In the early 90s I took my first of several trips to Kripalu Yoga Center and a whole new world opened up for me.
Immersing myself in that environment was a fantastic learning experience in so many ways. I was exposed to kirtan, mantra, japa, pranayama…and other deeper aspects of my yoga practice.
It was inspiring!
It helped to cement my commitment to a daily practice which continues today. I’m a happier and wiser person because of that door opening (which I’m sure my friends are very happy about, too).
One of the surprising aspects for me about being at Kripalu was meal time. It was vegetarian (which I’m not) and most meals were SILENT.
That was very different for me!
I also met people who were taking a conscious-eating workshop and were doing things like chewing their food 30+ time and putting their utensils down after every bite. Their focus was on the experience of chewing—how the flavors and texture of the food changed as they chewed longer than most of us would ever dare to attempt.
Being pitta dominant, I tend to eat quickly unless I consciously slow myself down. During my month-long stay at Kripalu for my yoga teacher training I tried to slow down, to eat silent meals and to apply as many of the conscious-eating habits as I could.
And, I discovered three really important things:
- The flavor of food changes as you chew it longer—sometimes it gets better; sometimes worse.
- I came to really enjoy the silent meals.
- I downward-adjusted the size of my portions because I noticed that when I ate slower I received an “I’m satisfied” feeling sooner.
Since that time, I’ve delved deeper into Ayurveda, from which these concepts arose. In an article we published last year (“Confused about Ayurveda?”), I shared a few healthy eating tips, along with many other easy ways to incorporate simple Ayurvedic principles into your daily life.
But there’s an additional list we give to our students during teacher training programs.
Part of their “home play” during the month is to implement as many of these healthy eating tips as they can and notice the effects of eating more consciously. It’s fascinating to see the discoveries students make and also very eye opening to see the struggle that many of us experience when attempting to practice healthier habits.
Here’s the list.
1. Eat foods good for your constitution.
Take the dosha test (download a good one here) and read up on what foods keep your main dosha in balance.
The Ayurveda food recommendations can be pretty confusing, so getting help with this is a good idea, especially if you are feeling out of sorts with yourself. Adjusting your food can really help to balance your dosha.
I’ll bet if you read through your dosha’s food recommendations, you’ll see many “foods to avoid” that you actually LOVE.
This totally fits with the Ayurveda concept of “like increases like.” Most of us are drawn to foods that throw our constitution out of balance. This doesn’t mean you can NEVER eat those foods. Instead, think of those as “treats” and eat them only occasionally, not regularly.
2. Choose foods according to seasons.
As the seasons change, our bodies will crave different foods: cooler foods in the summer months and warmer, grounding foods in the winter months. This makes sense, as those are the foods that are in abundance. Eat appropriate foods for the season.
With this in mind we’re sharing a yummy kitchari recipe below that’s balancing for all doshas and a healthy food to eat anytime (even for breakfast ?). Kitchari means mixture, usually of two grains, but can include vegetables as well.
I like to prepare kitchari during seasonal changes or any time my body needs a simpler food. I’ve added some personal cooking and serving tips so scroll down to grab the pdf.
3. Eat fresh sattvic food.
Sattvic food is pure, clean and wholesome. As much as possible, eat clean, chemical-free food.
4. Eat when hungry and drink when thirsty.
Like most people, you may notice that you have a tendency to reach for foods (sometimes unhealthy choices) even when you’re not hungry. This might be coming from an emotional need to distract yourself. And we all do it to one degree or another (crunchy, salty chips and dark chocolate anyone???).
If you find this happens frequently, try asking yourself, “What am I really feeling?” Chances are good, it’s a feeling other than hunger. Be with that first, and wait for true hunger to arise before eating.
5. Sit, don’t stand—and don’t do any other activity when you’re eating.
Focus only on the food and eating. No reading, talking or electronic devices to distract you from the experience of your meal.
6. Eat at a moderate pace—don’t eat fast.
As an experiment, you can try the “chew each mouthful of food 32 times” exercise (put down your eating utensil while you’re chewing too). This is not so easy for most of us. You may find it to be nearly impossible at first. Stick with it and notice what changes in the amount you eat, your digestion and your elimination. You may find that you eat less and that both your digestion and elimination systems function better.
7. During meals don’t drink iced drinks, sip warm water.
Lose the iced drinks and go with warm tea or warm lemon water or just plain warm water—and drink only a cup-size, similar to the two-handed bowl described in the next tip.
8. Eat only what you can fill in two cupped hands held side by side.
That’s your bowl size (no, not heaping!). Seem small? Try it. You might be pleasantly surprised.
9. Leave your stomach ⅓ empty.
Fill it ⅓ with food; ⅓ with liquid (preferably warm, as mentioned); and leave your stomach ⅓ empty for digestion. Using the guidelines in this article you can get an idea how to achieve this balance of food, warm liquid and empty.
Even though I stray from these tips sometimes, I like to think of these as good guidelines for treating my body well during meal time.
If these ideas are new to you, try implementing just one of them at your next meal. Feel the effects and then layer in the other ideas. The difference between concepts and their successful implementation is often that we defeat ourselves with black-and-white thinking—”I must do them all or I won’t get the benefit.” Try just one and consider that a huge win!
We’d love to hear what you have to say about these tips. Leave a comment below…do you have a favorite tip we missed?