Haven’t you heard? It’s a great time to start or return to a yoga practice. Not only can it help you lose a couple of those extra pounds you may have packed on during the holidays, but a sound mind-body practice can also help you set an intention for how you want your year to pan out. New Year’s resolutions are all well and good, but adopting a meditation practice can reinforce your goals and motivations all year long. Of course, you can Downward Dog ’till the cows come home, but if you’re not eating right to support it, it won’t do much good. Here are five ways to eat that will complement your yogic lifestyle.
You may be one of the many who will experiment with juicing this January. It’s a great way to clear out your system of the toxins and waste that can build up over time. Not only does it involve consuming primarily fruits and vegetables, but by extracting a food’s juice or pureeing it, you’re making it easier to digest, thus allowing your body to absorb more nutrients. Juicing alone, say as part of a cleanse, may require additional nutrition, in the form of supplemental powders or shots, like wheatgrass or spirulina. It’s important to rest during a juice cleanse — so stick to low-impact yoga classes while you’re doing it. Some of the pitfalls of juicing can be sugar highs from too much fruit, so be sure to consult an expert. Kale, cucumber and apple juice is a refreshing energizer.
2. Raw Diet
A raw diet consists of foods that have not been cooked above 115º-120º F. It can be a vegan diet or mostly plant-based, but some practitioners eat fish (such as sashimi) and even red meat (tartare, carpaccio), depending on their philosophies. Generally, the idea behind a raw diet is that foods retain important digestive enzymes and nutrients that can be lost or killed at high heat. Plus, being “alive,” raw foods transmit maximum energy to the body when eaten. Also, the food is often fresh and unprocessed. Raw foodists eat more than just salad. Try a vegetarian lettuce wrap or pureed vegetable soup.
3. Ayurvedic Cooking
You’ve probably heard of ayurveda, the ancient Hindu holistic medicinal practice. To cook using ayurvedic principles, you first need to have a basic grasp of this belief system’s tenets. Ayurvedic cooks prepare food based on who will eat it, prescribing ingredients to regulate the balance of the three life forces or doshas present in all of us. Ayurvedic food is fresh, seasonal and vegetarian, and cooked as opposed to raw, in order to promote digestion. It is also categorized according to six tastes: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent, each of which has its own influence on the doshas. A typical recipe is Moong Dal or mung bean soup. Ginger is a popular ingredient, too.
4. Ital Food
A lot of images may come to mind when we think of Rastas. But the ultra holistic cuisine associated with this spiritual movement is not often one of them. ‘Ital’ refers to ‘vital’: Rastas use ‘I’ to replace the beginnings of words in order to signify one’s harmony with the world around him. The food is generally vegan and devoid of processed ingredients, preservatives and salt, although some Rastas eat fish. Simple yet full of flavor, the driving philosophy behind Ital is to increase one’s life force – or Livity – and keep the body’s temple pure. A dish may consist of pumpkin, root vegetables and greens in a curried coconut milk sauce.
5. Shojin Cuisine
It’s the cuisine of early Zen Buddhist monks and is considered the precursor to all Japanese food – especially kaiseki, the traditional multi-course meal. Shojin food is always vegetarian, fresh, seasonal and meticulously plated. Shojin cooks maximize their ingredients by using as much of each as possible, discarding few scraps. The cuisine is closely tied to the Buddhist belief system; both the eater and cook should be mindful of where ingredients comes from and how they’re prepared. The idea is that cooking and eating Shojin prepares you to receive the Buddha’s teachings. Sesame tofu is a common ingredient.
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