When done with conscious intention, eating is a sacred act. Unfortunately in our society, we often chomp down like animals without taking the time to be grateful for our food, or prepare and eat it mindfully.
Eating nourishes us and gives us life. It brings families and communities together. When done with intention, it’s a wonderful and important part of a conscious lifestyle.
The yogic lifestyle recommends setting an intention around mealtimes using the guidelines below for better digestion, nourishment, and health.
Food gives us life, but in our busy world, it’s easy to forget the gifts we receive from our food. On occasions when you are cooking—whether for just yourself or an entire community—do so with love. Chanting and praying over your food as you're cooking and getting ready to eat raises the vibration of your food, giving you increased nourishment and healing for your body. Take a minute and say a simple prayer of gratitude before you dine. You'll be amazed what these simple, mindful rituals will do for your overall eating experience.
The food we eat is the fuel that nourishes our bodies, so it’s important to choose food that supports our wellbeing without overtaxing the digestive system. Do your best to avoid packaged, processed food and whenever possible, eat whole foods. While it’s ideal to eat fresh and organic if possible, this is not always available in many communities and circumstances. Do your best with what you have, and over time, aim to make gradual changes, or get involved with your local growers to make healthy food more accessible to more people.
According to Ayurveda, the sister science of yoga, it is recommended that cooking your food before eating also helps with the digestive process. The heat of the food helps increase your own digestive fire, and cooking takes away a lot of the extra digestive processing the stomach has to go through when eating raw.
According to Ayurveda, how you eat is sometimes more important than what you eat. When we’re distracted or rushed during meal time, we’re not fully present and may not even recognize when we’re full.
A great practice when eating is to only focus on your food (no TV or work in front of you), eat slowly, and chew more than you think you need to. After all, your stomach doesn’t have teeth! The mixing of saliva with your food as you chew is also an important step for proper digestion.
It takes 10-20 minutes for the stomach to tell the brain it’s full, so it’s best to stop eating when you’re almost full to allow for that lag time. This will help prevent bloating and digestive issues. Overeating can cause weight gain, toxicity buildup in the body, and over time it can lead to disease.
Making your eating time a ritual practice can help both your digestion and mental state. Whether you have an hour or five minutes, you can still create a sacred place within yourself to eat with intention, even if your environment is not exactly serene. Making small changes such as eating outdoors, or putting your device away, can have powerful benefits.
If possible, it’s ideal not to rush off or dive straight into work after eating. Just like after a yoga practice, it’s helpful to ease into the rest of your day and give your body time to integrate by taking some time to rest after eating. This helps the digestive system work properly because your body’s energy and attention are available to help it do its job.
Ayurveda recommends eating a smaller dinner than lunch, and to do so before sunset if possible. This gives your body plenty of time to digest the food before bed so you have less digestive disturbance in sleep and can rest easier. The digestive fire is also lower at night, so it’s best not to give your body too much food during this time.
Before you eat, your body starts the digestive process with hunger and salivation. This is typically sparked by habit. If you allow yourself to eat meals around the same time everyday, your body will remember and start to prepare for digestion, before you even put a single morsel in your mouth.
That being said, it’s also important to eat only when you’re hungry. So if your routine says it's time to eat but you’re not hungry, listen to your body and wait until you’re truly ready to eat. If you’re eating when you’re not hungry, ask yourself why you’re eating. Is it emotional? Are you seeking comfort? Are you bored? Consider trying another healthy activity to substitute unnecessary snacking.
We’re all human, and life happens! Whether it’s stress or over-eating at a holiday meal, it’s good to accept that it’s normal to not be perfect. If you eat too much, you can try going on a walk, drinking tea with ginger, fennel, or other spices, or sitting on the heels in Rock Pose for a few minutes, which supports the body’s posture to digest quickly.