The Healing Power of Yoga: Nourish Your Namaste

Curious about yoga? Learn about the healing power of yoga and how integrating yoga and nutrition can take your practice to a new level. 

Yoga came to me at a time when I needed it most.

While I had taken a few classes in college and practiced with episodes of Yoga with a View in my living room occasionally, at that time, I had approached it as a workout. A thing to do when I didn't quite feel like going to the gym or more likely, didn't feel like getting my freshly blow dried hair sweaty.

Flash forward to 2011-ish. I was planning a wedding. We just bought a house, a ring and my dog needed two major surgeries in one month, neither of which were covered by insurance. After bouncing from three cities over the span of four years, I was feeling lonely and out of place without a tight knit group of friends. And I was slowly realizing the job that I had referred to as "my dream job" only a year earlier was kind of of sucking my soul away.

My anxiety was totally and completely out of control.

I'm not sure what spurred me to go to that first yoga class all by myself. I do remember feeling terrified! What if I didn't know what they're talking about? What if basic yoga is actually code for handstands and backflips? What if I fart? What if someone next to me farts and people think it's me? What if I fall forward in wide-legged forward bend and break my neck? All totally rational fears.

No, I didn't leave that first class as a zen yogi. But I felt better, and better was enough to get me to go back. My yoga practice grew to a few times a week and then expanded to meditation. It became my "me time," a time to reset and focus on myself and my needs. A time to set aside the days worries and focus on two simple things - breath and movement. Yoga was one of the few things that kept me sane (errr...mostly sane) through that difficult time. It was actually a quote shared in the beginning of a yoga class that I viewed as a sign that gave me the strength and courage to quit my job and start my private practice.

Any form of movement you love has it's benefits, but yoga is special. With a history that dates back over 5,000 years, yoga integrates mental and spiritual practice with movement. From a fitness perspective, yoga is especially beneficial for improving flexibility, muscle strength and bone health, all of which help prevent injury. Like all forms of movement, yoga is helpful for heart health, not only by working your cardiovascular system but by lowering blood pressurereducing inflammation and decreasing stress. It has benefits for immunity as all the twisting and stretching helps drain lymph, which helps fight infection. Yoga is beneficial for sleep, a frequently overlooked facet of health. Practicing yoga also helps you feel better about your body not necessarily by changing it but by helping you be present in your body. And most importantly (for me at least), yoga is hugely beneficial for stress and anxiety.

I'm guessing if you've read this far, then you already have a yoga practice or are at the very least curious about it. If that's the case, I'm excited to introduce you to a incredible new resource created by my dear friend, fellow dietitian and yoga instructor, Kara Lydon aka The Foodie Dietitian. Part cookbook, part yoga manual, and part holistic living guide, Nourish Your Namaste is an 80+ page ebook that integrates yoga and nutrition to help you get the most out of your practice.  In the Nutrition for Yoga 101 section, Kara delves into the basics of nutrition for yoga, like when and what to eat before practice. She also discusses more advanced topics, like how facets of yogic philosophy relate to what and how we eat, and an introduction to ayurveda, all in a user friendly way. Personally, I was really interested in reading about ayurveda, the world's oldest holistic health care system and sister practice to yoga. If you see a lot of bitter and astringent foods and cooling herbs on the blog in the next few weeks, it's only because I think my pitta is imbalanced after reading her book ;)

The next sections are devoted to nutrition and yoga for relaxation, digestion, energy, and immunity. Each part includes a list of functional foods and yoga poses to nourish each area and incredible recipes using the functional foods. So if you're feeling low on energy or your digestion is a bit wonky, you can turn to that section, practice a few yoga poses and whip up something delicious and nourishing! I can't wait to make her sweet potato ginger smoothie and immunity boosting Buddha bowl with turmeric-tahini dressing!

One of the things I appreciate most about this book is it's non-diet approach. It's not about how to become a perfect vegan clean eater or what foods not to eat because they'll mess with your zen. Kara presents these concepts in a totally realistic way, focusing on nourishment, not deprivation.

Seriously, I learned so much reading this book, both about nutrition and yoga. In fact, it really reignited my passion for yoga, as recently my practice fell to the wayside when I was training for my half marathon. I love running outdoors - it's a great way for me to catch up on my podcasts. And Pure Barre makes me feel super strong and graceful. But I realized yoga has been missing for my life, and I think my body is giving me signs that I need it back. So I'm happy to report that after reading Nourish Your Namaste I immediately scheduled a yoga class I haven't been to in months!

If you'd like to strengthen your yoga practice with Nourish Your Namaste, click here to learn more about the book and to purchase. Disclosure: the link is an affiliate link, meaning I earn a portion of the profits at no additional expense to you. I only recommend products and brands (and in this case, people!) I love and trust for my own personal use.

Do you practice yoga? If so, how has it benefitted you? What would you like to learn about nutrition and yoga?