for tryptophan to work properly.

Steady Energy

You rush out the door and forget to eat breakfast. By noon, you are hungry and shaky and feel irritable, confused and anxious. You are experiencing symptoms of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. Your body and your brain rely on a type of sugar called glucose for energy. When you eat irregularly or make poor food choices, your blood sugar spikes and crashes and you feel miserable. Eating regular, healthy meals and snacks will give you all-day energy and will help elevate your mood.

Diverse Diet

The Mental Health Foundation reports that two-thirds of individuals who claim to have no mental health problems eat fresh fruits or fruit juices every day. Fewer than half of those who reported mental health problems enjoyed fresh produce. Similar trends were seen with vegetables, whole grains and meals made from scratch. Although you can’t blame mental health issues on diet, there does seem to be a correlation between eating well and overall positivity. To promote good mental health, the Mental Health Foundation recommends a nutrient-dense diet focused on whole foods. Avoid processed and packaged foods as much as possible.

Energy for Enjoyment

Eating well gives you the energy you need to take care of other aspects of your life such as professional development and family relationships. A healthy diet may improve your mood simply because you are able to derive more pleasure from life. With a well-fueled body and mind, you’ll also be better equipped to deal with the inevitable stresses of life.

 

Bikram Yoga Diet Plan

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Started in the 1970โ€™s by Bikram Choudhury, Bikram yoga or Hot yoga is considered to be one of the most intense forms of yoga present. The Bikram yoga routine consists of 26 postures or yoga asanas performed in a room heated to 105 degrees for over ninety minutes.

The principle behind the practice of Bikram yoga is that the heat increases the detoxification of the body through excessive sweating that takes place.

Since warmer muscles can burn more calories, Bikram yoga is an excellent type of yoga for weight loss. A single session of Bikram yoga can burn up to a whopping 600 to 1500 calories. Needless to say this amount will depend upon how much effort you put into each class and how strong your poses are.

In order to maximize the benefits of Bikram yoga, a diet change is recommended (though not imperative). If you want to see results faster, it would be better to change your diet for hot yoga. While there is no specific Bikram yoga diet plan, there are general guidelines about what to eat before and after a Bikram yoga class as well as what food is beneficial when practicing this form of yoga. These include:

  • Eat several small light meals throughout the day instead of three heavy ones.

  • Make sure that your meals consist of some form of protein and whole grains to keep energy levels up.

  • Keep your consumption of fatty foods, caffeine, refined sugar and dairy products to a minimum.

  • Many people insist that their digestion changes after practicing Bikram yoga for a while. Spicy foods and junk foods now sit heavily in the stomach and are no longer as enjoyable as before making weight loss and calorie control a whole lot easier.

  • What you can eat before a Bikram yoga class differs from person to person. Some people feel more energetic in class if they have eaten a small nutritious snack or some fruit an hour or so before class. Others insist that they can only practice on an empty stomach or if they keep a gap of four hours or more between their last meal and their yoga class. After a few sessions of your own, you will know what works best for your body.

  • Bikram yoga tends to make you ravenous. After a class it would be better to keep on hand some healthy energy boosters such as nuts or a banana or some fresh fruit or vegetable juice.

  • As you continue your practice of Bikram yoga you will become more attuned with your body and begin to differentiate between actual hunger pangs and eating out of boredom or for emotional reasons.

  • A lot of people believe that Bikram yoga demands a vegetarian diet. This is not true though you may benefit from switching to leaner meats such as chicken or turkey over beef or pork. The main goal of a Bikram yoga diet is to provide the proper nutrition and help the body maximize its capability.

  • An ideal Bikram yoga food plan would involve meals that are unprocessed and devoid of harmful additives and other chemicals. Try to buy mainly organic produce and include lots of fresh fruits and vegetables into your diet.

  • The most important addition to any Bikram yoga diet is water. It is absolutely necessary to drink at least two to three liters of water a day to stay hydrated and balance out electrolyte levels in the body. Some Bikram yoga teachers encourage students to drink at least a liter of water before a session.

Bikram Yoga Diet Tips

  • For the best results, try and make at least three classes a week or ten classes a month. Bikram yoga teachers insist that this is the minimum amount of sessions needed to reap the benefits of this dynamic yoga. If you can do more classes, aim for five days a week and watch how your body gets transformed. These classes have to be complimented with a proper diet recommended by your yoga practitioner.

  • Keep in mind that weight loss with Bikram yoga is a gradual process and therefore you will have to keep to the diet for a longer time.

  • Always consult your doctor before beginning Bikram yoga classes or any diet plan. The rigors of Bikram yoga may not suit everyone and it is better to get the all clear from yoru doctor before committing to any number of classes.

Bikram Yoga Diet Benefits

  • Burning between 600 to 1500 calories per session

  • Improving the lymphatic system and helping flush the body of toxins

  • Improving metabolism and making weight loss easier

  • Lessening unhealthy food cravings

  • Treating any digestive problems

  • Building muscle tone

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