Oh my goodness! I haven’t been this bombarded with emails since the Bikram yoga competition article. The New York Times published an article today entitled When Chocolate and Chakras Collide, and I can hear the yoga buzz all the way from Montana. Firstly, I just can’t believe they didn’t mention our yoga and chocolate retreat! (Wink, wink. One fine day, perhaps we’ll be mentioned in the NYT…you never know.)
So, really, all this hoopla is a bit silly. It’s no big surprise that you can combine yoga with just about anything and have it be a pleasurable experience. And I think that people who are drawn to yoga and make the practice part of their life are generally interested in improving their well-being. So it would follow that eating well might be of interest. The controversy comes in when you consider the more austere yogic path of choosing to be a vegetarian/vegan, and an article comes out about blending yoga with “the lusty enjoyment of food and wine”, including meat. And chocolate. We might as well be chatting about religion.
I’ve been in the room many a time when passionate and surreal discussions about food choice and food/yoga conflict were going on, and I will sum up my opinion on the matter by saying everyone is free to make choices about what they do, and no one should judge another for his or her choices. Yoga brings you along a path, and according to one vegan yogini quoted in the article, the true yogic path gradually and organically frees people of desire for meat, dairy, caffeine and alcohol. I would say that the yogic path gradually frees people of the desire for, well, bad food. And eating healthy and sustainably leads to asking questions about where your food comes from, and educating yourself to make the best choices you can with the least amount of harmful impact. At least that’s been my path.
I am a foodie, no doubt about it. I adore food, I adore cooking, and I am not ashamed to say that my enjoyment of it all may indeed be defined as “lusty”. As a family, we eat a little meat (from a local organic rancher), a lot of fish (wild salmon, to be exact), and as many fruits and vegetables as we can, varying by the season. We drink wine and eat chocolate too. On our retreats, my goal is to foster an attitude of giving yourself permission to eat well. Not hard when you are super active all day, but the idea is also that you don’t have to deprive yourself to eat healthy. Many of our retreaters are surprised at this approach; they are expecting to be deprived. It makes me sad that there is often this association with yoga. So I love it when I see them savoring their meals, and allowing their bodies to be nurtured by good food. And wine, and chocolate.
It makes me smile (and please don’t judge me for not being horribly offended) to see that Mr. Romanelli is pushing the envelope with bacon:
Bacon, he said, is a yogic teaching tool, providing an opportunity to contemplate principles of attraction and revulsion, desire and self-denial, and why we are so attracted to things we know to be unhealthy. (It also, of course, provides priceless shock value.)
I’m guessing it’s more about the shock value. But I wholeheartedly agree with his comparison of yoga teachers and chefs:
“What yoga teachers do and what chefs do is not so different,” he said. “We take everyday actions like moving and eating, and slow you down so you can appreciate them.” Achieving stillness and peace amid the distractions of life, he said, has always been the higher goal of yoga.
And as usual, the commentary over at YogaDork makes me laugh out loud.
Namaste, and Bon Appétit.