The Ins 'n Outs of Eating Smart and Digestion for Your Practice

Image: Rachel Gorjestani

Image: Rachel Gorjestani

Have you ever made the mistake of eating a big meal before you go to yoga? ......Start your first sun salutation of practice and immediately regret consuming the heaviest meal of life not even two hours prior?

I think we all learn the hard way at least once, don’t we? There’s a reason why your yoga teacher always says to practice on a moderately empty stomach or, if you’re constantly snacking like me, have a very light meal an hour before you get on your mat.

It all comes down to digestion: it’s a huge part of the mechanics of our bodies. This can sometimes result in discomfort in class if you’re feeling bloated or heavy, or if you’ve eaten foods that don’t necessarily optimize your practice. So let’s talk about two things, light foods for body fuel and poses to help you through digestion.

Eat Smart

When you know you’re going to practice but you need to eat, you want to think about foods that are nutrient-dense to fuel your muscles but won’t leave your stomach in knots. If you need an energy kick, fruits with naturally occurring sugars like apples or pears, super foods like avocados or chia, and higher density foods like nuts (almonds #ftw) and dried fruit (raisins or dried figs) are ultra good for a light fuel up while maintain a relatively sattvic state. My go-to is always an apple and a babybel cheese.

Aid Digestion Through Posture

Twists in general are incredibly helpful for improving digestion. While you are twisting, you are reducing blood flow to the digestive organs, so when you release, you’re letting in “new” blood to the digestive organs. Think of twists as giving your body a leg up in digestion. A few nice poses to help with digestion include seated twists, like ardha matsyendrasana, and supine twists, like jathara parivartanasana and supta matsyendrasana. Consider integrating these into a short home practice on days when you need a little extra digestive love.

Clean, light, yogic eating changes the way the body feels and works hand in hand with how you experience the postures. It's good to take into consideration yogic diet as a component of your overall practice: you are what you eat!