Slow Down and Eat!

by Jasmine Astra-elle Grace

Happy New Year! Linda Oshins captured Yoga on High’s year so well in her last blog. I am so happy to be part such an amazing organization, surrounded by such amazing Yogis. Life is sweet and 2012 was a great year.

As we go into 2013, I feel a strong pull towards releasing things of the past that do not serve my highest good anymore. Mindfulness and awareness are being shone directly (I am talking a commercial grade spotlight) on old habits and patterns that are no longer needed. Change is required and this is always a process. There is often some death in change. Something has to be given-up, tweaked, closed or opened in order to make way for the new. Oh, what to let go of first in 2013?

The lesson I share here is around mindfulness and slowing down while eating. Have you ever eaten something only to go back for another piece and it was all gone? You had actually eaten it and didn’t even notice. Well in my multitasking world (yes, I multi-task during eating) I have done this. In my last blog I wrote about my time in Kripalu. I mentioned I had many lessons on this transformative trip. In the early mornings at Kripalu we all eat breakfast in silence. On the first day, this was odd for me, but it forced me to bring my attention to eating. On the table they have a little informative flip chart that explains the silent breakfast something like this:

1. Think about where the food came from – farmers, truck drivers, chefs, waiters etc… and send blessings and gratitude to all those who helped serve you.

2. Eat one bite at a time. Put your knife and fork down in between each bite. Really taste the food. Eat slowly. Concentrate on the act of eating itself.

3. Notice your internal dialogue and make a choice to be present.

A simple lesson, yes. Something I already know, yes. But something I am terrible at doing. I get so engrossed in work or family activities sometimes I wish I could just take a pill and not have to eat. Other times I am so hungry because I have not eaten all day that I gobble the food up without my taste buds even having a chance to react. Such is the fast paced world we live in – often no time for digestion, integration and, often, connection. In truth, one of my worst habits is eating too fast and with no mindfulness. Yuck. How can I be a yogi and eat fast? Isn’t yoga about mindfulness and awareness in all we do on and off the mat?

Well, I have not made any new year’s resolutions but I have set an intention to be more mindful and slow down when eating. At my family dinner table I am always the first one finished. Although my husband and I set the example of saying prayers and blessings I set a terrible example for my daughter by wolfing down my food, only to get up and start doing my projects and duties. Now my personal prayer is to eat slowly and mindfully. Eating fast is a lifetime habit—a deeply grooved path. Have you ever had to change a bad habit in asana practice? The old habit is familiar and the new behavior has a weird foreign feel. You have to find comfort in the correction, do it enough times that you find a new place of ease while maintaining awareness.

It helps me to release non-serving habits by knowing the benefits of choosing a new direction:

1. Lose weight: eating more slowly allows your brain to register that you are full so you eat fewer calories.

2. Taste and enjoy your food: actually tasting your food helps digestion and releases endorphins. Eating small amounts of treats (dark chocolate, gourmet pizza, Jenni’s ice cream) can be easily handled by our body if we “savor the flavor”.

3. Better digestion: digestion starts in the mouth with your taste buds and chewing. Eating slowly supports digestion right from the beginning.

4. Develop mindfulness and lessen stress: make eating a mindfulness practice and see how this reduces stress in your body and lifestyle.

5. Support local food growers: what we eat and where we buy our food fuels the market. We need to be conscious consumers. If we don’t buy something, eventually it will no longer be sold.

Is anyone up for trying this with me this year? Oh, and if you see me eating fast, please nudge me – it is like breaking a bad habit in asana class. You need lots of reminders.