Sunday, October 31, 2010

Overshare: Eco+Yoga Food Speak

I know we yoginis probably all struggle with some form of this. It's pervasive, influences our everyday actions whether we're conscious of that little voice or not. We've been indoctrinated from such an early age by our culture and society that it's difficult to even recognize that it's there.

Our image of how we perceive our "Self".

With this I mean our internal and external Self. I know the two are separate entities, but I feel personally that it's naive to assume we can realistically separate something so intertwined with how we're taught to view who we are- our image. When asked to describe ourselves, how many of us automatically include age, hair colour, eye colour and perhaps under our breath weight, to the mix? In a time when obesity is becoming the topic of the day, the challenge of fighting unhealthy body image and "diet industry" mores has become more complex.

I was reminded recently about the connection and at this time apparent disconnect, of yoga and health and our expectations of what a yoga instructor "should" look like. I was reminded that I have that cookie cutter type mold that I measure yoga instructors by- an unconscious little mold that I was unaware existed until I thought "hmph, how can she be a yoga instructor when she looks too thin to be healthy?"

Trying to live a planet compassionate life includes a lot of thinking about food. Where it comes from, how it's processed (or preferably not processed). Often the level of processing involved will dictate the amount of "eco-guilt" I feel. It's something I work on as my personal growth, letting go of the eco-guilt while still trying to accomplish a level of environmental responsibility.

Trying to live a yoga-compassionate life also includes quite a bit of talk around eating and food. We talk about practicing yoga to improve the health of muscles, bones and organs. We talk about when to eat (not two hours before practice!), which postures to help with our digestive system and weight loss. There's talk about treating our bodies like a "temple", putting certain food types in to nourish a healthy body and mind. This includes cleanses that sound pretty darn scary (only drinking smoothies for a week) and analyzing our diet through the lens of our dosha constitution. Then there's the whole discussion around meat and vegetarianism-veganism and ahimsa. I've found that compared to other disciplines or physical/spiritual practices, yoga has quite a large portion that is dedicated to food and eating.

Speaking strictly for myself, and my personal struggles with body image and weight, all this focus on food and eating can spiral into something destructive and harmful. Research has shown that simply the act of talking and analyzing food and eating can bring about symptoms of disordered eating. I can recognize that this is an extremely personal thing.

As my practice increases I notice that my body changes, muscles grown in my arms and my back, my legs and belly get stronger and leaner and I *know* that I am stronger and healthier. With this comes more exposure to "yoga food speak"; I attend more classes, read more about yoga and am exposed more to "proper healthy" yoga eating. Appropriate food for my dosha. I become more aware of my physical body which in turn leads to increased awareness on what I do to my body. What I eat. I get caught up in the vortex of yogic-food speak and cleanses start to sound almost appealing.

Add in a good dose of eco-food speak and you get some pretty disordered thoughts about my body and my eating habits.

I'm not writing all this as a means of judgment on Yoga as a practice, nor as a "feel bad for me" post. It's more of an observation and an overshare. I can't be alone in experiencing this.... can I?

article copyright of EcoYogini at


  1. no such thing as oversharing on your blog - this is your safe place to talk about whatever you want and feel :)

  2. As a yoga teacher who does not fit that cookie cutter type mold, I completely understand. I've even had people say to me "you don't look like a yoga teacher."
    Yoga has really helped me get real about my body image issues and understand which are legit (when it comes to my health - no crazy diets) and which are other peoples issues (what I look like). I know I'm healthy and strong and that is what yoga has taught me to focus on.

  3. I agree - I think it makes things MORE difficult. So much to say on this subject!

  4. Sorry unrelated...

    but found some fun youtube videos on a new yoga place in town called Halifax Yoga I think?
    Do you know anything about it or maybe will try a class there?
    (didn't see it mentioned yet on your other yoga blog?)


  5. Nope - Im simillar - if I start to think too much about food, espeically being healthy I start to get rather neurotic about it. I have had a mild non-specific eating disorder int he past and I can quite easily go back there by focusing on food too much .

    I find it a difficult balancing act and I have in the past used vegetarianism as an excuse to get all disordered.

    Some of us just have to be aware that this can be an issue for us

  6. Great post, balance is always the key,and it is sometimes just so dang hard. This is a topic I could write volumes about...

    Wanted to say also, What a beautiful bride, and a beautiful wedding, Congrats!

  7. As you know, I think about food all the time, especially as it intersects with my personal definition of ahimsa, etc. Recently I was sharing my yoga-teacher aspirations with an employee at my gym and she exclaimed over how much I already looked like a yoga teacher. I took it as a compliment, but it made feel odd--what does it mean for Western yoga that there is a "yoga teacher look"? I don't want to be a cliche! At the same time, yoga has taught me how to care for my body and love it just as it is.

    I hear you on the eco-guilt re: food choices. I feel bad for buying processed foods (Tofutti sour cream, for example) on occasion, and for buying organic produce that is most definitely non-local. Then I have to remind myself that I'm doing the best I can and to not beat myself up over it. I don't exactly watch what I eat, but I've learned that eating a well-balanced vegan diet makes me feel healthiest, so that's what I do and I don't guilt myself for that extra glass of wine or few cookies every now and again.

    I think maybe we need to reclaim the idea of "food." So often we're taught to consider eating as a necesssary evil and enjoyment of food as a moral weakness. It's helped me to reconsider food as neutral: It's fuel. We need it to function. There's nothing bad about eating, or enjoying it. If we can recast our relationships with food as neutral or even positive, instead of antagonistic, so many people would be happier and healthier.

    That balancing act is tough, though. When I was younger and feeling depressed and powerless, my automatic coping mechanism was to restrict my eating patterns. I needed something to control, and food was it. I've seen how easy it can be to slip into seriously disordered eating habits. Namaste.

  8. Not alone at all. I struggle with this every single day. It does not help that I have health issues that I have tried to overcome without medication, and everyone in my family gives me different "advice." And to make matters more difficult, I absolutely love to eat. I love good, yummy food, but many people I love are happy to eat junk. Ugh! Thank you for putting this out there!

  9. Absolutely agree. I'm a recovering bulimic yoga teacher & find that very few people (teachers or otherwise) really fit the stereotype at all. Maybe some
    appear on the surface more like the models in Yoga Journal, but on the inside we're all pretty darn complicated!
    This is quite the relief, actually, so please do continue to overshare. :)

  10. Thanks for share.

    Best Regarding.


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