June 22, 2012

The Yoga Diet. ~ Dani McGuire

I’ve seen many fad diets over the past 20 years.

I picked up my first book on health, Fit for Life, at the age of 16.

Since then, I’ve tried food combining and eating for my blood type. I’ve labeled myself as: fruitarian, macrobiotic, paleolithic, raw foodie, vegan, omnivore, vegetarian, gluten-free and gluten and casein-free. It may come as no surprise that while I experimented within this constellation of food regimes, I also suffered with an eating disorder and an unhealthy sense of self-esteem.

There are as many different diets out there as there are religions. In a way, our diet is like a religion. There is always the new list of 10 things you don’t do to be “healthy” or “good.” Popular diets and beliefs take over the consumer market.

Gluten is the newest evil in the religion of health.

Companies catch on quickly and line the shelves with products catering to our newest set of beliefs. If we ingest gluten we may not go to hell, but we’ll feel like it; if we eat super foods, we’ll feel super human.

On a recent trip to Whole Foods, I happened to be in an aisle with a woman who was new to the gluten-free diet. There were three employees opening different packages of gluten-free cookies and letting us sample them. Of course I tried every one they offered—it was free (I love Whole Foods samples)! I left the store with a sugar hangover. Was it really a good idea to eat sugar-filled, refined foods just because the gluten-free industry found a way, in some instances, to make them taste even better than the real deal?

I started to wonder what I was being fed and if the information was true for me.

During my years of practicing yoga, I stumbled across the study of Ayurveda, a sister science to yoga that teaches us how to live life. Ayurveda told me exactly what I wanted to hear. In a moment the pendulum was swinging from, “There is only one way to be radiantly healthy,” to “I am not putting myself in a box!”—like the way the Catholic school girl trades her skirt for a pair of leather pants to follow the band.

I no longer believed there could be just one way to eat for the complexity of our human bodies. Ayurveda told me that it was O.K. to eat meat if I needed some grounding, something the sister science of yoga and other philosophies have said “No,” to. It explained why I craved eating raw foods during the summer months. It told me there is not going to be one diet for every body, or even one way for your body, your whole life, or even this year.

Now, I am a consumer and practitioner of the science of Ayurveda.

Still, it is my yoga practice that has given me the most insight into myself and the world; it’s healed the struggles I had in my early 20s with an eating disorder.

Yoga has taught me to not be a consumer of fads and ever-changing diets and beliefs, but rather to believe in myself. To not be a vegan because I thought it was the right and only way. To feel how it resonates with me to eat foods that are offering their life to me. To see how picking food from the vine helps plants grow more fruit, verses hunting foods that are not as willing to give their lives. To experience the moment, sensations, and mostly my relationship with food and the earth. To approach the ritual of nourishment with presence and mindfulness.

Yoga has taught me to keep my body like a smooth running machine so that if I eat a little gluten or dairy, I still feel good. If I eat too many cookies in the Whole Foods gluten-free aisle, I don’t feel like I have to run 10 miles to burn them off.

How is your relationship with food?

What is happening on the mental and emotional levels?

Are you feeling integrated and deeply connected with yourself?

This is my diet of yoga. I am full and happy and no longer looking for anything outside of myself. In the words of my teacher David Frawley, “The consumer is consumed.”


Dani McGuire is a yoga teacher, business owner, yoga therapist, and asana addict that loves Love, Life, Family, Food, God, and, of course, Yoga. “Since I am unable to quiet the mental chatter and control thirst for earthly pleasures I live, write, and laugh and my human-ness.” Dani leads yoga workshops and teacher trainings, and takes her yoga off the mat through Pranayoga Foundation, a nonprofit teaching yoga to people with cancer and chronic illness. For more about Dani check out her personal website or PranaYoga.



Editor: Jessica DeLoy


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