Choosing when and what to eat and drink, can be helpful not only for practicing yoga, but for an overall healthy lifestyle. There are some simple dietary considerations that you can make before and after doing yoga, in order to get the most out of your practice.
Avoid eating large meals before doing yoga
One of the main considerations to think of, before doing a yoga practice, is to make sure you haven’t just eaten a heavy meal. If you do yoga first thing in the morning, you’ll find it quite easy to have an empty stomach when practicing. If choosing to practice later in the day, try to avoid doing yoga right after eating, and wait at least two hours to allow larger meals to digest. If you tend to have low blood sugar or energy levels, you can choose to have a small snack about 30 minutes to one hour before doing yoga. Bananas, dates and nuts make good, nutritious snacks.
After yoga practice is a great time to eat a bigger meal. Traditional yogic teachings recommend that when eating fill your stomach half full of food, one quarter full of water and leave one quarter empty. This suggestion will stop overeating, so that you avoid feeling too heavy and sluggish after meals.
Observe how your body feels after eating certain foods, and choose a diet that makes you feel good
Choosing which foods, you want to eat regularly, and which you want to have occasionally or avoid completely is a personal choice. Certain foods affect people in different ways. What might feel good for one person to eat, might make someone else feel uncomfortable. Through observation and experience you can find out for yourself, which foods make you feel good, and which make you feel less good. You can also bring awareness to whether these foods are making you feel good or bad physically and / or emotionally.
You don’t need to adhere to a specific diet to practice yoga, although many yoga practitioners do choose to eat a plant-based diet. One historic reason that many yogis choose to avoid meat, is based on an interpretation of a key yogic ancient text “Pantanjali’s Yoga Sutras”. This book explains the eight limbs of the path to yoga, which is basically a series of suggestions of how yogis should live their life. In this book, many yoga practitioners have interpreted the term “Ahimsa” meaning non-violence, to apply not just to individual actions, but also in relation to what they eat. They choose to not eat meat because they don’t want to harm animals. On the other hand, many yoga practitioners decide to avoid animal products due to health and digestion reasons. They explain that as they do more yoga, they become more aware on how their body feels. These practitioners find that eating plant-based feels easier for digestion and better for their health.
At the end of the day you don’t need to change your diet to do yoga. However, you might find from practicing yoga regularly that you become more mindful about what and how you eat. You might become more aware about what your food habits are, and how you feel after eating different foods. This can help you naturally tune into what your body needs, and to start eating more wholesome foods in moderation.
Stay hydrated, and watch your coffee and alcohol intake before doing yoga
Staying hydrated is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. This is especially vital when doing more dynamic and active forms of yoga, where you are likely to sweat and loose more water. Many yoga teachers will recommend for you to drink water before and after doing yoga, rather than in the middle of your yoga practice. This will stop you getting distracted during yoga, and make sure that your belly doesn’t feel too full of fluid when twisting and folding the body. Water and herbal tea are the best things to drink to stay hydrated.
Coffee is best avoided immediately before practicing yoga. The caffeine that many of us enjoy to help us feel alert, can make it more difficult to cultivate a calm mind during yoga, and in fact contribute to making your mind more agitated. This is especially the case during meditation, breathing exercises and slower yoga practices, where the body is more still and the focus is on calming the mind. People tend to feel the peak effects from caffeine about 30 to 60 minutes after consumption, so see if you can avoid drinking coffee one or two hours before doing yoga.
It’s probably obvious that drinking alcohol just before yoga isn’t recommended, since it effects your balance and ability to think clearly. Whether you choose or not to drink alcohol after yoga is completely up to you. Some schools of yoga, especially those focused on meditation, suggest to limit drinking alcohol. This is due to the idea of avoiding the use of too many substances that have an effect on your mental state. Among most modern-day yoga practitioners, avoiding alcohol completely is not seen as necessary. Instead, they choose to drink alcohol in moderation to keep the body and mind feeling healthy and active.