by Sarah Steimer
After dabbling in yoga for many years, then practicing seriously since I moved to Chicago, I made the great leap into teacher training. By the grace of Ana Forrest, her assistants, hours and hours on a sweaty mat, and more life lessons than I can get into here — I am a certified Forrest Yoga teacher! It’s been a trip to say the least. During the training, we were asked to give up some of our poor eating habits and work toward creating a better relationship with food. “Me?” I thought. “I have a great relationship with food. Heck, I have a whole damn website to prove it!”
Well, not only did I have a thing or two to change, I gained a wealth of food knowledge by living with three incredible strangers and chatting with fellow trainees during our snack breaks. We all changed habits together and collectively whined about missing pleasure foods. I personally ditched alcohol for a month, in addition to gluten and refined sugar. We were all also asked to avoid “stink foods” — onions and garlic in particular, which steams from your pores during intense yoga practice. These aren’t called “aromatics” for nothing.
Here, readers, are some of my main edible takeaways from training to be a yoga teacher:
- Know WHY you’re eating. This may sound like an odd thing to give up, but I chose to release my tight grip on chips and salsa while I trained (I was also living in Texas at the time, so this was TOUGH). I know, big sacrifice, but those really are my safe foods. Happy? Chips and salsa. Bored? Chips and salsa. Sad? Yeah – chips and salsa. Giving up this snack taught me to really question why I felt I needed it, and if it really feeds what I require at the moment.
- Chew. A lot. I never thought I was a particularly fast eater, but actually making the effort to fully chew my food was real work. Plus it actually gives you the time to feel full. I’m still not always great at this, but it’s also sort of a great life lesson. Fully chew everything in life before you try to swallow it.
- Work with what you’ve got. I’ve always taken pride in using the ingredients I have to make a meal, but I’ve often tried to find a recipe first. After a full day of training, I would be tired, maybe a bit cranky and plenty hungry by the end of the day, so I definitely learned to work with what we had. I came up with some of my favorite dishes in ages! It’s like they say: Being physically and emotionally drained is the mother of invention.
- Almond butter is superior to peanut butter. Obviously you can argue this point, and I do still think peanut butter tastes better. But I learned almond butter is better for vitamin E, magnesium, calcium and iron. Peanuts also tend to create more mucus in the body, which can be an issue for our more phlegm-y brothers and sisters out there. I’m certainly not anti-peanut butter, but I think I’ve converted to almond after all these years. My advice? Choose the nut butter with the least amount of processing.
- Baked plantain chips are heaven. I’m new to this. Still maybe not the world’s most nutritious snack, but if you crave salt like I do — these babies are a handful of happiness. You can find them bagged, boxed or in the bulk section of the grocery store.
- Know your oil’s smoke point. An oil’s smoke point is when it begins to oxidize, which means the antioxidants are replaced by free radicals that can damage cells. Extra-virgin olive oil works best at low or medium heat, for example. I still have some research to do, but I now employ coconut oil far more frequently.
- The kitchen pantry is also your bathroom cabinet. Beauty starts from within, but we can also use our edibles externally. I have very sensitive skin and am prone to rashes. The extra-warm yoga rooms and nonstop sweating only exacerbated this issue. One of the best solutions I found was drying out the rashes first with apple cider vinegar, then moisturizing with coconut oil. Did I occasionally smell like a salad? Sure. But I’ll take that over the nonstop use of cortisone cream.
- Nurture. We did loads of writing in the training, and one of the words that pops up the most in my journals is the word “nurture.” What a great little word with gallons of meaning. Before you cook a meal or grab for chips (plantains or otherwise), stop and figure out if you’re nurturing yourself — physically or otherwise.
This is only the tip of the iceberg of what I learned, but it’s a heck of a start — and I am so excited to learn more. Taking care of yourself is a multidimentional project that goes beyond the occasional yoga class, organic apple or good night’s sleep; it’s about stopping to check in with yourself to see what really makes you feel nourished.
Live in the Chicago area and interested in a yoga class with Sarah? Shoot her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.