Whenever we plan to do an activity (and we’re serious about it) we make sure we don’t go to battle unprepared. If you plan to engage in tennis, for example, you don’t just randomly choose the first racket you see in the store, right?
The same principle applies to people who are just about to begin their yoga journey. Some would-be students read books for beginners to help them ease into the practice, and well-prepared people even make sure they find a dependable, eco-friendly yoga mat that is both comfortable and sturdy.
Yoga helps us achieve a sound mind and body, but this doesn’t mean we have to solely depend on this practice to keep us healthy. Ensuring we are nourished through the food and beverages we intake goes hand in hand with keeping a proper yoga practice.
Experts and nutritionists agree that proper nutrition will allow us to maximize the benefits of yoga. Think about it – wouldn’t you have a difficult time trying to focus if you were bloated (or worse, might need to go to the restroom)? Choosing what you eat and drink will influence the effects of the class on you.
However, you don’t have to get a nutritionist’s opinion to tell you that junk food is bad for you. While salt, sugar, and fat can still have good effects on your system, anything in excess is bad. Sugary drinks, processed food, salty and seasoned snacks can cause you to feel heavy and lethargic, which isn’t an ideal state to be in when practising yoga.
Don’t worry, you won’t be limited to a diet of just greens and lemon water. There are a variety of foods you can choose from to consume. Here are some suggestions on what you can munch on before and after your yoga class:
What to eat before a yoga class
Yoga may require a certain calmness, but there is a fine line between feeling calm and wanting to doze off. The former still requires a bit of alertness. Eating foods that will increase your energy, such as fruit, peanut butter or avocado on toast, or a boosting smoothie can give you the energy you need to maintain focus.
Make sure that before your yoga class, you haven’t eaten anything that’s difficult to digest or might upset your stomach. Healthy grains, muesli, oatmeal, and granola bars may provide you the feeling of fullness to get you through a class without the bloat.
Rice or pasta might be too heavy for a pre-yoga meal unless you decide to eat these at least two to three hours before a class. Otherwise, stick to simpler carbs that don’t have too much fat, protein, or fiber so you can get the right amount of energy you need.
Read: NOT spicy. While a chili flavor might give your taco a nice kick, it might be better to save the spice for a yoga-free day. You might not anticipate how it will affect your digestive system, and it might end up affecting your concentration in class.
Tip: Don’t forget to keep yourself hydrated with water during class. Make sure you always keep a shatterproof bottle on hand in case your poses accidentally tip it over.
What to eat after yoga
Proteins with your carbs
You might feel like you need to recharge after your class with a good meal, and a good balance of carbohydrates and proteins can stabilize your energy levels. Some yogurt, vegetables, and fruit are examples of suitable post-yoga snacks you can consume.
Water, water, water
Don’t forget to re-hydrate after sweating out and releasing all those toxins. A refreshing drink of water will feel like such a relief after your yoga session and it will be the best way to cool down. Avoid sugary drinks like sodas, juices with preservatives, and alcohol.
There is a misconception that healthy eating isn’t as satisfying as eating deep-fried, salty, over-sweetened foods, but you’d be surprised at the variety of recipes and choices you can find. Nutritious food doesn’t mean that it’s bland or unsavory. You can also have a hearty, delicious meal without the guilt, all it takes is a little creativity!
When you make a conscious effort to reward yourself with proper nutrition, you will feel the effects it has as you practice yoga. Concentrating and meditating becomes easier, your body feels lighter and more flexible, and in turn, you’ll be able to do yoga poses and techniques with more freedom and ease.
Sometimes, there is a perception that yoga is a way to restore balance to a rather unhealthy lifestyle. This doesn’t mean though that yoga is a convenient remedy and excuse to binge on junk food. Yoga and nutrition work together to help achieve a balanced state of well-being and health so we can be the best version of ourselves. You can give yourself this gift.
About the author: Kelly Barnes is a certified 200-Hour Hatha yoga teacher with an emphasis on meditation and mindfulness.