Like many people who do yoga, I’m constantly tempted by delicious food that doesn’t necessarily support my practice, especially at this time of the year: mountains of mashed potatoes, endless variations on stuffing, and every possible kind of pie. But unlike most of my fellow yogis, I face these temptations at work. As a full-time reporter for The New York Times’ weekly food section, it is my job to eat, or at least taste, them all.
I would like to eat food that makes me stronger, cleaner, and more energetic. But when I am assigned to participate in a tasting of artisanal gin or to find the best fried chicken in Brooklyn, my commitment to such a plan falls off the table. Going vegan or vegetarian isn’t an option: I can’t even go on a diet. But
I can use my yoga practice to help navigate between plate and mat. Eating extravagantly is required; doing it mindfully is a choice that yoga can reinforce.
I’ve learned to practice letting go of my instinct to eat until not a crumb remains—a few slowly savored bites are usually enough to evaluate what I’m tasting so that I can write about it later. Often, knowing that Down Dog awaits in the morning helps me turn down that second hot dog at night.
Usually, having savored those few bites, I stop. But there are times that I don’t. Being immune to temptation is not the stuff food writers are made of. Perhaps too much so, I love the texture of a well-crafted baguette; a chilled vanilla custard drowned in hot, salty caramel; the joyful moment after the holiday meal is ended when everyone at the table gives in to a nip of sweet calvados with the last bites of flaky-crusted apple tart.
The challenge after these feasts is to come to the mat the next morning and to be present there—to do the asanas without berating myself for yesterday’s weakness. Often, I surprise myself; the days I feel most bleary, when part of me is still in bed nursing a pizza hangover, are the days when I can open and twist more because I’m not pushing so hard to be strong. I recognize that I can’t always control what I put in my body, but when I do overeat, yoga lets me start over. It encourages self-acceptance; it doesn’t punish weakness. In yoga, it is always enough to just show up, lift my heart, and move.