We set new intensions regarding our work, family time, leisure and yes of course, our diets.
Year after year I hear many students, friends, family and clients tell me that this year they are going to make a change to the way they eat.
And year and after year around New Years they resolve to make that same intension again.
I know this. I have been there. That was until I decided to use my relationship to food as my spiritual practice.
A long time ago I thought that my spiritual practice only counted if I sat on the cushion or practiced on my yoga mat. Now of course that is part of it, but ultimately we want to bridge our ability to stay present not only on the mat but also in all of our life, and the kitchen is a wonderful place to practice.
Using your relationship to food AS a spiritual practice can be one of the most rewarding ways to “wake up” in this lifetime. And the opportunity comes often right? I mean we are going to eat at least once a day, if not 2,3, 4 or even 5 times. As a result we might even end up with better health, a stronger body, more energy and ultimately freedom (from suffering.)
I tell my students and clients “ How you eat is how you do your life, “ (I also heard Geneen Roth, author of Women, Food and God say something just like that).
Here are 5 steps (they are directions you might hear in a yoga class) to get you started and into the mindset of taking your yoga off the mat and into the kitchen.
1) Set the foundation
2) Isolate the areas
3) Adjust the alignment
4) Stay with the sensation
5) Ride the wave
Step #1—-Set the foundation
At the beginning of many yoga classes you sit still on your mat. Starting this way sends a message that you are here to become more present and listen more deeply to your inner guidance. You begin to become more aware to the truth of what you came into class with; exhaustion, anger, joy, feeling checked out, aches, pains, freedom in the body, etc… You are checking in.
You start to calm the mind by focusing on the breath. There is often an opportunity to set an intention.
This kind of mindfulness and focus invites in a deeper transformation to happen while exploring asana. You are setting the foundation.
Setting the foundation with food looks very similar.
First you want to become aware of your food truth. Food truth means knowing when you eat, why you eat, what moods are present while eating. It also invites in a chance to explore more of what you eat.
Are you eating a diet filled with processed food or one that leans in the direction of whole foods? Lets get real because when you know where you are you can make wiser choices about where you want to go.
That leads you to
Step 2- Isolate the areas
Once you take inventory of your body in sitting meditation you may notice your shoulders are tight or your hips –etc… This information informs you what to focus on and where to take your practice that day.
With food it’s the same. Noticing how what, when and why you eat will give you deeper insight into your food and into yourself. Then you will have a chance to isolate the areas in need of attention. Do you suffer from any health concerns? Digestion? Hormonal? Energy? Mood? Are you now aware that you are emotionally eating and therefore eat more than your bodies needs? Perhaps that was not clear before. How wonderful that you are isolating the areas that need attention and bringing this forth into the light of awareness.
For it is in the awareness that real transformation can occur through choice.
Which brings us to….
Step 3- Adjust the alignment
Now that you are aware and checked back in, your opportunity to make different choices awaits you. It is your chance to make adjustments.
In asana this part can be difficult because our body has created tensions, habits and patterns. You may need extra support from a teacher and manual adjustments to show you the way your body could be in a pose. It takes that subtle awareness to go inside and feel from the inside out how to move body parts so that more energy can flow.
When it comes to your relationship to food and your health we are constantly given the chance to make these kinds of adjustments as well. Honestly that’s where the fun begins. The listening, the deepening. And yet for many it is where we go a bit numb. I invite you to take it slow. Small adjustments to start.
One example is this: your body might not want to eat the same things for breakfast every day. Or at the same time. When everyone else in the office is having lunch you might need a walk outside instead and have lunch later. These kinds of adjustments to when and what you eat can make an enormous difference in your energy, digestion and over all well-being.
The more subtle adjustments come when you start to learn about the energetics and medicine that food has to offer.
As you bridge the skills on the mat like learning to turn inward and hear what your body needs, with food knowledge you have a chance to use spices, herbs, cooking techniques and more to refine how your feel.
I know you know how great it feels when you make those subtle adjustments with a pose. Now is your chance to make them with food.
Step 4- Stay with the sensation & Step 5 Ride the wave
Not all yoga classes have you stay in poses, but my first formal training was in Kripalu yoga, which teaches you these next two steps.
Stay with sensation and ride the wave.
In yoga when you hold a pose you begin to learn to stay with feelings/sensations and as you do that you will notice a wave. Sometimes it gets really intense and you think- how can I hold this and before you know it the feeling passes and something else is showing it self.
This goes back to the yogic teaching that everything changes. Everything comes and goes.
And with food it’s exactly the same, especially when it comes to cravings.
If you choose to take on your relationship to food as a spiritual practice you will have one of the most incredible chances to observe this spiritual teaching. Everything comes and goes.
Try it, next time you are craving that piece of chocolate or cup of coffee “hold the pose”- meaning watch the craving. Notice the sensations your body feels, the thoughts that pass through your mind, your impulses. Breathe, relax, and feel what is there, Stay with yourself. If you get distracted come back to focusing on the inhale and exhale.
I guarantee you (maybe not on the first try) that if you practice the yoga of food and steps 4 & 5 the craving, longing and impulsive desire for that particular food will pass. And this will teach you that you have the ability to stay present regardless of the changing circumstances around you.
Eventually you find joy and equanimity in that process.
To me this is true freedom. And it’s why eating and your relationship to food is an opportunity to awaken.
Will you join me in 2014 as I write each month about how to use your relationship to food as a spiritual practice?
I will explore the yamas and niyamas with food. Parts of the Buddhist 8 fold path and how we can use those teachings at the dinner table. I will give you concrete steps to follow and I welcome feedback in the comment section below or email me directly.
I look forward to exploring this journey towards better health and happiness with you in the year 2014.
Until next month practice the asana of food with these 5 steps.
In health and service
Darshana Weill, Somatic/ Spiritual Counselor and Yoga Teacher has counseled over 900 women world wide to learn to feed their souls and nourish their bodies through individual sessions, group work, tele-classes, webinars and home-study programs. A guest teacher at the 2011 Yoga Journal Conference in San Francisco you can also find Darshana teaching LIVE between Sonoma and Santa Cruz CA or via tele-classes and webinars.
For a free copy of Darshana’s EBook 5 Keys to End Unwanted Cravings and Find Food Freedom or to find out more about Darshana’s FOOD FREEDOM Programs check out www.darshanaweill.com or www.findfoodfreedom.com
To contact Darshana directly call 415 637 7222 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
WORKSHOPS WITH DARSHANA AT YOGA TREE
Treat PMS Naturally through Yoga and Mindful Eating
The Yoga of Food: How is life feeding you?
Sugar can be Medicine,
Yoga and Food For Emotional Eating,
Health Moms, Healthy Families,
Kick Cravings; A 21 Days program for women who want to take back their power over food.