Yoga is deeply concerned with Nature’s raw sources of energy: oxygen and diet. While the first one can be extensivelly addressed in a normal yoga class the second one tends to be a topic of those who are longing to loose some weight and getting fit. A proper diet is surely the key point for both; however, it is also crucial for a yoga practitioner since being healthy helps our mind to be less troubled as well. Yoga is holistic science and do perceives that what we eat and how we eat are directly connected to the functioning of not only our bodies but also our minds. Well, in order to help ourselves to be more at peace what we eat has to be well digested.
While water, minerals and vitamins are accepted as they come along helping out in various chemiccal reactions; other substances needs to be “broken down” into simpler ones so they can be absorbed properly. Our digestion, thus, takes care of turning food (aka, chemiccaly complex substances) into basic constituents of our cells.
- Complex sugar, that helps in our energy production is transformed into simple sugar
- Fat, that helps in storing energy and manufacturing various secretions in the body, is transformed into fatty acids
- Proteins are transformed into simple amino acids, that have crucial and particular roles in our body such as being precursors for hormones, immune response, cellular repair, etc.
All are needed, but…
In general, though the time to digest a meal depends on a variety of factors such as quality and quantity of food we can generally consider the cicles bellow as time frames for a full digestion :
- Heavy meal takes 10 to 12 hours
- Medium meal takes 6 to 8 hours
- Light meal and fruits takes 4 to 5 hours
Whenever things are not going well in our digestive system (and, usually, with our choice of diet) the good length of a digestion cycle gets disturbed. With indigestion or an upset stomach we have symptons such as feeling bloated, pain/discomfort in our upper abdomen, heartburn, nausia, belching or even acid reflux. All that usually happens when food takes too much time to be digested due to eating habits along with disturbance in our regular chemical processes. The food we ate just gets fermented (more than 12 hours inside…) and toxic materials are produced. Moreover, indigestion brings more indigestion. The liver tries to deal with those extra toxins resulting into more lethargy of the digestive system… And, more indigestion! There you go, a vicious cicle and an unfortunate path to chronic deaseases. After all, indigestion runs together with the absorption of toxins, over toxins, over toxins…
Yoga scriptures also talk about diet… Isn’t that amazing? Well, as you saw above, it is important! Being healthy is directly connected to our peace of mind and that is easily proven when we recall having any dis-ease: it’s a whole lot of worrying and our minds are obsessed with how the body is feeling. The yogic principles turns out to prevent indigestion and related digestion diseases from the root. So let’s see a few Yoga tips :
- Eat in proper time. Yogis eat 2 proper meals a day, lunch and early dinner.
- Eat in moderation
- Leave a ¼ of your stomach empty whenever you eat since you need space to for the mechanical part of digestion
- Choose a sattvic diet: fresh lacto-vegetarian, seasonal, non-processed natural food such as whole grains, herbs, seeds, vegetables, fresh legumes, fresh milk and fresh milk products. A sattvic food is a whole lot about being fresh (hopefully organic) and properly cooked. Yes, not raw or over-cooked. It is mainly an easy diet to digest that takes 8 to 10 hrs and restores alertness in body and mind.
- Have a positive attitude while eating! This is crucial. Stop eating if you are not emotionally well. No angry-sad-worried-anxious-stressy eating. Science already knows that secretion of digestive juices and digestive movements are widely effected by emotions! Indigestion can happen due to stress.
- Eat with awareness: not too fast, not too slow. Taste it chewing properly (your saliva is already starting the digestion process!)
- Do not eat before going to bed (have at least a 4 hour gap)
If you are willing to try out those principles for a couple of weeks and keep up your yoga practice – physical postures are enough – you will feel a great difference in not only your digestion but also your mood, alertness and even sleep quality! If somehow, knowing what to do is not enough, let’s remember what not to do either for a yoga practitioner or for someone dealing with an indigestion:
- Rich, spicy and fatty foods (of course!)
- Alcohol (of course for some, but essential to remember!)
- Caffeine (including obviously soft drinks and, not so obviously, some teas)
Those tips will surely help you prevent an indigestion and a whole lot of times deal with one as well – remember, takes more than a day! There is a whole more to it, the yogic literature on food are difficult for a beginner to grasp. In a Yoga Teacher Training or an ayurveda course Mithara (the balanced diet) is nicely addressed and worthwhile a deeper study. In addition to that, there are also Yoga postures to help feeling better as well. Among the next posts we hope to address dealing with digestive system issues through the physical postures and cleansing techniques to help you try out at home. Just remember, it the symptons persist,check with a doctor as well.