yoga diet is there one|yogi surprise

Is There a Specific Yoga Diet? Yes but Mostly No

Timing is everything, they say.

And I absolutely believe that cliché. It was when I was in the process of moving back to Atlanta from Columbus, Ohio that I met my life partner. And when I first moved to Columbus, I walked into a yoga studio to apply to teach there. The owner was reading Yoga Journal and was on the page of my DVD review. Timing, y'all. It really does matter so very much.

Let's talk about the yoga diet

We all know the stereotype of the vegan yogi who basically lives on what they can pick from their garden. They can essentially subsist on greens, good vibes, and downward facing dog pose. This is bullshit, for the most part. There are a whole lotta yogis who eat everything and anything. I even know an avid hunter who practices five days a week and just completed his 200-hour yoga teacher training.

Many people who have tried to become either vegetarians or vegans report that they became sick as a result. There are also loads of happy, healthy folks who do not eat any animal products. And there's a ton of people, like me, who are pescatarians (they only consume fish). Everyone has to make their own personal choices about what they consume and why. When trying to define a yoga diet, it's the timing, quantity, quality, and specific foods consumed before a practice that really matter.

The yoga diet breakdown

These are the important things to keep in mind when developing your own yoga diet:

  • Self-care is your primary focus. Taking the very best care of your body by nourishing it with the foods you need, crave, and that help you feel your best. If there's truly a yoga diet, this is it. Eating with thoughtfulness and gratitude for having sustenance plus choosing wisely are the pillars of a so-called yoga diet.
  • Practice on a relatively empty stomach. Make sure you haven't eaten anything of real substance for about two hours before you enjoy an asana practice. Twists do not feel good on a full stomach. All movement goes better if you're not in need of loosening your pants. If you're uncomfortable, it will be pretty tough to enjoy your practice.
  • Certain foods digest easier than others. I ate a bean burrito one time, ONE, a couple of hours before going to a ninety-minute vinyasa yoga class. It was a very bad call. Salads are good. Even sandwiches are fine as long as they include a lot of healthy ingredients and nothing heavy that will weigh you down.
  • Skip the sugar. Sugar. Do you just live for it? That might be an issue during practice. Sugar crashes are real and not at all fun while you're in the middle of a practice.
  • Pacing. If you're anything like me, you typically eat as though you've been held hostage and this is probably your very last meal, slow your roll. Chew your food thoughtfully and deliberately to enjoy it to the fullest extent and digest it more efficiently.
  • Portions. You can eat two eggs and a tomato, or you can eat five with two thick slices of bread. Smaller portions also digest faster and easier. Save the big meal for after your practice. Often, even most of the time, less is more.
  • Quality. Fresh food will always win out over processed. Whenever possible, go for fresh produce, protein, and grains.

Use this guide to help you make the best food decisions you can today. Observe how you feel physically, mentally, and emotionally. Once you reflect on your chosen yoga diet, keep these choices in mind every day that guided you so well today.

 


alternate meditation practices|yogi surprise

Meditations for People Who Think They Can't Mediate

I feel you.

Meditation can be exceedingly challenging for some of us. It's incredibly hard to direct our thoughts in a way that helps us clear out minds. Being still is the opposite of calming. I know it comes naturally for some, but that ain't me, and if you're reading this, it's probably not you.

So let's redefine meditation. Let's make it something we look forward to and really find value in

Traditionally, meditation is done in a quiet room. The practitioner takes a comfortable seat, closes their eyes, and clears their mind. Mantras and chants can and often are a part of the equation. Dim lighting, no distractions, and comfortable clothing are paramount. Sometimes, it's a guided meditation taking us on an internal journey.
You've tried all of it. And you've tried again. It's not clicking and you wonder if you simply can't meditate. You peek at others in the room seemingly enjoying their own experience and appearing to not struggle in the least. You feel like a failure and trend towards thinking meditation just isn't for you. It's so easy to buy into these thoughts, but they're simply untrue.

Let's throw out tradition and get to the heart of what meditation offers us:

  • peaceful feelings
  • clarity
  • mindfulness
  • self-awareness
  • compassion
  • the ability to be present
  • appreciation
  • simplification
  • kindness
  • stress reduction
  • relaxation
  • calm
  • groundedness
  • gratitude
For those of us whom more traditional meditation practices don't quite land, let's think way outside the box about what a meditative practice can be. What alternate types of meditation practices besides sitting in silence can offer all of these benefits?

