"Yoga is not about touching your toes, it is what you learn on the way down." -Jigar Gor

For many individuals all over the world, yoga is understood as simple stretches and basic exercises. Nevertheless, for some of the most devout, yoga is a lifestyle that should be taken seriously.

It is important to state that seriously practising yoga is a lifestyle that has become increasingly common in the UK, other parts of Europe, and the world. 

Not many people realize that correctly practising yoga involves more than just exercise. A serious diet change is undergone by many yogis since they realize that food is a driving force behind a lot of the things that people do; whether we’re mixing flavours to create new combinations or trying different types of cooking, yogis believe that food has the power to breathe new life into yoga and mindfulness meditation.

Without further ado, in today's article, Superprof is here to instruct new ones about what is yoga and why it is so appealing to many. Also, for yogis who have many years of experience, we will further discuss the necessary diet to achieve the best results.

What Exactly is Yoga?

"Yoga is 99% practice and 1% theory." -Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois

While yoga has been on the rise for the past few years, many people still do not fully understand what is involved in the exercise or practise of yoga.

Even veteran yogis who regularly attend yoga classes are sometimes perplexed by the things they are asked to do by the instructor!

Well, for starters, in layman's terms yoga is a group of physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines.

Originated in India around 3000 BC, many stone-carved figures of yoga postures can be found in the Indus Valley depicting the original poses and exercises performed by the first practitioners.

Yoga was first developed as a way to achieve harmony between the heart and the soul on the path to enlightenment. The word yoga means union and many people in modern times have confused yoga with the system of bodily movements which is Hatha yoga; however, it is much more spiritual than that.

While practising true yoga is an extremely spiritual experience, along the way the physical movements and poses of yoga have been proven beneficial in curing diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure, and alleviating physical injuries and chronic pains.

It is important to state that there are many distinct types of yoga such as Hatha, Raja, Bhakti, Jnana, Kriya, and Karma that are practised in yoga studios all over the world. 

The practices and popularity of yoga primarily remained in India until yoga gurus introduced it to the western world following the success of Swami Vivekananda, an Indian Hindu monk, in the late 19th century and early 20th century.

As of present day, many books, articles, movies, and Youtube channels are dedicated to helping curious individuals master the art of yoga stretches. The abundance of information about yoga has peaked the intrigue of many and made yoga one of the most appealing physical exercises of the 21st century.

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The Appeal of Yoga

learning yoga at a school
The appeal of yoga has resulted in the opening of many yoga studios across the western world. (Source: Unsplash)

Yoga is a rich and complete sporting activity that has attracted millions from all over the world; many reports have shown that yoga has significantly grown in popularity in the last few years in developed countries such as the US and the UK.

There are hundreds of yoga studios across the UK with thousands of members.

Most Brits can recognise the yoga studios located near their home as places of significant interest where health & wellness are encouraged. Yoga instructors inspire yoga enthusiasts to eat right and adopt a healthier lifestyle; which intrigues UK citizens to consider attending classes.

However, it is important to state that even though the vast majority of UK citizens are aware of the benefits of yoga along with eating healthy, especially before and after exercise, not that many manage to eat right or stick to the continual practise of yoga.

Furthermore, even though the regular practice of yoga can incite any individual to eat right, that is not all of its appeals; yoga has attracted people from all walks of life for its promise to help all find both their inner and outer peace. Distinct styles of yoga such as Kundalini yoga, Nidra yoga, Ayurveda yoga, or prenatal yoga make it a perfect exercise that fits the needs of all people.

In the beginning, many do not understand that yoga isn't just about attending classes and improving your flexibility through yoga postures such as the sun salutation or downwards dog. The serious practice of yoga includes other fundamental aspects such as opening a certain chakra through guided meditation and chanting a mantra or working on your breathing techniques during your spare time. 

The benefits of yoga are so numerous that there are plenty of different types of yoga focusing on unique aspects that will be beneficial to individual parts of the body.

Many individuals enjoy working on a new pose that is also known as an asana, practising their breath control or pranayama, and going through a healing routine designed to give you a deeper understanding of your mind, body, and spirit; all of these experiences draw new people regularly to yoga exercises since their lives are stressful and they are looking for an effective way to relax and unwind.

Alright, so now you're sold on the idea of yoga, and want to start attending classes immediately; is there additional information that should be acquired?

Well, experienced yogis understand that many dietary aspects need to be considered to practise yoga successfully. We will now take a look at why we should think about our food when practising yoga, creating a balanced diet, and what to eat before and after a yoga session.

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Why Should We Think About Our Food When Practising Yoga?

Yoga is not just about stretches and breath control; it is an entirely spiritual experience that has been likened to an art and a science.

How so? 

