Our bodies need food. Our society has trained us to have an unhealthy relationship with it. Generally speaking, a cycle of overeating and dieting is what most people fall into. Of course, I decided to do the opposite. Instead of food becoming a guilty pleasure, I abhorred it. It was a necessary evil. The problem was the time consumption. You had to prepare it, which could take hours, then eat it, then clean up. Even if it was easy to prepare and used few dishes, when I faced the prospect of making yet another meal, I became frustrated. I had believed a lie: that I was a human doing, not a human being. And the stuff I had to do was far more important than eating. Eating was mundane--it was beneath me.
I needed a new perspective. And like many things, God used yoga to give it to me. Yoga is the love of my life. My purpose is to teach it, use it to spread God's love, and to help people to deepen their relationship with Him. And it is balanced. Profoundly physical, profoundly spiritual, it heals all aspects of the self. It was an answer to prayer for me: a prayer for physical health, and a prayer for connection to God. But I was stuck in it. While practicing it at home 5 days a week, I hit a plateau. I could no longer physically progress. And that little whisper, that sweet whisper that is the voice of God told me that I needed to change the way I eat. The soft thought that barely touched my consciousness rang true to me, and I latched on to it. I had to explore this thing I detested: food.
Because yoga came from India, and I trusted yoga, I looked to India to see if there was wisdom about eating that it may have to offer me. I was delighted to find a system of medicine and diet that had roots in ancient India and was still used by many today to find optimum health. It is called Ayurveda. I picked up a book on it, The Ayurvedic Cookbook by Amadea Morningstar and Urmila Desai. These two ingenious women had taken the concepts of Ayurveda and applied them to Western food and culture, so that the diet could be accessible to us.
Ayurveda is nothing like our diets. It is a diet that delicately and tenderly loves our bodies to health by listening and responding to them appropriately. It recognizes that peoples' bodies respond differently to the same foods, and that what may be healing to one may be over- or under-stimulating to another. It speaks of three body types, and how people usually fall into one primary type or
evenly between two. It is rare for them to be all three equally. Then it teaches you how to cook for your body type. What will upset your stomach, what will comfort it. What brings about balance, what unsettles. The book gave lists of ways to not only eat for your body type, but care for it in other ways. For instance, my body type (called Vata) does not like the cold and has a tendency towards dry skin. So, to tenderly care for myself, I bring a sweater to the grocery store to make it through the frozen section and I put lotion on every time I bathe.
I know truth when I sense it, and through this new concept I was sensing it. Ayurveda is about loving our bodies, and food was one of the means. Food is a blessing, meant to nourish and soothe us, meant to place in our mouths a burst of experiences, and in our stomachs a complete satisfaction. There is a reason a dinner table is an explosion of sensations. Smells, colors, textures, tastes--it inundates us with the love of God. It is like, when we sit to eat, He starts off every meal boisterously crying out, "Enjoy!" And then savoring how His creation and our creativity has made for us such a rich blessing. How He cares for us! How He provides! And how sickly I was, to not recognize it, to reject it.
I cannot convey in words the love and relief my body has felt because I have started to listen to it's needs. Each time I become hungry, I go through the foods I have at hand and the meals I'm capable of making and then I let my body decide what to eat. Then I prepare it with care and love, savoring the sensations cooking provides: the feel of a knife chopping an onion, the smell of garlic frying in a pan, the warmth of the oven, the cold of the fridge. Then the act of eating: of slowing down, of conversation, of clanking silverware, of chewing, of deeply breathing. A meal is a rest from our work and a social connection. It should be one of the most looked forward to activities of the day. And the routine of it is so comforting. What is there not to love?