It’s not uncommon for a yoga practice to take us into a different state of being. The physical asana, along with things like pranayama and meditation, can bring us into awareness of our bodies and minds with a sense of clarity and presence that we want to sustain as long as possible after class ends. One way of prolonging the benefits of yoga is through good diet choices after practice. Whether you think of yoga as a holistic system of spiritual and physical growth or as a tool to relieve stress and increase flexibility and toning, what you eat after your practice can have a big impact on the benefits you’ll reap. Just as eating before yoga requires some thought and awareness, deciding what to eat after asana can be just as important.
As we creep into high summer, it’s more important than ever to stay hydrated. While it can be tempting to reward yourself with a beer after yoga, drinking water—and lots of it—is the best thing you can do for your body. Hot yoga classes can be even more popular during the summer, and it’s imperative that you replenish what you sweated off after a particularly intense session. If you want to add some pizazz to your hydration, throw some fruit slices into your water. Citrus fruits, cucumbers, peaches or even whole berries can add fun and flavor while allowing you to reap summer’s bounty.
Getting some carbohydrates in after practice is great for energy, proper metabolism and digestion. Sweet potatoes, rice and vegetables are fantastic after any workout and are easy to prepare. Choose steamed or sautéed dishes rather than fried for a healthy, lighter meal. Fruit is a fantastic option for dessert. Take advantage of what’s in season by making a colorful fruit salad that allows you to taste a little bit of everything.
Your muscles want protein after practice. Protein promotes muscle growth and healing, and increases energy overall. You can choose your protein sources wisely using common sense or some basic guidelines from ayurvedic wisdom. Lean proteins, like chicken, turkey and fish are healthy choices that won’t leave you feeling as heavy (and tamasic) as a giant burger. You can also get lots of protein from non-meat sources, like eggs, nuts, tofu and yogurt.
Even more important than what you eat, is an awareness of how you feel after you’ve eaten it. Knowledge of ayurvedic diet can help hone this intuitive awareness while helping you maintain healthful eating habits that will sustain the benefits of the physical practice. Sattvic foods are thought to be most beneficial for diet and richest in prana, the energy of life itself. They are easily light and digested, fresh, and are free from preservatives, chemicals and large amounts of spice or fats. Practicing mindfulness around eating is a way to maintain the meditative effects of yoga, and eating more sattvic foods can contribute directly to the quality of both sitting meditation and asana practice. According to Gary Gran, “The true test of foods comes when we meditate. All meditators know there are two main problems. One is falling asleep—the tamasic effect. The other is an over-active mind—the rajasic effect. If we want to be able to quiet the mind and maintain our alertness . . . we need to follow the sattvic diet.” Yoga practice, as a moving meditation, increases body awareness and clarifies the mind, and pairing it with eating mindfully can be a path to evolution across every aspect of your life.