Tuesday, September 22, 2015


By Dominick H. 

Nine years ago, I walked into a yoga studio here in NYC to begin my journey towards flexibility, better breathing, spiritual connection, and healthy living. I initially got into the practice with much resistance. I didn't know much about poses or how to do them correctly. I felt like I would never advance. But, I grew a liking towards the practice. I would sweat and stretch. I felt like I was getting some work done and that my body was becoming healthier and more flexible. But, after about three months of practice, something strange started to happen. I would notice that after the intense yoga showdown, I would feel good but not amazing. I would start nodding out and getting super tired an hour or two after class. I felt groggy in the mornings and never wanted to get up for work. In the middle of the day, I always felt like I could fall asleep. Needless to say, for an avid yoga practitioner, I felt pretty sluggish and very low energy, which seems counter-intuitive. And then, I discovered something that would change my practice forever.

One day, when I was in class, I heard the teacher talking about re-energizing and refueling the body correctly in order to repair it from the practice and to give it enough energy to continually advance. At this point, I became super-curious. I took a deeper look at my diet and what I was eating. Before yoga, I would eat food that I thought would fuel me – carbs, sugar, and caffeine: bagels, doughnuts, cheesy breakfast sandwiches, soda, heavily sweetened coffee drinks, you name it. Then, I would show up to class and sweat it all out, dripping all over the place. After class, I went about my normal day, eating more sweets to keep my energy levels up, eating heavy meals late at night, eating spicy foods, drinking more coffee, and sometimes alcohol as well. I literally had no idea that everything I consumed actually contributed to the tightness in my hips, hamstrings, shoulders, and spine and it single-handedly affected my energy levels. Wow.

After experimenting with every possible diet known to man, I developed a clean way of eating and nourishing my body that really brought me back to life. I finally figured out what the body needs to grow, repair, and advance the practice. And now I am sharing it with you:

Before Yoga

Breakfast from @sweetpotatosoul
1. Eat a light breakfast. If you're a coffee drinker (like me), one small baked good is plenty: like a croissant or a bran muffin, or maybe a light yogurt. If you're still hungry, just wait it out. Lunch is not that far away. Make sure you eat no later than 10am. If your yoga takes place early in the morning, don't eat anything. Maybe a tea or a coffee, or some water, but that's it: suck it up.

2. If lunch takes place before yoga, eat something you enjoy. A light hot meal, a salad, a healthy sandwich, a soup, something like that. Nothing too oily or greasy, and nothing fried. Oh yea, no pizza or pastas. In the case that your yoga takes place in the afternoon, make sure you eat at least an hour and a half before yoga, and definitely nothing an hour before yoga.

3. If you must have a snack before your class, make it something light and small: a piece of dark chocolate, a small fruit or a small assortment of fruits, a smoothie, or maybe a juice. But nothing more. No chips, cookies, brownies, candies, and definitely not another meal.

After Yoga
Lemon Detox Water from @drinkmidetox
1. Avoid sweet drinks, sweetened waters, and energy drinks like the plague. They do nothing productive for your body, expect making you feel good for that specific moment. But afterwords, these sort of things will add to you feeling sluggish and lazy in the days to come. Drink lots of plain water: maybe even with a little lemon. 

2. As far as food, think light. If you are going out to dinner or are making dinner, have smaller portions of whatever it is you are having. It is better to not feel full. In actuality, it's better to feel a little hungry at the end of the night. If after yoga for you is still morning, this may be the first meal of the day. In this case, have your normal breakfast. For the morning yogis, the challenge will be to avoid over-eating throughout the day. The yoga practice has the tendency to make you feel hungrier than you really are. This holds true for lunchtime yogis as well.

3. And now for the vices: sweets, alcohol, junk food, oh what to do? We all crave these things after yoga. Here's the deal: do it all in moderation. We all have our things. Make sure you are choosing the healthiest of options. Think vegan treats or dark chocolate. Think salad. Think wine instead of hard alcohol. And, even though it goes without saying, don't smoke. Period. It ruins the body's ability to move on and grow to the next level. At the end of the day, we shouldn't be dependent on these things. We need our bodies to be free from crutches likes sweets or alcohol. These should be expressions of enjoyment and not something we look forward to. 

The Takeaway
The most important thing is this: eat in a way that makes you feel good long term, inside and out. Eat in a way that make you feel amazing every day: from the moment you wake up, to the moment you go to bed. Eat mindfully – and be conscious that everything you put in your body affects your energy, your performance, and your practice. Now go get it yogis!


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