Yoga and Eating?—why yes and it is not what you think!

When I first got my yoga teacher training book list I saw a book I was scared to read/thought it would be triggering….Yoga of Eating by Charles Eisenstein. What I thought would be another book on how to eat like a yogi, or another “diet” book, I wanted to avoid it. I have a hard time reading anything that has to do with eating or “dieting” because of my own issues and how I am navigating my own recovery. I heard from my peers how great the book was, even from one who was in ED recovery too. So I decided to give it a whirl. Boy, was I surprised! This book is great for ED’s. It isn’t about what to eat, but how to eat better with where you are in your “diet” or lifestyle.Eisenstein breaks up the book into a variety of chapters addressing willpower, breath, personality and food, karma, fat, sugar, different kinds of diet, food preperation/cooking, and so much more. He dives deep into each subject and relates it all to his idea of Yoga of Eating. Take mindfulness and love of food and you got Yoga of Eating!

Yoga of Eating has definitely helped me navigate this world of ED recovery and how to approach my lifestyle with happiness and food appreciation. I believe that those of us in recovery and professionals who work with ED patients need to read this book. It can definitely help with perspective and break down some barriers ED sufferers have with food.

Here are some nuggets of food wisdom I found worth sharing:

*”Self-improveent is an appealing but malignant idea, a poignant rejection of our innate goodness. It means that we have accepted and internalized those messages of deficiency, laziness, and sin. Sometimes people take up a strict diet in hopes of therefore being good, deserving, or pure, thus establishing a tendency to withhold from themselves what they really want or need. Even without this tendency, because our conventional dietary recommendations are a confusing mish-mash of shoulds and shouldn’ts that seemingly have little to do with our desires as expressed in the body, a diet of self-improvement inevitably becomes a diet of self-denial. ” (12)

*”You are a symphony of vibrations that encompasses every thought you think, everything you do, everything you eat, everything you are.” (20)

*”The idea of deep breathing is not to impose upon the breath, not to direct it or control it in any way; rather it is the opposite–to liberate the breath, to free it of the constraints already upon it. That is why the foundation of deep breathing is what I call natural breathing…The same joy of liberation applies to diet as well, and equally it requires a release of physical habits and mental habits such as belief systems.” (32-33)

*”The central practice of the Yoga of Eating could not be simpler: to fully experience and enjoy each bite of food.” (41)

*”The benefits of the Yoga of Eating come not from self-denial, but from uninhibited enjoyment of and delight of food. nonetheless, the practice I have described may seem demanding and extreme. Meals, after all, are our main theater of social interaction. Who wants to spend every meal in silence? It would seem that the Yoga of Eating take all the fun out of eating…Why do we use meals for social interactions; for dates, for instance? One reason is that without distractions–such as a meal, a view, an activity, at least a cup of tea–interaction with other people gets uncomfortably intense. True intimacy develops under conditions of silence or joint creativity–and true intimacy is scary and uncomfortable. So, we use various means to keep intimacy at arm’s length, interposing small talk, glances away, facial masks, insincere remarks, little jokes changes of subject, sips of tea…or bites of food. Eating helps us maintain a comfortable distance from one another. Any time things get uncomfortable, you can escape into your food. Moreover, the acts and sensations of eating themselves dull one’s awareness of other presences.” (49)

*”The good news is that when you practice attentive eating, even once a day or less, you progressively {instill} a habit of complete chewing and assimilation of nutritive energies. Eating becomes so enjoyable that it calls to you through the conversations and through the distractions. It is not willpower that draws you back to the eating sensations, but rather the sheer pleasure of the sensations themselves, which begins to overwhelm the allure of distractions. Just as meditation brings serenity and mindfulness to all of life, so also does a daily  practice of attentive eating.” (52)

*”Do not be afraid to let go of a diet when it no longer serves you.” (61)

*”Let your {food choice} be okay, no matter how {shocking} it violates your knowledge of nutrition and good diet and, with full attention, enjoy what there is to enjoy.” (67) (very important for us with ED’s!!!!!)

*Neither does “health worship” reflect a sincere love of the body. there are people, most notably extreme adherents of various dietary philosophies or exercise regimens, who worship bodily health, seeing it as an indication of virtue, and disease as a sign of, or punishment for, some impurity of diet practice.  According to this calculus, the healthy zealot of our scenario is superior to the sick people of the world. He is better than they are. He has found the True Gospel, and will not hesitate to prozelytize. Very often (as with anyone who clings to pride) the result is humiliation–and what could be more humiliating to the health zealot than a serious illness? But even if the health-worshipper never gets sick, what good does his health do? The body is our vehicle for living and acting in the world; it is meant to be used. There is more to health, to wholeness, than mere physical integrity. You have been incarnated as this body for a purpose, and to achieve it your body possesses tremendous strength, resilience, and resources.” (72)

*”Like a young child, your body loves you totally and instinctively. Like a faithful dog, it stays loyal even when you kick and abuse it.” (74)

*In regards to fasting…”It does no good to clean the body without doing any deeper spiritual work.” (80)

*”A healthy diet thus becomes a constant battle between or natural appetites and the received belief that fat is bad.” (89)

*”In Chinese the most common world for fat in describing a person, pang, is never used to describe fat, fei, piece of meat, and I’ve been told this is true in other languages as well.” (90)

* In regards to meat eating/veganism/vegetarianism…”In general, though, to sustain a state of being that is energetically involved in the world, and that is hale, hearty, and humorous, meat is necessary for most people…You may choose to ignore your body’s needs. That’s okay! If you have a physical need for meat but nobly chose a vegan diet out of compassion, that is fine–as long as you can accept with equanimity and without resentment the physical degeneration that may follow. I have known quite a few vegans who have developed some kind of chronic disease or degenerative physical condition…Physical degeneration is virtually assure if the motive for the diet is not entirely compassionate, but tainted with the kind of vanity–a factitious self-image of purity, superiority, or exculpation from the sins of industrial society. Self-righteousness and judgmentality indicate that vanity-love of an image, in this case the image of compassion–has supplanted compassion itself as the motive for eating a vegan diet…Of course there are people who thrive on a vegan diet–most often people who are well-nourished in the spirit, secure and generous, autonomous and nurturing of others. They do not take pride in their diet or derive self-esteem from it. They do not advertise it or urge it indiscriminately on on others; they seldom mention it. They are radiant people. But even these people usually do better with some amount of eggs, butter, milk, and cheese, unless they practice a very monastic lifestyle.” (99)

*”The Yoga of Eating is quite the opposite: that each is the ultimate authority on his or her bodily requirements, and that the body will reveal its requirements given sufficient attention and trust.” (100)

*”Closed off from the experience of sweetness in life, yet hungering for it to the depths of our souls, we turn to the imitation of this sweetness in sugary foods. Sugar does nothing to allay the essential longing, though; at most it temporarily distracts our attention from the soul’s craving for sweetness.” (104)

*”Perhaps sweet foods are here to remind us and reaffirm that yes, life is sweet.” (106)

*”For yoga means union, and the Yoga of Eating extends beyond bodily integrity to encompass every aspect of our individual and collective lives.” (130)

*”Thus the fundamental method and practice of the Yoga of Eating is to listen to your body-soul, trusting the tools of taste, smell, and intuition, not imposing any specific expectations, not expecting any specific results. The results will come themselves. Meanwhile, enjoy the delights so freely available from food, a gift that never ends.” (145)

one-meal

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