1. Try a walking meditation

Take a walk. It can be in the woods, on the beach, or even just around your neighborhood. Focus on your breath and surroundings. Make a conscious effort to notice everything around you. The wind, cracks in the road, leaves on the trees, the song of the birds overhead. Drink it in and let yourself absorb your surroundings. Count your steps. Focus your drishti. Choose positive thoughts. Take deep, aware breaths.

2. Meditate in a crowded space

It could be a coffee shop, library, train station, or even your workplace. Find the least conducive to meditation environment you can. If you can find a calming energy and peaceful feeling even with eight-seven distracting things happening all around you, then you're really onto something. The meditation here is all about blocking out the noise and finding focus amidst chaos. Even if you can find it for a moment, that's really something. Use the tools at your disposal. Breath, Making the choice to not look up or all around everytime a new noise arrives at the scene. When you learn to block the noise, a truly incredible thing happens. You stop hearing it. It ceases having power over you. You can feel serenity anywhere.

3. Practice meditation via conversation

Have you ever noticed your listening abilities evaporating when you're talking with someone and there's a feeling of disconnect? You can change that by applying meditative properties to every conversation. Whether you're talking with someone you really vibe with or someone you have trouble connecting to, the same meditation principles align. Practice self-study, svadhyaya, as a means of witnessing not just the other person with whom you are participating in dialogue, but yourself being present, open, compassionate, and more aware than you were moments before.

4. Create a daily mantra

This one is SO much fun! If you like to write, then write it down. If that's not your jam, mentally create one and come back to it over and over throughout the day, revisiting your chosen meditation. Use a bracelet or crystal to help you remember to come back to it throughout the day. Today, I'm working with, "Cultivate listening by utilizing economy of words." I talk a lot, so today, I choose to listen more, therefore talking less and fostering this as my meditation. Tomorrow I'll choose something different to focus on, but this meditation will stay with me.
Once we broaden the scope of how we view meditation, everything starts to show up as a meditation opportunity. This in no way negates the incredible value of more traditional meditation practices. But if your resistance to that is strong, begin here and stay here as long as the value continues to surface for you. It might decrease your feelings of opposition, and if it doesn't, that's really okay. As long as we each find ways to cultivate awareness and a reduction in our stress levels, our meditation practice only needs to speak to us.

7 Simple Ways to Spread Kindness Wherever You Go

7 Simple Ways to Spread Kindness Wherever You Go

Being kind to our friends, relatives, romantic partners, children, pets, coworkers, and other people we genuinely like is easy. But being kind to complete strangers, or worse—people who are unkind to us—is much, much harder.

It takes a higher level of awareness to actively choose to spread kindness everywhere you go, in some of the most mundane and even unpleasant situations. With practice, however, it gets easier—and you’ll reap the benefits too.

Here are just seven super small and simple ways to be kinder around others, no matter where you are.

 

1. Smile more.

Smiling and frowning are both contagious, so which one would you rather spread? We tend to avoid eye contact and acknowledgment of other people we don’t know when we’re out and about, so why not challenge yourself to break that habit? A friendly smile isn’t creepy or uncomfortable when it’s done from the kindness of your own heart, with no expectation of anything in return.

 

2. Give someone a genuine compliment.

Most people spend the majority of their time living in their own little worlds, failing to notice and acknowledge what they like about other people. Whether you admire the bank teller’s hair color or love the way your partner gives you the best bear hugs, telling them about it can impact them more positively than you might realize.

 

3. Say “thank you,” and mean it.

We’ve all been conditioned to say thank you when we’re on the receiving end of kindness and generosity, but rarely do we ever say it with so much enthusiasm that it really conveys the genuine extent of our gratitude. Next time you have the opportunity to say thank you, don’t be so robotic about it. Instead, say it like you mean it. (Making eye contact and smiling is an added bonus!)

 

4. Be present when interacting with others.

Your full, undivided attention is the greatest gift you can give to anyone. So make sure you put down your phone, shut off the TV, detach from those thoughts about tomorrow’s schedule, stop thinking so much about your self-image, and give people what they deserve when speaking with you—your presence.

 

5. Ask questions.

In Dale Carnegie’s famous self-help book, How to Win Friends & Influence People, one of the best pieces of advice he gives is to always ask other people questions. Turning your focus away from yourself and toward others is one of the easiest ways to get people to like you. When you show that you're genuinely interested in others, they’ll most likely be flattered.

 

6. Set your judgments aside.

We all judge—there’s no sense in denying it. The important thing is to recognize automatic judgments and question them before they cause us to react impulsively. If you can open your mind to the personal struggles that other people may be going through that you may have never experienced yourself, you’ll be far more likely to act compassionately toward them.

