Welcome to this beginner’s guide to yoga, information that will demonstrate what yoga practice is all about. In this short series, you’ll learn about:
Part 4: Yoga and Nutrition
Part 4 of this introduction to yoga is divided into three sections:
In Section 1 you will explore why we eat what we eat, and consider some interesting ideas about food in the context of the human emotional body and yoga practice.
In Section 2 you will look at how your choices of food can either work for or against your immune system. You will learn how important taking care of your immune system is to your health and to yoga practice, and how choosing the right food can assist you in gaining a healthy body, and a healthy perspective of yourself and the world in general.
In Section 3 you will explore different types of foods that can be beneficial to your health, and that can complement the long-term objectives of your yoga practice.
Now that you’ve arrived at the point where you are considering the type of diet that would complement your yoga routine, you first need to understand the immune system and how the body fights disease. A truly healthy diet – that is, one that nourishes the body and mind – is one that is respectful of the immune system and its awesome duty of protection.
The Immune System
The immune system of the body is responsible for fighting disease. When the immune system is compromised, it cannot function effectively, which makes you prone to all kinds of diseases. This means that no matter how many health food supplements you take, or how much exercise you get, if the immune system is not working effectively, you will remain prone to illness.
When the immune system is not working, we tend to turn to pharmaceutical drugs or alternative medicines to treat the symptoms of our diseases. They might help the symptoms for a while, until the body becomes resistant to them. Or, we may find ourselves dependent on them for life, having to tolerate the side effects of long-term use. It could also be that they do not help at all. When the immune system is compromised, we find that our bodies do not heal fully and that we are always relapsing into ill health.
What is a Compromised Immune System?
Our immune systems can malfunction in all sorts of ways. In more serious cases, people can be born with weak immune systems, in which case, they need protection from the outside world. Others may contract diseases (such as HIV) that weaken the immune system. There are people with over-active immune systems (people who suffer from ailments such as asthma, eczema and other allergies), and yet others who may develop autoimmune diseases where the immune systems attack the body (e.g. lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Type 1 diabetes).
We can also develop weaker immunity to disease because of our diets. The immune system, always being on the alert against invasion of the body from toxins, tends to react defensively to the chemicals in highly processed foods, refined sugars, caffeine and alcohol, protecting us from their harmful effects. When we consume them regularly in large amounts, the immune system becomes so busy that the body system becomes tired and lethargic. It’s hardly any wonder that we get so exhausted when not only is the body not getting enough nutrients, but the immune system is constantly working to protect you from the toxins you are consuming.
When serious disease hits, then, the immune system is so caught up in the day to day activities of cleaning up your daily intake of toxic material, that it barely has enough resources to tend to the serious diseases. Right nutrition, therefore, goes a long way in helping the immune system to restore itself to a state of health.
Your Immune System, Your Food Choices and Your Yoga Practice
A great starting point for you in choosing the right diet is to be mindful of your immune system. Your yoga practice, you will remember, is one that will eventually bring a deeper recognition that your mind and your body, and you and the external universe, are all intimately connected with each other. You will also remember that the ancient Rishis recognized that the food we eat feeds the way in which we process life; when we eat highly nourishing food in balanced quantities and varieties, we are feeding all of the organs effectively, and so the brain is able to function in an equally healthy manner. They accepted that when we over-consume products that do very little to nourish us (today, that would include over-processed foodstuffs, too much sugar, caffeine and alcohol), then our body organs become malnourished and our brain is unable to process information optimally.
Go to Section 3 to explore some great foods that could bring enormous benefits to your health and yoga practice!