Yoga of eating: Taste

frutas y verduras/ fruits and veggies

As the title of this blog indicates, Yoga is being fully present. In other words, real Yoga is not about being a good contortionist but about living consciously, which can be interpreted as immersing ourselves fully in the flow of life. The flow of life is predicated on eating, because eating provides nutrients to our physical bodies. As a Yogi or Yogini, it is important that we are aware that having food to eat is a luxury not enjoyed by many people in the world.
Sadly, the number of people in the world who are hungry continues growing. And even in wealthy countries like the U.S. –where obesity is a serious epidemic– hunger still affects almost 12% of the population. In my opinion, as Yogis or Yoginis, it is our responsibility to help
however we can. And also, it is our responsibility to relate to food in a conscious, life-affirming manner.

A couple of years back, while attending a Yoga workshop, one of the presenters, Dr. Gurleen Grewal, talking about nutrition and food in Ayurveda, asked a simple question, when should we swallow the food we are chewing?

The faces of the people attending the workshop showed signs of puzzlement indicating that we might not have a clear and logical answer. We offered various answers but nobody produced the answer Dr. Grewal expected: we swallow our food when its taste is gone.
These words really resonated with me. I love eating and trying different types of food but I was not sure that I was ever mindful enough in my eating to keep chewing my food until it had lost its entire flavor. Over the next few days I set my intention to observe carefully my eating habits. I was shocked to notice my lack of attention to the act of eating, it just seemed that I was eating mechanically. For instance, quite often I filled up a fork and directed it towards my mouth when I was just starting to chew my food! In many cases it was clear that I was eating without immersing myself into the experience. I was disappointed to find out my lack of awareness in my eating because it made me feel like I was not really honoring the food I was privileged enough to have.
I decided to try to make the change from eating mechanically to eating consciously. The results were immediately favorable as many flavors I had not taken the time to savor before, started to emerge and become noticeable. Another immediate effect was realizing very easily when I had eaten enough. It was also clear that some foods that I ate were not that enjoyable or beneficial. In addition, it was clear that masticating more thoroughly seemed to have beneficial effects on my digestion. As I think about the numerous effects of this simple change in my way of eating, I find a parallel between my actions then and the practice of Yoga, we pause, observe attentively, notice what we are doing and its effects, then we act in a way that is life-affirming and not mechanical and finally we observe the effects of our actions. I have to say that it is not always easy or even possible to be attentive to what we do, but it does help us participate more actively in our own lives.

By taking the time to honor the food we eat, we can appreciate all the love, work, effort and resources involved in growing, harvesting and cooking our food. The tastes, aromas, textures and colors of the food we eat are the result of the intricate dance of life. When we eat consciously, besides enjoying the myriad tastes, aromas and textures, we are celebrating the deep link we have to the food sources and to the dance of life.

Over the past couple of years, I have talked to many relatives and friends about this “Yoga of eating”, eating mindfully, chewing our food until it looses its flavor. I have found that many people, including self-proclaimed food lovers, (unless they are part of the slow food movement ) are not mindful of how they eat. Making a simple and free-of-cost change to our pace of eating challenges our deep seated habits. As such, it requires our focused attention, and this is what Yoga is all about: integrating our actions and establishing a connection between ourselves and the world.

he “Yoga of eating” beckons us to establish a meaningful connection with our food. This, in my opinion, is a transformational step that can have profound impact on what we eat and how we eat it, with effects that range from the individual level (such as health and nutrition) to societal levels including the economy, the environment and public health. At the individual level, making this change can help us relax and enjoy our food more while opening our sensitivity to taste, showing us the foods that best agree with us, improving our digestion, helping us realize when to stop eating, and perhaps making us grateful for having food on our table.

There are numerous resources that can help in the process of thinking and learning more about our own relationship with food. For instance, you can learn about specific aspects of eating and chewing, in the classic treatise from the 19th century, The Physiology of Taste, written by Brillat Savarin, where numerous aspects of taste are explored in painstaking detail. You may find interesting to learn about The Great Masticator, Horace Fletcher ,
and his dogmatic approach to eating. Or, you might prefer the clarity of Fisher and Fisk’s work on mastication , or Dr. Kennedy’s clear explanations of common food myths. You might also enjoy reading on Ayurvedic tips for good digestion, or learning about the relationships between our food choices and social, political and economic practices, like Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, and Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life.

Eating, like any Yoga practice, if done mindfully is a simple act that can be transformed by our conscious awareness.

I hope that you enjoy thoroughly the taste of your next meal.

Namaste.

