What you eat on a regular basis is important. We all know this. However, what you eat in conjunction with your practice can have positive and negative consequences. When I started practicting 5-7 days a week, I learned very quickly that what I ate the day before and the day of my practice influenced what I was able to do in the hot room.
Joseph’s third tip hones in on this and raises some nice questions for discussion. Here’s his tip #3:
Determine the best training diet for you. Vegetarian may work for some, for others – it may not.
I like this tip because it is so on the money. Just like people will give you tons of advice about how you should train, or what you could do to improve your practice (see tip #2), they will also give you advice on what you should/should not eat. And just like with the physical training tips, it can overwhelm you, but it doesn’t have to.
Like I said yesterday, I have been seriously practicing Bikram for a year now. I would say that I really started to consider my diet about one month into my first serious year. I don’t know what sparked it. I think I was just curious about what might happen in the hot room if I tweaked my diet outside it.
I started down the road to becoming a vegetarian last February and had officially crossed over by April. I made the transition slowly by setting monthly goals for myself (Mark was also down with the idea which helped). I figured out very quickly that most of my breakfasts and lunches were already meat-free. I made the committment right away to leave them that way. That part was easy. It was changing our dinners that was more of a challenge.
We accomplished our dinner challenge by setting goals. In the first month, I think we said 14/30 dinners would be vegetarian, and I tracked our progress on the refrigerator. We ended up doing more than 14. The next month we bumped up the target and so on until we were eating vegetarian dinners all the time.
Do I believe that being a vegetarian helps my practice? Yes, I do. Do I think it will help yours? I have no idea. It helps me in the following ways:
(a) my mind is clearer (this further improved when I cut my caffeine intake in half)
(b) I feel less bloated in general, espicially after eating, but also just all around
(c) I have more energy which translates into being able to do more in the hot room
(d) I sleep better which naturally helps me recover from my training and feeds into my energy levels.
If you are curious about how a vegetarian diet – or any diet – might influence your practice try making some changes for a period of time (maybe one or two months). You don’t have to overhaul your diet. In fact, that’s probably the last thing you should do as big dietary changes are often not sustained as well as small, gradual ones. You could try eating a vegetarian (or whatever it is you are doing – the word vegetarian in this post is a place holder for whatever diet you might take up except for when I am talking about my own habits) dinner the night before a morning class and see how it goes. You could integrate vegetarian meals into your week. Make a plan. Refine it as needed.
Finally, don’t worry about what you can’t do and focus on what you can do. For example, I used to say, “I can never be a vegetarian. I cannot give up chicken wings.” My love affair with chicken wings was legendary – at least in my mind. However, that statement literally stopped me from making positive progress in my diet and training. I could have said, “I like chicken wings. I am going to eat them now and then. But I’m also going to work on finding some vegetarian meals to eat in between.” I actually don’t eat chicken wings anymore, but that’s another story. You get my point. The second statement allows some new space to open up for making different dietary decisions. The first one shut it down.
Don’t shut yourself down. Do what you can and want to do.
What are your experiences with how/what/when you eat and how do your decisions influence your practice?