Yoga is a science since it offers practical methods for controlling the body and the mind and yoga is an art because if not practised sensitively it will only boast partial results.

Also, since yoga focuses on connecting the mind and the soul, eating is also an important aspect to consider since you need to be aware that what you eat controls what we’re capable of and how our body functions. After all, 'you are what you eat' and what you put on your plate and needs to benefit the body. Therefore, the flavours need to work, and the nutritional value of the food should be thoroughly planned and understood.

According to yogis, you can’t have a healthy soul without a healthy body and the food consumed daily will dictate what can be done and, thus, what we eat is part of mindfulness.

Knowing how to blend different flavours and putting the right nutrients into your body is an essential part of the yogic practice and needs to be carefully thought about for the following reasons:

  • To eat more ecologically and responsibly,
  • To stay true to your convictions of veganism or vegetarianism,
  • To lose weight and be the size you've always wanted to be,
  • To respect religious traditions and customs,
  • To get the most out of sports and exercise training,
  • To take care of your body and have it feel healthy,
  • To practise mindfulness.

Thus, as you’ll have understood from the previous description, yoga and healthy eating are two peas in a pod. However, what will I make to have balanced meals while practising yoga?

Well, have no fear Superprof is here! There are plenty of different food items that can be put on your plate and exciting recipes to try. Nevertheless, it is essential to state that some food choices are more enjoyable than others; the option is yours!

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Creating Balanced Meals When Doing Yoga

learning to eat healthy
Creating and eating delicious and balanced meals is an essential aspect of practising yoga. (Source: pixabay)

Just like any other exercises or sporting activity, eating well will boost the overall results which mean that if yogis want to reach their goals, they need to consume balanced meals regularly.

But, how does one achieve balanced by eating?

Well, for beginner yogis to fully understand, it's all about balancing flavours and ingredients so that when you’re doing any form of yoga, Kundalini yoga or Iyengar yoga, you’re getting the most out of the entire experience.

Yogis need to keep in mind that when preparing dishes for themselves or others, paying attention to how to blend flavours, textures, colours, and nutrients is of the utmost importance. 

Simply put, after a long workout or tiresome day at the office, there’s nothing more appealing to the eyes than looking at a balanced dish you’ve just made that features all the necessary nutrients to keep practising yoga in style!

When practising yoga, balance is needed in your eating habits since it would be very rash to eat sweets and crisps somedays and healthy meals on others. It’s essential that yogis balance their meals in terms of calories and nutrition; a bit like when you balance yourself during yoga. It is important to remember that this doesn’t mean that you need to get the best protein powders or the most calories for your body; the vital thing is to be aware of what you eat and how it can affect your body negatively or positively.

Welcome to the world of yogic cooking!

Using Mindfulness During Food Preparation

It’s a widespread fact that most of us don’t pay enough attention to what we eat and what we put in our bodies. By developing unhealthy eating habits, we cause our bodies to establish unwanted diseases, and the threat of catching any sickness becomes more prevalent than ever before.

Just like when you practise yoga and are aware of your body and how to coordinate it, carefully combining simple ingredients such as coriander, ginger, and garlic can create some beautiful and balanced flavours. 

It is essential to state that if you don’t want any aches and pains the following day, you need to pay attention to what you put into onto your plate and into your body. Being aware of what you're eating is essential to understand your eating habits better. For example, ask yourself why you’re eating more meat than you usually do and try to work out a practical solution.

Since food is the fuel for your body, mind, and spirit, think about each and every meal and be mindful of what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and how you’re doing it.

Eating habits reflect a person's shape, health, and lifestyle. Also, for a lot of people, what they eat can also improve their mental and physical wellbeing.

Yoga is a complete discipline that works on your whole body and food plays a spiritual and nutritional role. Whether you’re doing yoga for kids, raja yoga, sutra yoga, it’s vital that you eat well; be mindful of your eating habits!

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What Should be Eaten Before a Yoga Session?

the best foods
Smoothies are great to be consumed before any yoga class. (Source: pixabay)

Most experienced yogis have heard the debates about whether it is a wise decision to eat before yoga sessions since many poses put a lot of pressure on the abdominal muscles. Nevertheless, it is essential to state that many Westerners run to yoga classes before or after work and it would not be brilliant to go to a yoga class starving with your stomach growling.

Therefore, it is essential to state that eating certain food items before yoga sessions significantly improve performance and prevent embarrassing moments of stomach noises. 

But, what should I eat before yoga classes?

