Rox Does Yoga

Yoga, Wellness, and Life

Yoga guidelines: when to eat? May 13, 2011

Filed under: reflections,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 2:28 pm
Tags: , ,

Let’s talk about food. The yoga guidelines that N & J gave me include #5, “Practice on an empty stomach.” I find this remarkably difficult, partly because I’m always hungry, and partly for practical reasons.

Before starting teacher training, I usually practiced yoga in the morning before work. F and I would get up, make breakfast, eat together, and then I’d do yoga while he took the first shower. Our usual breakfast is a bowl of cereal and a fresh fruit smoothie, so it’s not a heavy meal, but it’s still definitely a meal. Only occasionally did I find that the food was sloshing around in my belly or otherwise making yoga practice uncomfortable. I’m just the kind of person who needs to eat first thing in the morning, period. If I get up early and don’t eat right away, I’m likely to feel ill. It’s just the way I’m built, so for me if I’m going to do yoga in the morning I need to eat something first.

Now that I’m doing the training, I still sometimes practice yoga in the morning, but I also go to hatha yoga class after work at least one day a week. This throws my whole schedule into disarray. Instead of getting up early and doing yoga, I’ll now take the first shower and get to work early, so that I can leave early, so that I can eat something for dinner before going to a 6:15 yoga class. The 6:15 class runs until 7:30, which in reality ends up being closer to 7:45, and by the time I collect my things and drive home it’s after 8:15. Add time to prepare myself a healthy meal and it’d be after 9 PM by the time I was eating. My usual dinner time is around 7:00-7:30, which is smack in the middle of yoga class. I cannot wait to have dinner until after 9 at night. First of all, I would be starving and exhausted, and secondly, it’s not really very healthy to eat a meal before going to bed. Researchers say that it’s best to finish eating before 8 PM. I feel like my only option is to eat at 5:15 or so.

I brought some of these concerns up at the last training weekend. N says that, ideally, we would practice yoga on an empty stomach, but really you just don’t want to have a very full stomach when practicing. I can appreciate that; nobody wants to go out to a nice restaurant and then practice yoga, or practice yoga on Thanksgiving night. You can’t stretch when you’re stuffed, it’d be too uncomfortable. N further said that, ideally, we would all make lunch our main meal of the day. I have to say that, unless sandwiches and pre-packaged frozen meals are one’s idea of a “main meal”, that it’s really hard to make lunch the main meal of the day while working a full-time job. No matter what kind of job it is, if you’re in an office or a hospital or a factory, you just can’t cut out for 2+ hours at midday to go home and cook yourself a healthy lunch. There are many good things to pack for lunch, yes, but it just doesn’t feel like the “main meal” to me if I’m not cooking something. And financially, it’s not feasible to buy a hot meal for lunch every day, and eating out is proven to be less healthy than cooking at home anyway.

This turned out to be a pretty grumpy post, which wasn’t my intention. I just feel frustrated by the constraints of being a yogini in the world, I think. As J says, it would be easy to do yoga if you lived in a cave or an ashram all the time, but it’s hard to do yoga in the world. Living in a cave or an ashram, you could certainly arrange things to have lunch be your main meal of the day and set up your yoga practice to fall conveniently at an appropriate interval of hours after eating. But that’s a lot harder to do in the world, when you have to consider work schedules and commute times and, god forbid, dropping off small people at activities like soccer practice. You eat when you can, is what I’m saying, because we have to eat, and you fit your yoga in when you can, because you deserve to have your yoga. You try to be careful about what you eat before yoga (a salad or a pork chop? let’s go salad), but sometimes you just have to do your best and that’s all you’ve got.

What are your thoughts on this? I’m really interested to hear what you have to say about how you structure your day and fit both healthy eating and yoga into your schedule.

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