We're back for the fourth in the series of The Yoga of Food. I hope you've enjoyed it so far! Today's topic gets a little deep and maybe a bit uncomfortable. It's a side of yoga and food and health that we rarely talk about. A shadow side....
You know, the thing about shadows is, if you shine a light on them, they disappear! And, when you locate the source of the shadow, it's often a very teeny, tiny, little object projecting a much larger, scarier version of itself upon the wall!
What makes them so scary? I think it's because they're not in focus, they're often distorted, and often a very false representation of what's actually there! (Remember when you used to make finger puppets in front of the flashlight? Yeah... like that!)
So, as with many things in life, both yoga and your food relationship may serve you in a healthy manner, so long as your intention is healthy. I know, this gets squirmy because now we get to dig a little deeper. And if you're anything like me, you're really good at hiding things from yourself! But stay with me...
Yoga, generally perceived to be a "healthy" behavior, only serves you to the extent you approach it in a balanced way. (Remember that time you did too many chaturangas and couldn't practice for a week?) Yoga can be used as a way to avoid difficult emotions. It can be used excessively as a way to lose weight or gain health. Or, it can be a part of a balanced lifestyle that includes tending to and healing what's causing those emotions once you've found some zen in your practice. It's all in your intention and approach.
Now let's look at your food relationship in this context. Food inherently comes with a number of emotional associations. It's unavoidable. Its purpose is to provide our physical bodies with fuel in order to enjoy this experience called life. Enjoyment of the myriad colors, flavors, and textures encourages consumption so that we will thrive. Unfortunately, with the progression of society, we've created a plethora of readily available foods while being disconnected from the source. This makes it really easy to indulge every craving without a second thought, leading to food being used in many ways beyond physical nourishment.
Awareness of your food associations allows you to intentionally choose foods for nourishment (and of course pleasure!) while not using it to avoid experiencing difficult emotions. Don't worry, I'm not at all advocating giving up that perfect dark chocolate flourless cake when PMS comes on strong! Instead, I'm inviting you to create awareness of what you're truly seeking, and what will best serve you in the moment and 2 hours later and tomorrow and next year (perhaps 1 slice instead of 8?).
The moral of the story is that anything (even and sometimes especially "healthy" things) can be used as a vice when things get tough. And, most things can be a part of a healthy balance. The trick is knowing your heart's desire!