Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Use Yoga to Control Holiday Eating

Food and the holiday season go hand in hand. Use the lessons from among the "Ten Commandments" of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras to control your eating habits this year. Patanjali, a great sage of ancient India, is the compiler of the Yoga Sutras, the guidebook of classical yoga. Written at least 1,700 years ago, it's made up of 195 aphorisms (sutras), or words of wisdom.

The Yamas and Niyamas, the first two branches of Patanjali's Eightfold Path from the Yoga Sutras, are very useful this time of year. Of particular interest are Ahimsa and Aparigraha from among the Yamas, and Santosha and Swadhyaya from the Niyamas.

Ahimsa - Non-Harming
Whether you are vegetarian or not, there is one being you can seek to refrain from harming all of the time: Yourself.
This applies to the choices you make about what you put into your body. Remember, most things are not going to harm you in moderation. The danger of this time of year is the quantity of food, alcohol, and sweets available - not to mention the additional social engagements involving eating. Plus, with less time to get everything done, more people skip their workouts - when this is the time we should be working out even more! Commit to keeping yourself healthy this entire holiday season and you will feel less stressed and have more energy to spread the joy.
Ahimsa also applies to negative self-talk. So don't beat yourself up if you can't do it all this season!

Aparigraha - When Enough's Enough
Sometimes, the toughest part of eating during the holidays is simply pushing away from the table. Aparigraha reminds us to listen carefully to our bodies and stop eating when we have eaten enough. Try to put your fork down between each bite of food and focus on chewing your food while you eat. If you are afraid of wasting food, or feel obliged to make excuses, ask for a doggy bag for leftovers to take home. Many home cooked or restaurant meals can be dinner and lunch the next day. Hostesses will be flattered if you say you're full, but perhaps could pack a few leftovers to take home? As long as you will eat them later, it isn't greedy to ask for doggy bags to save food from going to waste.

Santosha - Contentment
What's more important about the Holidays: the food or the company? Okay, so the truth is most people think it's a little bit of both. But just because you love holiday food, that doesn't mean you have to heap your plate to overflowing. If you practice contentment with the present moment, living in the "Now", you will be able to eat mindfully. Taste the smaller portions to their fullest, and truly savor each bite. Enjoy the sights, smells, sounds and the company that create the Holiday atmosphere as much as or perhaps even more than the food.

Swadhyaya - Save Room for Dessert
You know what your favorite holiday foods are. If you are certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that you will have a slice of Auntie Darlene's Black Forest Cake at the end of a meal, be aware of that throughout the meal. Eat only a bite of stuffing to appreciate the flavors, perhaps skip the mashed potatoes and gravy entirely. We all know how to make good decisions about eating, but we forget our sense of moderation in the melee of Holiday hubbub. Even if you choose to celebrate with merry abandon, please remember to be kind to yourself above all else.

Keep it fresh!
- Lauren