Yoga? On a food blog? Through the words of Cher Horowitz, “As if!” I know what you’re thinking: this is supposed to be a food blog. Where are all the cool recipes!? Don’t worry they are on the way! I’ve been revamping my kitchen and haven’t had much time or space to cook. Please bear with me!
If you didn’t know already, I’m an avid yogi. I’m the first person to tell you that practicing yoga completely changed my life. I’m so passionate about it that I even guest posted about yoga on one of my friend’s blogs. But today, I want to talk about yoga in a different light. I want to talk about how yoga or rather any fitness/exercise plan is a crucial component to your journey and relationship with food. More importantly, I want to talk about how by making the right food choices, you’re doing something so much greater than losing weight, toning up, or getting healthy. You are honoring your body and respecting yourself.
Ahimsa: The Ultimate State of Respect
In yoga, there are hundreds of Sanskrit terms to describe various postures, feelings, or states of being. One of the most important is the concept of ahimsa, or non-violence. While I’m sure there are dozens of articles and books going more in depth about this concept, the main idea is tolerance and respect. This means practicing non-violence to others and respecting them. When you release an insect from your home instead of haphazardly squashing it, that is ahimsa. When you offer your seat to an old gentleman on the bus, that is ahimsa. Even when you lie, and tell a loved one that the sub par meal they toiled over all day was fantastic, that is ahimsa.
There are numerous benefits to practicing non-violence, non-judgment, and tolerance. I’d be underestimating my readers if they didn’t already have some idea. Perhaps one of the most overlooked effects of ahimsa is good karma,
a big deal in the yoga world. In other words, treat others with respect and you will be respected. Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. What good thoughts and deeds go around will come around.
I’ve noticed some people who practice ahimsa well with others often fail to practice ahimsa with themselves. They may respect and tolerate others, but often they allow negative thoughts and behaviors to consume themselves. With all of our responsibilities and daily tasks, sometimes your most violent enemy is yourself. By spending tedious hours overworking at the office, by committing to too many responsibilities, we overwhelm ourselves with compulsive and negative thoughts that only hinder our progress and success in this world. Thus, practicing ahimsa is a life-long journey; it takes a lifetime to truly learn and appreciate yourself.
Practicing Ahimsa With Your Food
So how does Ahimsa tie in to food, nutrition, and an overall healthy lifestyle? Ahimsa actually comes into play a lot:
What kind of food are you choosing?
Are you choosing foods that are healthy for you? When you choose unhealthy foods loaded with artificial ingredients, chemicals, refined sugar, or trans fats, you’re doing your body a disservice. You aren’t honoring your body and your body’s needs for healthy sources of nourishment. The next time you reach for a cookie or buffalo wing, keep the practice of ahimsa in mind. Is what you’re eating momentarily appetizing, but ultimately self-destructive?
You can also practice ahimsa by buying and consuming foods that are made non-violently and with respect. For instance, choose organic/free range meats as opposed to meats grown in cruel and inhumane conditions–or even skip meat altogether. Go for fruits and vegetables that are grown organically and without chemicals that damage and dis-respect the earth. This also applies to restaurants and food companies. Are you buying burgers and fries from companies that disrespect their employees and refuse to raise the minimum wage? Or are you eating at restaurants that support organic farming and sustainable energy sources like Founding Farmers? Use your dollar to make an economical and political statement!
How are you eating your food?
What habits have you developed when you eat? Do you eat standing or while watching TV? Do you reach for unhealthy foods during time of distress, and emotionally eat? Do you overeat during festive times, getting caught up in the excitement? Of course, no one is perfect, myself included. But when you tie food to emotional cues or behaviors, you’re violating and disrespecting your body. The next time you eat, try to have a respectful and non-judgmental attitude. Ask yourself, “what foods should I eat now if I want to nourish my body?” I know it sounds weird, and might need some getting used to, but if you approach meals with positive thoughts and affirmations, you’ll want to eat foods that affect your body positively. No longer will you be worried about calorie contents or fat grams or any of the other stupid metrics fad diets encourage you to track. If you follow your intuition and simply make healthy choices, your health goals will happen naturally over time.
No one said practicing ahimsa was easy. After all, it’s one of the highest virtues in Hinduism, and only a handful of true disciples have mastered this concept. I myself struggle with practicing ahimsa on a daily basis. But that shouldn’t discourage you from trying! Learning to love and respect yourself is one of the hardest, but most rewarding journeys. Use your attitudes towards food and getting healthy as a tool to facilitate this process!