Yoga may not be the first thing on your mind while nibbling yummy canapés and enjoying festive holiday cocktails however, it might serve you to invite a bit of yogic wisdom along for the fun. The holidays are a time to enjoy, not a time to count calories but by incorporating mindful eating we may be able to appreciate the festivities even more this year!
In yoga philosophy we try to slow everything down. We connect our minds with our bodies and start eating, breathing and moving in a more conscious way. We learn to find an inner calm amidst all the noise and bustle in our daily lives. The holidays are full of blusterous activity and it's easy to go on autopilot and just indulge in everything in sight. But most of us wake up January 1st less than thrilled about the weight we have gained or how tired, cranky and/or unhealthy we feel.
Again, I am not suggesting that anyone start a diet at this time of year. I actually encourage you to completely enjoy your holiday experience guilt free! What yoga can teach us is to be aware of and grateful for the food that we are eating. It also recommends that we eat healthy, whole, balanced foods and make mindful choices about what and how much we put in our bodies. We try and eat foods that bring us into balance and help us feel energetic. We try not to over indulge in foods that stimulate us too much or foods that are too heavy and make us feel tired and lethargic. So, for the holidays you can experiment with loading up your plate with lots of salad, fruits and veggies and perhaps smaller portions of the heavier holiday fare. Also, drinking water between cocktails is a great way to stay hydrated and prevent hangovers.
Yoga also teaches us that food is energy and that you should eat (when hungry) only the freshest foods prepared with love and again, eaten consciously. This philosophy is being put into practice over the holidays because we are cooking delicious food prepared with love for our friends and our families. This delicious exchange of cooking and nourishing each other can be a very healing and uplifting experience. Freshly cooked or raw foods prepared in a healthy manner will nourish us much more than mass produced, canned, deep fried, frozen or fast food. You will even feel fuller and more satisfied than eating a lot of food with little nutritional value. Begin to ask your body what it really wants and what types of foods serve it best. Your body is very intelligent. Begin to listen to it and begin to notice the effect that different foods have on your body and your emotions. Awareness is key.
You do not have to become a vegetarian to eat like a yogi, you just need to begin to slow down and appreciate what you are eating. Begin to notice your food. Observe and take in the presentation, the shape, the smell and the colors of each dish. Look at your food and try to see it through fresh eyes, as if for the very first time. The food we eat and the fact that we are here eating it are both quite miraculous!
Next, notice the pace of your eating. Do you eat very quickly? If you do, are you fully appreciating the flavors of each dish, of each bite or are you rushing to get to desert sooner? Surely once you get to desert you may not be able to appreciate that either as you will be thinking about the next meal or activity. Stay in the moment while you eat and chew your food very slowly. Try and savor each burst of flavor! See if you can fully experience and relish everything the holidays have to offer. The beautiful lights, the music, the crisp smell of the air, and the people around you. Take everything in as you eat and take a breath or two between bites. You can even try counting to 10 or 15 chews per bite to help make you aware of the pace of your eating.
As yogis we are taught to eat until we are ¾ full, not completely full or stuffed. Again, this has to do with being in touch with our bodies and being awake and aware. It also has to do with the philosophy of not taking more than we need.
It is not uncommon to use food or alcohol to stuff down uncomfortable feelings or anxiety. These uncomfortable feelings do arise around the holiday season and can be triggered by stress, loneliness, loss and family dynamics. Try to see the big picture and stay with your uncomfortable feelings without overeating or drinking to numb them...I know this is easier said than done. I have found myself overindulging on the holidays for the same reasons. It is easy to overeat or drink too much when uncomfortable feelings arise. But, just being aware of them is a great start. You don't have to push uncomfortable feelings away or stuff them down with food. Instead you can accept, embrace and try to be compassionate with them. Treat your feelings in the same manner you would nurture a child or someone you care for deeply. Know that these feelings are fleeting and will pass. Of course ongoing depression should be treated and family conflicts are best resolved away from big gatherings.
As always, it helps to take long, slow, deep breaths. Check out my blog "Yoga Tips for Staying Centered During the Chaotic Holiday Season," for some simple breathing techniques.
Wishing you a Yummy Happy Holiday Season!
Published On: December 20, 2010