One concept in yoga is the idea of ahimsa.
Ahimsa translates to ‘non-harming,’ which many yogis automatically interpret into eating a vegan diet as a non-harming practice towards animals. While that may be one way to practice it, it first has to start with a non-harming approach to yourself and your body.
YOGA OF EATING: AHIMSA + EATING
In your eating, it is letting go of rules or dietary restrictions. It’s choosing a path of freedom around food rather than always being at war with yourself about what you “allowed” or “not allowed” to eat.
It’s recognizing your body’s need for fuel regularly throughout the day – and honoring it. Instead of what you may think your body needs, it’s tuning into your hunger cues and feeding those instead. If you don’t have regular hunger cues yet, it means eating consistently, even if you’re not hungry.
It may mean letting go of dietary approaches like low-carb, paleo, or vegan styles of eating because you realize they restrict and limit you. Your body is unique, and everyone has different nutritional needs. Your body is always changing, so know that what you eat today will be different from tomorrow or next month.
It’s recognizing the physical, mental, social, and emotional harm of your eating behaviors. There are side effects like losing your period (amenorrhea), feeling cold all the type, digestive distress, anxiety around food, body dysmorphia, isolating yourself, decreased bone density, and much more.
It’s letting go of the fears that hold you back around food or eating. It’s hard to have energy and zest for your life, relationships, work, play, and everything else if you’re always focused on food. Facing your fears around food helps lead to freedom because you can realize that food isn’t really a big deal. You can eat to energize your body to live.
Some people may practice ahimsa through choosing a vegan diet, if that is in their ethical values and if it’s what your body responds well to. Some people find it too restrictive or their bodies will not feel their best eating this way. It doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing approach. You may find that you can still practice non-harming towards animals through eating more plant-based meals, or choosing to eat local and more humanely raised animals, which is a far better approach than factory farming.
It means practicing self-compassion with your thoughts and behaviors. You could be eating the most nutrient-rich diet in the world, but if you are beating yourself up mentally about not eating the ‘perfect’ diet or having the ‘perfect diet,’ it’s going to be stressful.
AHIMSA + BODY IMAGE
It’s bringing awareness to the beliefs you hold about your body. For example, if you believe that you won’t be lovable at your weight, that your body is something to be “fixed,” or that your body isn’t good enough as it is. These are beliefs that may have developed through messages from culture, other people in our lives, or things we picked up through the years. The thing about beliefs is they can be changed, and there are plenty of people out there that are comfortable in their bodies at all shapes and sizes.
IStart to recognize what ways your thoughts or behaviors may not be serving you.
- What ways can you practice non-harming with your thoughts or behaviors around food?
- How can you be more compassionate to your body?
- How can you find freedom and flexibility with your food, so you can invest energy into your life?