The body and mind perform best when fueled by healthy and satisfying foods. Using foods to help increase flexibility and brain function health will naturally improve your asanas, as well as increasing your energy levels and contributing to your overall wellbeing.
While there are guidelines and tons of advice on how to eat, the real skill is tuning in with your own personal needs on the day. Intuitively knowing what works for you is the key and that will take practice, but like anything in yoga – it’s worth it! Developing a mindful eating practice will help. I hate to think how many times I have rushed through a meal without noticing what I was tasting, let alone having an awareness of how it was making me feel. Taking time to enjoy your food, to chew it properly and feel the textures and tastes will allow the mind to absorb how this food is effecting you both on a physical and mental level. There’s not just one rule that fits all! Only you can be the judge of this.
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Barley grass extract
Barley grass is an excellent source of nutrition and is recommended for every yoga diet. This green food is packed with vitamins, minerals, amino acids and enzymes. It also contains high levels of chlorophyll, which can stimulate tissue growth and accelerate the healing of wounds. Barley grass is full of beta-carotene. iron and calcium for strong, healthy bones. It can be found in dry form at herbal shops or you can buy the seeds and sprout them yourself.
This super algae has countless health benefits and is one of the best yoga foods. It contains ten times more concentrated beta-carotene amounts than carrots in order to help your body’s natural defence systems and to help improve your eye health. In addition, spirulina contains the highest source of B-12 for healthy nerves and tissue (essential for vegetarians). It is loaded with the rare but essential fatty acid gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), found in mother’s milk to help develop healthy babies. It can be found in tablets and in powder form in health shops. Try taking a tablet each day as a dietary supplement or add a scoop of powder into you blended health shakes before or after a yoga class.
This algae is found in fresh water and has more chlorophyll per gram than any other plant. The chlorella plant has been known to have very beneficial body and blood cleansing attributes due to its detoxifying effects. Chlorella is often used to prevent or curb the spread of cancer, promote a healthy immune system, balance good bacteria in the gut, and to lower blood pressure. Again, this can be purchased from health shops in powder form or tablets. Try taking a tablet each day with meals as a dietary supplement, or mixing a scoop of powder into water or juice.
Do not take if you are pregnant or breastfeeding
Sulfur is known to heal and repair connective tissues in the body and is needed to manufacture the proteins for muscle formation. It contnbutes to fat digestion and absorption and also cures muscle soreness naturally. Intake of sulfur can make your hair, skin and nails shiny and healthy as well as regulating blood sugar levels. Sulfur is also found naturally in many foods such as meat, eggs, parsley, onions, chives, leeks, garlic, oysters, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, cress and Brussels sprouts. Try making a sulfur-rich meal at home to improve your diet and boost your yoga practice.
FOR THE BRAIN
We all know that some of the great benefits from practising yoga include mental calmness and reduced stress, and improved body awareness and spiritual clarity. But combining your practice with a healthy diet will dramatically improve vitality levels and keep the brain functioning properly. As the old adage says, ”a mind is a terrible thing to waste. The following yoga foods, in addition to a well balanced diet, can dramatically increase brain function.
Cold water fish
Fish is often described as one of the original ‘brain foods’ because it contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and oils. Omega-3s also promote neuronal growth and strengthen myelin sheaths. The best candidates for brain function are cold water, wild-caught fish like salmon and cod.
TIP: Try baking a filet of salmon or cod with sulfur-rich spices like garlic, chives and onion for a healthy meal for both body and mind,
Fruits rich in antioxidants can have tremendous effects on brain function. Antioxidants can prevent cell damage and repair damaged cells, and reduce the chances of developing neurological diseases. They have also been shown to slow the aging process. Fruits that are full of antioxidants include all berries, especially acai and goji, apples, lemons, limes, grapes, mangos, apricots, pineapples, tomatoes, pomegranates, coconuts, and blood oranges. It is recommended to try and eat 3-5 or more servings of antioxidant-rich fruits per day.
TIP: TYy making a fruit salad with sliced pecans and sprinkled cinnamon, which are also very high in antioxidants.
Vegetables also contain high levels of antioxidants too. Keep in mind that it is better to add antioxidant-rich foods to your yogic diet instead of trying to use supplements. Vegetables that are jam-packed with antioxidants include kale, squash, carrots.
peppers, spinach, broccoli, soybeans, artichokes, and red beets. It is recommended to try and eat 5 or more servings of antioxidant-rich vegetables per day.
TIP: Try making a vegetable casserole with a side of brown rice, pinto beans or sweet potatoes as these are loaded with antioxidants Wash it all down with a glass of green tea or cranberry juice for a meal saturated with a
Surprisingly, the right chocolate in the right amount can actually be great for a healthy brain. Cocoa beans (raw cacao) contain antioxidants and have even showed signs of being able to improve memory. Dark chocolates with a lower sugar content are recommended, or you could try the raw cacao powders. Keep in mind that moderation is key.
Drinking enough water every day cannot be stressed enough. Make sure you drink enough on a daily basis to keep your body and brain hydrated. Dehydration can cause headaches in the immediate future and long-term neuronal damage sustained from elevated stress hormones. For your yoga diet, a good rule of thumb is to try and drink one litre of water for every 50 pounds of body weight.
Just as certain yoga poses are appropriate for certain people or during particular times, so it is with what you choose to eat. Food should provide energy and clarity. A ‘good’ diet may appear very different from one person to the next, but you will know your diet is working well when you feel healthy, sleep well, have strong digestion, and feel your system is supported rather than depleted by your yoga practice.
Going for hours without eating before practising is something many yoga students find has an overall weakening effect on the body. But how can you perform when you’re dehydrated and starving? Skipping a meal for some is worse than others, but in most cases low blood sugar and dizziness may lead to further health complications such as constipation, poor digestion, and insomnia. Balance and care are key when it comes to considering how best to approach your yoga and food practice.