19 Aug Food and Yoga – Get Your Chit Together!
Teaching as frequently as I do, I get to see all the little tendencies and habits that some of us maintain… like running through the door in the final minute before class starts. But that’s not what this article is about, rather a plea to you for your own health – don’t mix food and yoga – don’t eat before yoga! It’s time to get your chit together – but what does that mean? ‘Chit’ (or ‘Cit’) is sanskrit for consciousness or awareness, a pretty important factor when practicing yoga!
The rules have been simple for thousands of years – if you’re going to practice Hatha yoga, one is recommended to not eat within four hours of practice. This timeframe, however, depends on how fast the foods get digested in the stomach. Water will take 15-20 minutes, fruits 30-40 minutes, light meals may take two hours and heavy meals high on fat content and spices may take three or more hours to fully digest. While the above times could be used as a general guide, I personally believe empty is best. I avoid snacking within two hours of practice and endeavour to practice before breakfast or at least four hours after any meal.
Digestion requires huge amounts of our bodies’ energy, so a full belly (or any food in the digestive system!) can disrupt your yoga practice. Performing yoga poses, particular in a hot room, also requires a significant amount of energy – ultimately affecting the body’s ability to digest properly. Digestive issues today are one of the main culprits of disease and depression. Whilst practicing with food in the digestive system, we risk pinching off portions of the gastrointestinal tract and the food can push outwards (hydrostatic pressure), causing damage to the delicate tissue of the tract.
If blood sugar level is low, a common justification, a sweet drink may be useful before class – particularly if you are diabetic or hypoglycaemic. Please consult a health professional to be safe and wise with regards to your eating habits before practice.
Alternatively, when we practice on an empty stomach, we allow for the body to start expending calories from fat stores. If we have food in the stomach, we need to first use energy to burn off the blood sugar calories, thereby decreasing our ability to lose weight (if that’s your thing!).
Other considerations may include the fact that your stomach doesn’t know the difference between a sandwich and a snack – it just knows food and instantly fires off pepsins and hydrochloric acid into the gut. To put it simply, bending and twisting won’t feel the same as if you were empty!
Another issue that comes into play when digesting during class is gas – not so funny for anyone in nose distance of you! I often find myself walking to safety after a gas bomb has silently been released. And sure, some might say that you’re not human if you haven’t farted in a yoga class. So let’s remember that truth – we are not human, we are Divine. Yogis smell pleasant because of their attention to a healthy life, so let’s commit to living that healthy life!
Finally, it’s always best to visit the loo before practice and let go of what you can. As you know, everything comes and goes – the sooner you let it go the more you can move and flow. Let it go to live in flow! J
Treat your body with respect and no doubt your practice will become easier and more enjoyable – alongside your life.
About Keenan Crisp
Meet Keenan – he’s our resident traditional yogi who has travelled the world studying yoga under many of the world’s most regarded teachers and Swamis. Keenan fuses together this technical and traditional background with warmth and love in every class he teaches, delivering a unique, nurturing and memorable experience each time.