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Yoga Food, Diet, and Recipes

Why I Consider Myself Both a Yogi and a Foodie

Eating well is a form of mindfulness practice, and this is my go-to for finding delicious dishes.  

When people find out you teach yoga, they make all kinds of assumptions.

You can wrap your foot behind your head. (Sure. When I was two.)

You are always calm and peaceful. (Ha!)

You survive on a diet of carrot sticks and birdseed. (Psht! Pass the guac—and the chips.)

Don’t get me wrong: I do make my own granola and I bake a mean kale chip. But only because that stuff is delicious. What’s the point of eating if it’s not?

I know people who eat to live. Food for them is simply sustenance. For me, food represents exploration and adventure. It’s creativity and communion. It’s meditation and memory. It is a sweet, sticky bond that connects me with the people I love.

Finding Flavor at the Center

Some of my fondest memories have a flavor at the center: Family outings to the strawberry farm—sneaking juicy bites from warm, crimson fruits just plucked from their stems. Eating summer dinners where everything on the plate came from Daddy’s garden. Opening college care packages that centered around my mother’s coveted chocolate pound cake. Traveling with my colleague and blowing a whole day’s meal expenses on one fancy, fabulous meal. The first taste of escargot. The first jicama.

Done well, eating is a yogic practice. There are whole books on mindful eating that guide you step-by-step from noticing the texture and heft of the empty bowl, to fully experiencing the fragrance and flavor of the food and appreciating its value. In this way, a meal can be a meditation.

Or it can carry you straight to a state of ananda—bliss. Almost 20 years later, I still remember a bite of mousse that silenced the roar of the crowded New York restaurant and made me momentarily lose the thread of what my companion was saying. In that bite, my senses withdrew from all other distractions and focused singularly on the depth of the dark chocolate on my tongue. When I ever find that kind of focus on my mat, I will consider myself to be on the brink of enlightenment.

Of course, food is more than a nostalgic, philosophical activity. Being able to walk, to run, to move my body in asana, depends on the muscles and bones built by the minerals in foods I eat. My ability to sit in meditation requires a steady mind, fueled by the nutrients I take in at every meal. The pursuit of well-being—physical, mental, emotional—centers on the ability to feed yourself healthfully.

See also: This App Makes My Walking Meditations Better—And Safer

Living on the Dietary Spectrum

In that pursuit, I’ve stood everywhere on the dietary spectrum—vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, omnivore. What remains consistent is that I always want a meal that will fuel me, fill me, and taste like it’s worth eating. 

I’m grateful that when I open my Yoga Journal feed, I also content from Clean Eating, Vegetarian Times, and Better Nutrition. It always seems so symbiotic to see a recipe for chamomile tea beside a story about restorative yoga, or a frosty, green smoothie that might hit the spot after a powered-up vinyasa flow. When a YJ article on Ayurveda urges us to eat according to our doshas, the Indian Samosa Casserole is there for us. (The clever recipe for frozen yogurt bark has nothing to do with yoga, but it had me at hello. Why can’t everything be this simple and healthy and fun?)

One of the beautiful things about being a member of Outside+ is being able to access healthy recipes and meal plans from these sites. There’s an endless source of inspiration for my cooking and eating adventures. But membership offers the same benefits for yogis who also like to run or hike or bike or ski: instant, constant inspiration. In a way it’s all food—food for being your best, most whole self. Join today.

See alsoRunning is My Other Yoga—And This is My New Favorite Teacher