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January 30, 2015 by Francesca Baker
For something essential to life, we have a complex relationship with food. So many of us see it as the enemy, fighting against it and our bodies, in a battle that we do not truly understand. New diets, expert rules, nutrition guidelines and celebrity fads have left many of us feeling confused about what to eat, and the only answer is to listen to and work with your own body seems unhelpful. What are our bodies saying, and how can we tune in to understand what they mean? In The Yoga of Food: Wellness from the Inside Out, a book filled with questions and exercises to prompt self-reflection, Melissa Grabau applies the principles of yoga to the relationship with food. Looking at the self through the different physical, mental and spiritual lenses of yoga, and taking a compassionate approach, she encourages the reader to bring attention to appreciation of the food they eat and the bodies they inhabit, learning more about themselves as they do so, Much of the work involves investment of time and facing uncomfortable feelings. by slowing down to consider how food is used. For many of us it is more than simply energy, and its entanglement as a tool to bury or deal with emotions has left it in a difficult position in our lives. Yoga and meditation, as a ‘deep affirmation of your interior world’ strengthens the self and enables a slowing down to seek the answers within. The book does not shy away from explaining how the spiritual principles of yoga apply to our physical person. Grabau encourages perspective of mitri, which means expressing love and kindness to all living beings, moves the personal energy from one of criticism and deprivation to one that is loving and nurturing, and this warmth and compassion for the self is crucial to ‘learning how to eat.’ Rather than fighting against the body or blocking out discomfort, willpower is seen ‘not a practice of restraint, but rather, a practice of expansion and exploration.’ A lovely description of the yogic breath, pranamaya, as the ‘subtle buzz of life that animates you’ acts as powerful reminder of the beauty of life and the role of energy within it – and the role that food and exercise plays. We might think that we should instinctively know what to eat, and how much of it, but so many of us have lost touch with our basic needs. This book helps carve the space to reassess. Through time and via the navigation of the self in the space created by yoga, meditation and thought, growth and positive adjustments can occur. By literally turning the gaze inwards, and gaining ‘in-sight’ we can embrace possibility and affirm positive changes. Disengaging from the idea that our body and the feelings associated with it are permanent, and noticing the transience of moods and emotions, we become more empowered and cement our responsibility to make change. ‘Food is a lovely feature of life on this planet’ writes Grabau, and this book is a useful guide to how yoga helps us to embrace this and become aligned with our own needs, enjoying the process, harnessing our energy, and seizing the opportunities afforded as a result.