Do not fret, Superprof has found the following best foods that should be consumed before a yoga class:

  • Avocados: many yogis love avocados so introducing this fruit into their diet before classes will be no challenge. Avos are excellent sources of potassium and magnesium which contribute to the proper function of muscles and cells in the human body. They are also easy to digest and keep you full for quite a long time. Avocado toast anyone?
  • Fruit Smoothies: need something healthy to consume on the run? Smoothies are the perfect solution for all yogis. Smoothies provide adequate nutrients and hydrate at the same time. Sweet fruits such as bananas, strawberries, pineapple, apples, oranges, and melons can be combined with low-fat yoghurt to create the perfect breakfast.
  • Apples: probably the most popular alkaline fruit, apples help counter acidity developing in the stomach and are a great source of fibre, natural sugars, and vitamin C. Apples are also high fruits to keep your body hydrated during a strenuous workout.
  • Almonds: eating raw almonds, not the salty ones, is a great idea to give yogis the energy boost needed before yoga sessions. Almonds are high in protein, vitamin E, magnesium, and healthy fats; a fantastic combination of nutrients that boasts only the best results.

While the previously mentioned food items are the most highly recommended to be consumed before yoga near me sessions by experts, other foods such as raisins, oatmeal, berries, nut butter, dried fruits, and energy bars are all great options that should be seriously considered.

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What Should be Eaten After Performing Yoga?

After a strenuous yoga session, it is not uncommon to be sweaty, exhausted and hungry; doesn't it sound fun?

Even though you are starving and the nearest McDonald's is tempting, it is of the highest importance to indulge in foods that have plenty of nutrients, healthy fats, lean proteins, and beneficial calories.

Therefore, what should be consumed after a yoga class? 

Superprof has searched the internet far and wide to find the following foods or meals that come highly recommended by yoga experts to consume after a yoga workout:

  • Homemade Vegetable Soup: after spending time burning hundreds of calories at the yoga studio, it is time for a nice meal, and practically nothing is as nutritious as a vegetable soup. Soups are great since they can be made at a previous time and warmed up on the spot. Many people enjoy adding carrots, celery, potatoes, spinach, swiss chard, broccoli, and cabbage with a little black pepper and ginger to flavour. Making your soup is much healthier than buying a readymade one since they are usually filled with way too much sodium.
  • Whole Grain Toast with Scrambled Egg Whites: if you are attending early morning yoga classes before work, whole grain toast and scrambled egg whites make a fantastic post-workout breakfast. The egg whites contain only protein and no cholesterol, and the whole grain bread is filled with complex carbohydrates that will ensure you to stay energised for quite some time.
  • Tuna: any fish that is high in protein offers your body the energy-giving nutrients it needs. Canned salmon or tuna can be made into healthy sandwiches that can be consumed after an intense yoga session to give your body the protein it needs and deserves to be ready for the next great adventure or workout.
  • Green Tea: while it is true that green tea is a drink and not a food, it is worthy of attention since it has so many fantastic health benefits. Since yoga increases blood circulation, the critical antioxidants present in green tea get circulated throughout the body and also act as a stress buster.

Along with the previously mentioned food items, high levels of water should be drunk to promote a healthy recovery before the next yoga session and avoid dehydration.

The Importance of Food Selection for Yoga Practitioners

Many yogis believe that silent reflection is useful for carefully choosing what you’re going to eat; by doing this, a great choice can be made on consuming the rawest food possible and experiencing the real taste of natural produce.

Just as you pay attention to what type of ingredients you get, you should also pay attention to when you’re eating them by bringing what you’ve learnt from yoga into the act of chewing; what’s better than paying attention to what you’ve prepared by focusing on them when you chew them.

The repetitive action of chewing may seem unimportant for many, but for yogis, it is a way to become aware of your body but also a great way to awaken your spirit.

Also, it is worthwhile to moderate your intake of food and prioritise quality over quantity. Yogic food builds on the idea that eating is an important activity and that overloading your plates is counterproductive to focus on special diets.

You need to allow your body the time to ingest food, absorb nutrition, and enjoy flavours.

Finally, think about vegetarian and vegan cuisine since some of the most fundamental beliefs of yoga include non-violence and the prevention of suffering. Also, it is essential to state that yogis think ethically about their food choices and since yoga is a vibrant discipline that brings together the mind, body, and spirit, it can lead to vegetarianism and veganism.

While there’s not any exceptional yogic food, there are plenty of diets that are the result of the yoga mindset and treat eating as an essential activity that involves reflection and thinking about many important things.

Whether you do hatha yoga, ashtanga yoga, vinyasa yoga, or Iyengar yoga, you need to think about the holistic philosophy of yoga. 

In conclusion, it is essential to state that while your yoga teacher will probably focus on relaxation, restorative yoga poses, ways to strengthen your mind body and spirit, and finding happiness as you relax on a yoga mat, there's nothing stopping you from asking them about some of the best recipes they make at home. They will be glad to share their eating experiences if it helps their students become more complete yoga practitioners.

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Joseph is a French and Spanish to English translator, language enthusiast, and blogger.