Eat Like a Yogi

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Staying at an ashram in the Himalayas taught me a lot about eating. Not just the food itself, but how and why we eat the way we do, and the impact on our emotions and bodies. In the run up to my trip, I read on the ashram’s website that they follow a ‘Sattvic’ diet. I had no idea what that meant, but the list of no-no’s seemed to be a yogic approach: no meat, fish, alcohol or coffee, very little dairy – until we got to no spices, garlic or onions. That struck me as odd – how ‘bad’ could they be? But it seemed a minor detail as I was in the throes of jabs, malaria pills, what to pack and how to actually get there. I was ready to embrace ashram life (living in basic accommodation, spartan eating, sharing the chores….). Even so, alarm bells did ring a little when a previous student (I was going to do the same yoga Teacher Training programme at the ashram) emailed to say she’d been hungry most of the time she was there. With two big yoga sessions a day, no wonder. She advised me to pack my favourite snacks and I duly lined my case with trail mix, 9 Bars and Green & Black’s.

The word diet in the Western world has come to mean weight loss. Having worked on glossy magazines for years, I cringe, but know only too well the selling power of a ‘lose half a stone in a week’ cover line. It pushes our buttons because, let’s face it, many of us do over eat and need (or more often want) to shed a few pounds. Trouble is, modish quick fixes promise a lot and deliver little and we end up back where we started or worse.

Practising yoga has put me more in touch with my appetite and what my body needs, giving me an ‘eat and enjoy everything in moderation’ approach. The only thing I have cut out of my diet is meat. This was no dramatic statement – it just happened because it felt right. About 12 years ago, I went on a serious detox involving waking up to a tablespoon of olive oil, taking psyllium husk, sipping pressed apple juice in between colonics and no solid food for 4 days. It was worth it – the after effects were enlightening. I’d never felt so ‘clean’ from the inside. I managed to cut out sugar, sticking to pure whole foods for a while, and haven’t wanted to eat meat since. So I wasn’t afraid of the ashram diet (backed up with my own supplies!) and was looking forward to the complete change of eating habits I was sure it would bring. Read More…