5 thoughts on “Yoga of eating: Taste”

  1. Hola Rubén, gracias por la nota que dejaste en mi blog…fíjate que sólo dos días antes había encontrado el tuyo….y había leído lo del buen comer, me quedé especialmente con lo de tragar la comida cuando ya no tuviera más sabor…que sabio!
    Gracias por el link de las series de Ashtanga, por lo que dices entiendo que lo practicabas y ya no lo practicas más. Yo estoy ahora iniciandome en él y tengo sentimientos confusos, por un lado me parece una práctica muy poderosa, por otro no me puedo imaginar haciendo siempre la misma secuencia…soy bastante espontánea en mi práctica y pienso que cuanto más practicas, más sensible te vuelves alo que te pide el cuerpo ese día particular..En fín, no se, ya me contarás si tienes tiempo alguna vez.
    Por cierto, chulísimo tu blog.
    Ah, de dónde eres? Yo soy de Zaragoza, España.
    Un abrazo

  2. Namaste Lalita,
    Gracias por tus palabras de apoyo y tus comentarios. Realmente pienso que el cambio en la forma de comer, aunque es sencillo mas no fácil, es potencialmente transformativo. Trato de tenerlo en cuenta cuando como, aunque no sucede todo el tiempo, es en sí una práctica. Yo soy Colombiano, aunque llevo 13 años viviendo en diferentes partes de EE.UU. Actualmente estoy en Tampa en la Florida. No conozco Zaragoza, así que tuve que ir a wikipedia a leer un poco al respecto y suena muy interesante, por su historia y su posicion central. tal vez algun día podré ir a conocer.
    Créeme que entiendo lo que dices acerca de Ashtanga, pues estoy de acuerdo en que es una práctica poderosa. Como tu, siento que es importante adaptar la práctica a lo que nuestro cuerpo, mente, espíritu y corazón necesitan. Desde este punto de vista el objetivo de mi práctica es estar balanceado y en equilibrio para poder fluir armoniosamente con la vida. Y por eso trato de que la práctica me conduzca hacia ese estado. Pienso que la gente que practica Ashtanga siente que eso es lo que ellos necesitan para sentirse en balance y para calmar las fluctuaciones de la mente.
    Por lo que dices, creo que tienes afinidad con las ideas de Erich Schiffmann, (no se si lo conoces, esta en mi lista de enlaces) el habla de “Freedom Style Yoga” que es “no decidir por anticipado lo que uno debe hacer, sino escuchar internamente y darse uno mismo permiso para seguir la guianza que recibe desde adentro.” Así que respecto al tema de “Ashtanga o no Asthanga.. ” que creo es a lo que te refieres cuando hablas de confusión, pienso que nuestra práctica refleja diferentes épocas en nuestra vida, siendo algunas veces más vigorosa, otras veces más restaurativa… Me gustaría saber que decides al respecto.
    Un abrazo

  3. Howdy! I could have sworn I’ve been to this blog before but after reading through some of the post I realized it’s new
    to me. Anyhow, I’m definitely delighted I found it and I’ll be book-marking and checking
    back often!

  4. Hola Ruben,que gozo leer tus respuestas muchas gracias por esto,esta informacion del yoga del sabor me hace pensar que hay que disfrutar y encontrar el sabor. Estoy enpezando a prepararme un jugo de:(licuadora)
    agua de la cascara de pina, una rama apio,perejil,pepino y cuando hay lapina,se supone que es diuretico y limpia mi organismo,tratando de no comer mucha sal porque tomo pastillas para la presion alta,voy a tratar por todos los medio comenzar con los ejercicios de yoga,estoy pasando por un mal momento de salud en mi cuerpo me salieron unos nodulos en la tiroides y lo mas raro que cuando me hacen las pruebas para la tiroides todo sale normal. Definitivamente mi parte emocional no anda nada bien,y en difinitivamente eso es lo que yo misma estoy enfermando mi cuerpo.
    Bendiciones muchas gracias por esa dedicacion a ayudarnos.Dios te ha dado un don maravilloso. Marilu gracias y miles de Bendiciones.

  5. Hola Marilu,
    Como me alegra saber que encuentras utilidad en mis comentarios. Gracias por compartir la receta del jugo, suena delicioso y muy similar a los jugos que preparo par mi desayuno. Yo agrego gengibre feresco a mis jugos pues el jengibre ofrece bastantes beneficios. No se si te gustaria probrar un poquito de jengibre en tu jugo. Espero que encuentres maneras para hallar mas equilibrio emocional pues realmente no sentirnos bien emocionalmente puede afectar nuestra salud en diversas formas.
    Muchas gracias de nuevo por tus comentarios.
    Un saludo cordial, muchas salud y paz.
    rubén

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