Co-Written by Nicole Lyon, RDN, CD, RYT & Cathy Visser MPH, RDN, CD
Each of us are born with a natural sense of how to feed ourselves. Infants and children inform you when they want to eat and when they are done. Yet, many adults do not trust themselves with eating properly. In a society that spends billions of dollars telling people they need to change their bodies, it’s no wonder people feel they cannot trust themselves.
In the last 2 decades, a new wave of nutrition advice and research has emerged: Intuitive Eating. Created by dietitians Evelyn Tribole & Elyse Resche, they identified 10 principles to help you overcome dieting and reconnect with your body’s internal wisdom. Another practice that can help with this is yoga.
You probably know of yoga from the pictures of athletic bodies contorted into challenging postures. Asana, the physical practice of yoga, is only one small component of the practice. There are also ethical guidelines to yoga that deal with the mind, thoughts, and spirit, not just the body. Called “yamas”, these basic ethical principles must be accepted before you can gain the true benefits of this mind-body practice.
While yoga is often considered a spiritual practice, it is not a religion. Anyone can practice their religion and gain additional benefits from yoga. Spirituality is personal and can mean a deity, the universe, or simply becoming your best, most authentic self. You decide.
How are Intuitive Eating and Yoga Related?
There are many overlapping principles between the yamas and intuitive eating. Just as intuitive eating addresses both physical and mental health, the yamas (or ethical principles) also address the mind and spirit because these have a significant impact on the physical body.
- The yoga principle of non-stealing means not taking from others without permission. This breaks people’s trust in us. But this can also occur when we compare ourselves to others, seeing what we lack. You may feel you want to take it from someone rather than celebrating their success. We steal from ourselves by staying in the past mentally or worrying about the future rather than acknowledging what is presently occurring in our bodies.
This relates to intuitive eating through rejecting the diet mentality and challenging the food police since diets and food rules steal from our enjoyment of food, making us doubt ourselves.
- Non-excess or moderation relates to both honoring your hunger and feeling your fullness. Too much of anything can cause issues. Self-care includes avoiding the harm done by letting your body go to extreme levels of hunger OR fullness. Using a sense of non-excess, we find a middle ground with food.
- Non-attachment means letting go of whatever does not serve you. Holding onto things, people, and thoughts can prevent us from moving forward in life. By making peace with food, you let go of external rules telling you what to eat. Learn to become satisfied with food so it has less control over you.
- The most basic ethical principle of yoga is non-violence. Do no harm. Perhaps it is easy to imagine not being violent towards others, but this also means not harming ourselves. Not just physically, but also mentally. Being too critical of yourself is considered violence. Overcome this by learning to respect your body. You don’t have to love your body, but you are unlikely to treat yourself well if you dislike or despise yourself.
Non-violence also relates to coping with your emotions with kindness. We are human and inevitably we will mess up. That is part of life and we don’t have to kick ourselves over mistakes, especially if we learn something from them.
- Truthfulness is the last principle: being honest & authentic. Become your true self. This relates most to intuitive eating ideas of both movement and gentle nutrition. Be honest with the ways in which you can enjoy movement in your body and learn to nourish it appropriately. We must also be honest and acknowledge that learning to do this consistently will take time. Just as yoga is a continual practice, so is learning to connect with our bodies and trusting food.
Want to learn more about these concepts and how to applying them in your life? Join Registered Dietitians Cathy Visser and Nicole Lyon for a yoga & intuitive eating series coming soon: Mind & Body. Learn more about each of the above principles, then put it all together with an easy, gentle yoga practice.
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Cathy Visser is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and certified Intuitive Eating Counselor with over 30 years of experience. She can help you learn the basics of intuitive eating so you can live free from the bondage of dieting, yo-yo weight changes, and not worry about food and eating.
Nicole Lyon is a registered yoga teacher who is passionate about helping people build strength both mentally & physically through yoga with balance & curiosity. Nicole is also a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, specializing in digestive disorders and improving mindset with food and eating.