As part of my Live to Learn long distance assignment, I decided to read and review a book that would inspire or perhaps guide my next project “Be Healthy”. While visiting the Moksha Yoga Kelowna studio in October, I purchased a book recommended to me by one of the students called The Yoga of Eating: Transcending Diets and Dogma to Nourish the Natural Self by Charles Eisenstein.
The following review will highlight some of the content within this book, as well as, my reflections:
To start off, the length of this book is great, it was only ~160 pages long. This light-weight text was a good size for me to store in my purse and read on the subway. It was accessible both in size and in comprehension. Unlike other eating or nutrition texts, this book was not focused on nutritional facts, lists of what you should (or should not eat), or the latest dieting trend. Instead, the author presents a different perspective – one that is in line with yogic philosophy and principles. One such premise that is weaved throughout almost every chapter is a suggestion to make decisions about food by listening to the body. There are a few chapters that focus on reinforcing the mind-body-spirit connection – using the breath to bridge them as one. Although I did find this message repetitive, the author does not force opinions such as “thou shall not eat meat” but encourages the reader to be guided by their own experience. Thinking back to my teacher training, I remember some of my peers really struggling with cutting out certain foods (i.e. meat) and drinks (i.e. caffeine and alcohol). Some of my peers experienced digestion issues just by cutting out the meat. To no surprise, within a few days of training these individuals made a decision to go back to their preferred diet.
The author also presents ethical considerations about the impact of eating foods on the environment and the meat industry too. He also challenged me to reflect upon my personal reasons for becoming vegan this year. For example, was it driven because I’m eco-conscious? Because I think that the food is purer? Or perhaps because it actually makes me feel nourished?
This book describes the connection between nurturing and growth, as well as societal perspectives that have shaped our relationship to food from one that started off as instinctual to another that perhaps conveniently fits a schedule. The author identifies that “diet” in our everyday society means “diet of restriction”, and continues on with a critique of “diets” or temporary restrictions from what our bodies really want (see the ad below from a fitness magazine I found in my house that perpetuates this thought). This chapter offers the reader an opportunity to reflect on how the external world (parents, religion, media, etc…) has shaped our self-image. He argues that our bodies have always had an innate way of taking care of everything – achieving homeostasis. Why wouldn’t you trust your body?
The author recommends a number of activities to bring increased mindfulness to our experience of eating and a greater understanding of the parallels of breathing and eating. Some these activities include:
- noticing sensations as you bite or chew
- noticing the pace (slow down, finish each bite, chew before taking the next bite)
- eat one meal in silence each day
- be attentive to your first bite (what does it feel like? what does it taste and smell like?)
I decided I would trial these suggestions during my Be Healthy project (see next post)!
Overall, I really enjoyed this book because it was different from what I’m used to reading. Although it wasn’t evidence-informed, it was thought-provoking and sometimes that’s all you need to prompt self-reflection, which in turn may shift your own thinking, and maybe even change your behaviour.