Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Help! I'm Stressed and I Want to Eat Everything in My Cupboards!!

Wowzaa! There is a lot going on for me right now! My Husband is overseas setting up a new Life for us in (what I hope will be) our new Long-term Home, in Bali, Indonesia and I am busily trying to wrap up our Life in St. John's, Canada.  I leave in a little under 2 weeks and there are still boxes to pack, a Passport to renew and Goodbyes to be said.  I'm sure you can all remember back to a time of great upheaval in your lives where you were super-stressed or maybe plans for the future were uncertain, usually the very first thing to go flying out the window is Self-Care.  And if you are anything like me, when you are going through a period of Transition you are prone to Stress-eat like a Mad-Fiend, regular sleep patterns disappear and you feel this tightness in your chest that won't go away until you get one more thing from your To-Do List done..sound familiar?

I have found my Yoga practice to be a Great Resource when I have a lot on my plate (proverbial or otherwise).  When I am feeling stressed in other areas of my Life I often feel a strong desire to take a more Peaceful practice, opting for a Restorative class or a quiet Yin practice at Home over a crowded Vinyasa class with tons of Sun Salutations and challenging arm balances and inversions.  When everything else is going at warped speed in Life it is natural to feel a desire to slow-down in your Practice.  My Yoga Practice has helped me grow in my Awareness of where I am emotionally, mentally and physically and what it is I need when I come to my mat.  You generally always get what you need from your time spent on your mat, even if when you if when you come to the mat you have no idea what that is.  And an Uber-hectic days (isn't Uber such a lovely phrase!) it what you need may be to just lie in Savasana for 10, 20 or 30 minutes and decompress (if you haven't tried this please do as it is Glorious!).
My Journey with Yoga has also taught me about Eating to Aid a Calm & Easeful Mind (or at the very least to be more aware of when I am not doing so).  In the teachings of Ayurveda (the Sister Science to Yoga) they discuss 3 Qualities that make up the way we eat and the effects they have on the Body, Mind and Spirit.  The ancient yogis were typically Lacto-Vegetarians (meaning their Veggie diet would have included Dairy but not Eggs).  These 3 Categories of Foods or 'Gunas' as they were called ('Gunas' means Qualities in Sanskrit) are Sattva (Purifying Quality), Rajas (Stimulating Quality) and Tamas (Sedating Quality).  Sattvic foods are those that have a calming effect on the mind and body, cause no harm to other living things and are fueling for the physical body, some examples are fresh fruit and veg, whole grains, nuts and seeds, unpasteurized milk products and natural sweeteners like unpasteurized honey.  Rajasic foods are that which incite mental and physical unrest, some examples (a few of which I am sure you have felt the stimulating effects of yourselves) are coffee, black/green tea, spicy foods, energy drinks, chocolate, refined sugar and processed foods.  Tamasic foods can have a sedating effect on the body and/or mind, they make us feel lethargic and lazy, but any foods that are harmful to the body/mind fall under this category, some examples include meat, fish, eggs, mushrooms, alcohol, and anything stale/decaying.


So what does this ancient yogic philosophy have to do with our lives in the Here and Now?  I personally have found in times of stress/struggle that sticking to these principles (even loosely) helps me to keep a well-balanced Body and Mind. Whether you are dealing with the logistics of moving across the globe or trying to potty train your toddler the 3 Gunas can be surprisingly relevant to maintaining health in body, mind and spirit.  By consuming Sattvic foods,  in combination with practicing other Self-Care techniques (ample rest, exercise and meditation), it allows the mind and body to function at an optimal level so that we can work more effectively to tick things off that lengthy To-Do List (can you tell I am a list-oriented person haha) without experiencing the twitchy mind, elevated blood pressure, over-stimulated adrenals and general sense of fatigue that comes with prolonged stress.

When you think about it, with exception to a few of the items Ayurveda deems as negative influences on us, the 3 Gunas aren't that far from our regular old Canadian Food Guide or the health messages you see in the media, with its' emphasis on eating fresh whole foods, like whole grains and fresh produce. Ironically with all of our advancement as a species the foods we have been relying on for thousands of years are still the ones which sustain us best.  This is not to say that you can never have soft drinks (Rajasic food) or onions (Tamasic food) again, only that your consumption of them should be limited and that when you are feeling Super-duper 'I am going to pull all of my hair out!' Stressed that you should have a nice big delicious salad rather than stuffing your face with chocolate ice cream and potato chips (like we sometimes want to do, but regret after). Essentially we already know this, but it can be affirming to hear it from another (more ancient and wise) source. ;)  And whatever you do, don't resort to actually pulling out all of your hair or you might have to wear your Sattvic food as a hat like this Lady! LOL

If you are interested in learning more about eating a Sattvic Diet, please see Wikipedia (or any of the other links I have listed below in the Sources), or you can ask your local Yoga Teacher if they have any Traditional Yogic Texts that make references to the Gunas.  Having now said all this I think I will finish the day with a hearty mixture of Quinoa & Veggies, finish my taxes (one less thing on the list!) and do some 'Before Bed, Wind-Down Yoga', before Hitting the Hay.

Eat Healthy, Be Happy!  


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