Have you ever found yourself rushing to make the changeover from office worker to Yogi, frantically changing from your office attire to stretchy pants while trying not to be late for the first 'Om'? Have you ever found yourself doing all this suffering from some serious hunger pangs?
Haven't we all!
I have often been asked by students for guidance on whether they should eat before class, if so what and how much time they should leave between eating and coming onto their mat.
The answer is (drum roll please!)... I don't know.
While the more traditional schools of Yoga (like Sivananda Vedanta School for instance) will tell you that you should ALWAYS practice yoga on an empty stomach (which you accomplish by not consuming anything for 3 hours beforehand), I have personally found a rumbling belly to cause distraction from the Practice(for you and the others around you) and even dizziness in standing poses (particularly those balancing postures like Tree and Dancers). But I know others who can go the whole day without eating and be raring to go for their next workout (not that I am suggesting that you do this or that Yoga is a workout). My Husband Dave does this regularly and to my amazement doesn't even become grouchy.. however I might be known to get 'Hangry' from time to time.
There is no easy answer to the 'Eating Before Practice Dilemma' because we are all unique in our physical design and metabolism and therefore require different diets to build us up and keep us strong, energetic and enthusiastic come practice time. I know this probably not what you want to hear, but it will take you a bit of experimentation to find a few food items you can consume before you practice yoga that won't leave you feeling stuffed, groggy, or queasy. Light whole foods make great Work-Yoga snacks, that will provide a bit of pick me up, take the edge off and leave feeling alert for your practice. Food items like apple slices, celery sticks, or a small handful of almonds will all provide healthy complex carbs (giving you lots of Yoga energy!) and natural Fiber, helping you to feel sated until your class/practice is finished and you can head home for a full meal. I don't recommend consuming a full meal within 30 minutes to an hour of practicing, especially if it is a really heavy, fat-laden meal, this will just make you feel icky and you won't your Yoga to it's fullest.
How quickly you eat your pre-yoga food will also determine how it settles and therefore how you feel while doing Yoga. If you are pressed for time (which so many of us are, so often) try to be mindful of how much of the item you are eating and take your time, chewing each bite fully before taking the next one. Hoovering your food will only lead to indigestion from eating too much, too quickly and is liable to leave you feeling queasy during your downward dog. Lighter foods, like fresh fruit, veggies, nuts, seeds, or even a few cubes of cheese are more likely to take a bite out of your hunger, fuel you through your Pratice and not leave you lying on your mat in Savasana with nausea half-way through class.
The style of Yoga you plan to practice is also an important consideration when deciding what to eat before class. I have found that a larger portion or even a lighter meal can be consumed before a more gentle practice, like Yin or Restorative, but if I am doing something more active like Vinyasa or Hot Yoga then I want a lot less in my stomach to prevent an upset belly.
Bottom line is there is no right or wrong answer to this age-old question, it will take you a bit of personal experimentation to find out what pre-yoga eating regimen works best for you, your body and your Yoga.
For more suggestions on what you should eat before Yoga see Yoganonymous's article!
Until next time..
Be Happy, Eat Healthy!
PS. Please visit and like my new yoga website and find out more about my new endeavours in my Hometown, bringing Yoga to the Community at Large!