Q.Hi Yogi Marlon,
Because I take a vigorous evening yoga class after work at 7:30 p.m., I'm having trouble with my meals. If I do not eat before going to class I’m ravenous by the time I get home. It’s not a good idea to attack the refrigerator before going to sleep! How can I best determine WHAT and WHEN to eat so that I still have the energy to practice, and still avoid the late night meals?
Tel Aviv, Israel
A.A: Hi Neomi,
When you practice in the morning, food is a lot easier to manage, because you can delay breakfast until after class. Understandably, an evening class that fits into a work schedule more easily presents a different problem.
No matter when you practice yoga, you will want to make sure all the food you have eaten has moved along the digestive tract far enough that the stomach is totally empty. This will make inversions and forward bends more comfortable. In addition when there is little food in the digestive track and waste in the bowels, energy moves more freely throughout the body.
If you eat too close to yoga practice, gravity causes food in the stomach to slide up the esophagus. At worst, regurgitation may occur or a burning sensation may be felt as stomach acid reaches the sensitive tissue of the esophagus. Far more commonly, it’s just plain uncomfortable to hold the food down.
Energy in one of its five forms called pran is extracted from the air we breathe in normal respiration. The expanded breath capacity during pranayama boosts the supply and works as a direct substitute for the energy one would normally derive from food. For this reason it is common for accomplished yogis to eat very little food. As a yoga practitioner you may experience that to a lesser degree, finding your need for food is reduced immediately after class and for a few hours thereafter.
So here's a plan for practicing yoga in the evening:
- Eat your heaviest meal midday.
- At least 2 hours before class eat something light so your stomach will be empty by the time you get to class. Look for foods that are easily digested like soups, fruits and vegetables. Avoid dense foods such as fried foods, meat and heavy grains like bran or kasha. A little of a lighter grain such as white rice is fine.
- After class, be sensitive and determine whether you are actually hungry or merely eating out of habit. If truly hungry, eat another small, easy to digest meal waiting at least 20 minutes after class has ended.
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