How to Eat Like a Yogi

The wisdom of Yoga not only brings you inner peace and balance — it also can guide you to eat in a healthful fashion for yourself, your global neighbors, and the planet. This list offers you suggestions to a healthful approach to food and eating, organized by a handful of essential Yoga principles.

Do no harm: Ahimsa

Ahimsa focuses on nonviolence and nonharming. It also encompasses attitudes of kindness, friendliness, and consideration of other people and things. Green Yoga extends this consideration to the well-being of Earth — and, thus, our food selections.

  • Consider vegetarianism: For many people, eating in a nonharming way means being a vegetarian. Not everyone desires or thrives on a vegetarian diet, though, and you can make other wise food choices while still including animal products.

  • Choose your food wisely: Consider the impact your food choices have on both the planet and your own personal health. For instance, when eating fish, select species that haven’t been overfished, aren’t farmed (farmed fish damage the health of the species and others), and have a high mercury load. Also try to select foods that haven’t been genetically modified — GMOs limit biodiversity, which threatens global food security, and their safety for human consumption hasn’t been established.

Don’t take more than your share: Asteya

When you practice asteya, you don’t take what doesn’t belong to you. The large environmental footprint of much of our food, as well as wasteful practices and habits, simply means there’s less to go around for all the world’s people.

  • Minimize food waste: The United Nation says that just a quarter of the food wasted globally would be enough to feed the 870 million people who lack enough to eat. Although much of the waste takes place during production and distribution, it’s worthwhile to consider what goes into your grocery cart and onto your plate, as well as what food policies your elected representatives support.

  • Share the wealth: Consider the good you can do by diverting some of what you spend on luxuries (such as your daily latte) to a local food bank. You know the old saying, “Live simply so that others may simply live.”

Play fair: Aparigraha

Aparigraha refers to taking only what’s necessary. When you’re wasteful with food and water, you’re not practicing aparighaha. You may be putting others in a disadvantaged position, even unintentionally.

  • Acknowledge your membership in the global community. When you eat lower on the food chain, you leave more food and nourishment for others. Specifically, this approach means eating less meat and more plants. (You’ll be healthier for it, too.) If you do eat meat, avoid eating meat from animals that have been factory raised and fed antibiotics; those practices create strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, so these powerful medicines won’t be available to people with life-threatening illness.

  • Factor in the resources required to produce the food you eat. Consider the true cost of a hamburger: It may cost only $4 at the local fast food restaurant, but a Quarter Pounder requires more than 3 pounds of grain to feed the cow that became the burger. How many mouths could those 3 pounds of grain feed?

Know yourself and the world you live in: Svadhyaya

Svadhyaya means “self-study” and “reflection.” In its literal sense, it refers to studying the ancient texts. In the larger context of living, it’s a reminder that you’re part of the web of life and the world around you. Food choices that take into account our inter-connectedness are healthier all around.

  • Make discerning food choices. Consider how advertising impacts your decisions at the grocery story and in restaurants. Make your food selections based on what’s wholesome and healthful, not based on product placement.

  • Tune in to what your body is telling you. Do you know when you’re hungry and when you’re full? We’re all born with a natural ability to self-regulate our food intake, but many people lose it in childhood when they’re told to “clean your plate because children are starving in [fill in the blank].” Allow yourself to tune in to what your body is telling you: Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full.

Cultivate contentment: Samtosha

Samtosha refers to feeling content with what we have. As applied to life, if you wish for things to be different, instead of pining or complaining, learn from the situation and do something different next time. As applied to enjoying a healthy relationship with your food and having a healthy body, focus on savoring each morsel that touches your lips.

  • Truly enjoy your food. When you truly enjoy what you eat and savor the flavors in each bit, you’re likely to eat less because you reap more satisfaction per morsel. And while you’re stopping to smell the roses, slow down to smell your food. Smell is a big part of taste and contributes to our enjoyment of it. If you were unable to smell, you wouldn’t taste much.

  • Bring consciousness to how you eat. Chewing your food more enhances your ability to taste it and also aids the digestion process that starts in your mouth. Wait before you reach for seconds: Your brain needs about 20 minutes to know that your belly is full. Waiting is especially important at buffet-style restaurants, where you have seemingly endless choices and limitless quantities.

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