Many people assume that they are eating healthily and can tell you about the quality of the food they consume. It can be organic and based on mainly fruit and vegetables, with very little sugar, wheat and dairy or meat produce, yet even so, without developing the following healthy habits your flexibility and yoga practice, your digestive system, your body and health can be affected…
Below are a list of considerations to think about… make a note of how many of them you have adopted into your regime already and celebrate your intuitive choices.
JOYFULNESS and enjoying our food is part of opening up to being fully nourished. If we are happy when we eat and with our relationship to food then we literally accept the food more effectively into our system. More often it is a case of healing the relationship with food rather than changing the diet
POSITIVE APPROACH fits in with joy. We tend to develop beliefs about what is good and what is bad. Some good foods we may not enjoy. We may eat some bad foods and then feel guilty afterwards or avoid them resentfully. Our attitude to food instructs our body about what to do with it, so once we make a choice, we should accept it lovingly and welcome the food wholeheartedly. This way we ensure the most is gained out of the food we eat.
RELAXATION Our digestion works best when it is focused on the enjoyment of the meal and not when it is distracted by other influences such as TV, reading or any other kind of distraction. What can be of great benefit is to relax our posture and take a few quiet breaths before beginning. Crossing our legs, twisting or hunching compresses the organs and hinders the digestive process. These things should always be avoided.
Another important factor for aiding digestion is the process of CHEWING WELL. There is a saying that “the stomach has no teeth” Chewing food well lessens the workload. It increases the efficient extraction of nutrients and it warms up chilled food.
STOP BEFORE YOU ARE FULL Overeating causes a queue of food and stagnation, which weakens our ability to digest efficiently, our energy diverts to aid digestion and the result is often tiredness. Every time we overeat, we create stagnation.
A temporary queue of food waits to be processed. Our energy is then diverted into digesting the excess food and as a result we feel tired. If this becomes a habit we weaken our ability to digest food efficiently.
DON’T FLOOD THE STOMACH AT MEALTIME Too much fluid dilutes the action and weakens digestion. A teacupful of warm fluid is enough during mealtimes. It is best to consume the majority of fluid between meals.
DON’T CHILL THE STOMACH The stomach needs warmth to keep the digestive fire strong. It is advisable to avoid an excess of raw, chilled foods and fluids that can weaken our digestion Raw or chilled foods and fluids can also weaken the stomach action. The digestive process needs warmth to keep the digestive fire strong.
CHEW WELL: Proper chewing lessens the workload for your stomach, since “the stomach has no teeth”. It warms chilled foods and ensures efficient extraction of nutrients.
EAT YOUR MAIN MEAL EARLY: Our digestive system naturally slows down in the evening. Late meals create further stagnation as the food sits in the tubes longer and the stomach has to work harder to digest meals.
CHOOSE WISELY: Choose foods with a strong life force. Organic, seasonal and locally grown foods have a preserved life force. Microwaves, processing, chemical preservatives and irradiation all damage the life force.
TRUST YOUR INTUITION: Listen to your body and then make choices from that deep level of knowing within us. Having awareness whilst eating connects us to our true needs and having good feelings about what we eat means we are being nurtured and nourished at a deep level.
ESTABLISH A BALANCED BASE: Grains and vegetables are the central core of a diet that is easy on the digestion as these provide a very good foundation for our health. Consume them regularly to improve your yoga practice and wellbeing.
MAKING FOODS EASY TO DIGEST: Soups, stews and casseroles lessen the workload of the stomach and are most supportive and beneficial if your digestion is weak. Pickles along with pungent spices will aid the process of digestion by increasing the digestive fire. Make sure you only eat raw, chilled and rich foods moderately.
Our habits can either work for or inhibit our digestion. My aim is to bring to your awareness the importance of having healthy habits whilst eating, to help support the digestive process. I have made a list of a few general and specific considerations that help the digestive system function at its optimum level.
The next point to take note of is to EAT YOUR MAIN MEAL EARLY. Our systems naturally slow down in the evening and food will then sit around in the intestines for longer. Once again this causes stagnation and it also makes the stomach work harder.
When I speak of CHOOSING WISELY, choosing foods with a strong life force, I am referring to organic, seasonal and locally grown, good quality foods. The life force is strongly preserved in these fresh foods. It is damaged when we eat processed or chemically preserved foods or use microwave irradiation.
The last of the general considerations comes with awareness. TRUST YOUR BODY AND YOUR INTUITION. There are times when we crave our poison but within each of us is a deep level of knowing.
When we bring awareness to our eating, we can feel what our needs are. At first we make analytical judgements, but as we listen, we can make choices from our bodies too. What makes us feel good at the deepest level truly nourishes us.
Over time, we can learn to separate our cravings and addictions from our deepest levels of guidance.
Now we can look at more SPECIFIC CONSIDERATIONS to help digestion.
The first one is ESTABLISHING A BALANCED BASE. The diet that is based on grains and vegetables provides a central core of nourishment that is easy on the digestive system; this is a good foundation for our health. If we divide food into categories, the following proportions are recommended:
Vegetables and Fruit 40 – 60%.
Grains 30 – 40 %.
Beans, Dairy, Meat, Nuts 10 – 20%.
It is also best to eat foods that are in season as often as possible.
MAKING FOODS EASY TO DIGEST. This second consideration is on how we prepare foods. The digestive process involves breaking down food into a warm soup in the stomach.
The spleen extracts the essences from the food and sends them where they are needed. The cooking methods that most resemble this action are soups, stews and casseroles.
By cooking this way it means the food is already warmed up and broken down, ready for the spleen to act upon making it easier to absorb its nutrients.
This does not mean we should be limited to soups and stews, but if the spleen is weak, these methods are supportive and therefore the most beneficial. The spleen needs to work very hard on rich foods such as fatty meat, raw or chilled foods, which should be limited.
Finally, the moderate use of warm and pungent spices with cooked foods will support the digestive process as will the consumption of small amounts of pickled vegetables after a meal.
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