 

7. Make small sacrifices to help someone out.

If you’d rather show kindness through action than through words, you can do so with small amounts of time and effort. Here are a few examples:

  • Buying or making a small gift for a loved one
  • Offering to do chores or tasks that usually aren’t your responsibility
  • Paying for a stranger’s coffee who’s standing in line behind you
  • Holding the door open for a stranger
  • Letting the person standing behind you in the checkout line at the grocery store ahead of you if they have fewer items
  • Giving up your seat for somebody else on a crowded public transit route

 

Pick one act of kindness from the list above and challenge yourself to accomplish it every day for the next seven days. You might be surprised how good it will make you feel, and how much kindness it will attract back to you!


10 Things All Yogis Can Be Grateful For to Continually Inspire Their Practice

10 Things All Yogis Can Be Grateful For to Continually Inspire Their Practice

When was the last time you felt truly grateful for your yoga practice?

Yogis are often encouraged by their teachers to practice gratitude while focusing on other areas of their lives (health, family, career, etc.) but one thing that’s easy to overlook is to be grateful for the practice of yoga itself.

Take a few moments to read over the following list of things all aspiring, beginner, intermediate, and advanced yogis can be grateful for and think about how they apply to your own practice.

 

1. The ability to move.

It’s easy to take your body for granted when you live entirely in your mind, but yoga helps put you deeply in touch with the mechanics of your body as well as all the sensations that you may not be aware of. Be grateful for the ability to feel everything you feel as you flex, balance, twist, bend, and contract your muscles in your practice.

 

2. A different experience every time you step onto your mat.

No two yoga sessions are ever the same, even if you perform the exact same set of pose sequences. Every session gives you the opportunity to learn something new about yourself.

 

3. Time to simply be with yourself.

The time you spend on your mat is your “me time.” You can forget about everything you did already and everything you still have to do after you’re done so that you can focus on yourself as you are in the moment.

 

4. The lessons that come with the challenges.

Whether you struggle to convince yourself to get to class after a long day at work or have been trying and trying to master a particular pose, each challenge is unique in your own journey. It always has something to teach you. Keep going, and be grateful for the opportunity to learn from it.

 

5. Progress in personal growth.

Through regular practice, you embark on a journey of growth. Not only will you get physically stronger, but also mentally and emotionally stronger as you surrender to the meditative effect of yoga on the mind.

 

6. Connection to all living things around you.

When yogis say, “Namaste,” what they’re really saying is, “I bow down to the divine spirit within you that connects the both of us as one.” Through your yoga practice, your awareness of the true nature of every living thing will become more clear.

 

7. A naturally effective way to eliminate stress.

There is perhaps no better way to let go than by practicing yoga. Whether it’s physical tension, mental turbulence, or emotional turmoil, stepping on your mat is an effective and healthy way to bring your entire body, mind, and spirit back to a balanced state.

 

8. Grounding in reality.

Speaking of the need to reestablish balance, be sure to appreciate the fact that yoga can help you accomplish this by allowing you to detach from the thoughts flowing through your mind and and start living in the world again as it is. Just because you’re thinking or feeling a certain way does not necessarily mean it’s absolutely true.

 

9. Great self-control.

Yoga enhances self-awareness, which is necessary for exercising good self-control. Be thankful that you have your practice to help you break bad habits and behaviors.

 

10. A way of life.

Finally, all yogis can be grateful for the fact that yoga is far more than just physical exercise or a mental stress reliever. It truly is a lifestyle. From the way that you treat others to the way you respond to unexpected events, your yoga journey helps you every step of the way, and that is something to be seriously grateful for.


Gratitude

Gratitude

November is a time to be deeply grateful. Mother Nature’s descent into hibernation marks the end of another annual cycle, anticipation of the holiday season begins to build among everyone around us, and the impending end of the calendar year begs us to start reflecting on what we experienced.

It’s one thing to simply know that you should be practicing gratitude for the sake of your own well-being, but it’s quite another thing actively be doing it and experiencing its benefits as a direct result. In today’s busy, modern world, it can be difficult for even the most dedicated yogis to regularly make time for a conscious gratitude practice.

Once you start becoming truly aware of the benefits on a deeper level, however, practicing gratitude will feel like much more of a natural habit. If you could use some motivation to start carving out a few minutes every morning or night for a gratitude practice, the following benefits (proven by psychology research) might be just what you need to begin taking it more seriously.

 

Gratitude Is Linked to Better Physical Health

It’s easy to assume that gratitude occurs entirely on a mental and emotional level, and although it certainly starts there, the reality is that the effects extend to the physical level as well. In a study on almost 1,000 Swiss adults ranging in age from teenagers to people in their 80s, researchers found that gratitude helped improve psychological health, which in turn improved physical health. This is because psychologically healthy people were found to engage in healthier habits and activities.

 

Gratitude Leads to Greater Life Satisfaction

It shouldn’t come as a shock that people who tend to be more materialistic are more likely to be depressed and unsatisfied in their lives. In a psychology study on materialists, researchers found that despite materialists’ tendency to achieve more material goals, they are less satisfied than those who practice gratitude. The researchers suspect that decreased satisfaction from achieving material goals without gratitude has a lot to do with how we adapt to what we achieve or possess—driving us to constantly want more in order to feel happier.

 

Gratitude Helps You Feel Better About Yourself

Low self-esteem can affect every area of your life, but practicing gratitude is one way to help boost your self-esteem without seemingly phoney affirmations or overly exaggerated positive self-talk. A sports study found that when athletes focused on gratitude, their self-esteem improved. With improved self-esteem comes decreased comparison against others and increased confidence in one’s ability to perform well.

 

Gratitude Can Help Improve Your Sleep

If you’re ever feeling restless at night due to anxious, uncontrollable thoughts, you may want to consider writing in a gratitude journal before bed. One particular study found that students who spent just 15 minutes journaling about what they were grateful for experienced improvements in sleep quality and length. A gratitude journal can essentially act as a tool to help offset worry and calm the mind for a good night’s rest.

 

Gratitude Can Help Strengthen Relationships

No relationship is perfect, but focusing on the good in the other person and being grateful for who they are/what you have together can pave the way toward increased relationship openness and problem solving. A study found that expressing gratitude toward one’s partner helped enhance positive perception of them, leading to improved comfort in communicating relationship concerns. In other words, when times get tough, gratitude can help the both of you get through it.


5 Ways to Supercharge Your Practice With the Power of Gratitude

5 Ways to Supercharge Your Practice With the Power of Gratitude

Gratitude is the way to happiness. Rather than seeking happiness outside of yourself, which is a trap that almost everyone falls into from time to time, you must cultivate your happiness from within by becoming aware of everything you have already.

While sitting down to journal, meditate, or indulge in some good old self-talk on gratitude is always encouraged, you can also integrate gratitude with yoga by making it the theme of your practice anytime you decide to step onto your mat. Here’s how.

 

Set your agenda aside.

Many yogis start their practice with a goal in mind—to sweat, to destress, to become more flexible, to soothe back pain, to grow stronger, or even to show everyone else how great they are at yoga. But by constantly focusing on acquiring something you think you need to feel satisfied, happy, or more whole, you can’t properly focus on being grateful for what you already have.

For your gratitude practice, give yourself permission to forget your goals. Practice to celebrate and given thanks for the moment as it is.

 

Set an intention for gratitude.

Whether you decide to start your practice in easy pose, thunderbolt pose, mountain pose, downward facing dog, or whatever else, it’s worth consciously taking a few extra moments to call up an intention for gratitude before you transition into the next pose.

For example, you might set an intention to be grateful for the simple opportunity to move your body today, or you might want to intentionally be grateful for a valuable lesson you learned from an emotionally difficult life event.

 

Practice grounding poses.

Gratitude is naturally grounding on its own, but it can always help to facilitate groundedness with certain yoga poses to further inspire a greater sense of gratitude.

Tree pose offers the challenge of balancing to help you calm your mind and surrender to the moment, inspiring you allow your growth to grow and soar toward the sky. Warrior poses also anchor you to the ground and encourage you to be grateful for the strength and focus needed to take on life’s challenges.

 

Do your sun salutations.

Sun salutations are performed to appreciate the energy of the sun and all of the life that depends on its light.

Even on the coldest, windiest, and rainiest days of autumn, you can connect to the sun that’s hiding behind all those clouds and use that connection to stoke your internal fire. With more heat and blood flowing through your body, you’ll find it easier to be grateful for all that you have when the weather seems dull and bleak.

 

Surrender in resting poses.

Once you shift back into child’s pose after an intense sequence or feel your body to melt into the floor in savasana at the end of your practice, allow yourself to surrender to what is. The real power of gratitude comes from surrendering not only to the good things, but to the struggles and challenges of life as well.

So give yourself a few extra moments to sink into the present state of reality in your resting poses. Open yourself what’s already here with you, what you have, and who you really are—and gratitude will naturally fill your heart with more love.

Image via Minoru Nitta