I joined a beginner yoga class many years ago, instructed by a sprite, elderly woman. She always began our time together with her classic motto – “Hatha yoga practice… gentle, but not wimpy.” She would erupt in giggles after her statement thinking she had said the funniest thing ever. Truthfully, I am not convinced that all of her marbles were fully accounted for, but I adored her. She was delicate and sweet, and although this was my first foray into what I thought was a simple yoga class, her tutelage left me with many deeply-ingrained life lessons.

Conscious Eating Lessons Gleaned from a Tiny Sprite

One particular class, she substituted the much-loved Savasana pose for a lesson in “consciousness.” I was not so open-minded to this change in format because  I like to know exactly what the plan is. The plan, in this yoga class, ends with a ten-minute Savasana nap, and I wanted my nap!  However, with a sigh of resignation, I sat up cross-legged and awaited new instruction.

She asked us to close our eyes and hold out our hands in a cupped position. She glided around the room and placed a single item into everyone’s palm. “Slowly breathe in its fragrance,” she whispered. Then, after four deep breaths, she directed us to gently touch the item with our index fingers. She said, “Take as much time as you need to identify the item. When you have figured it out, raise your hand.” Once all the hands were up, she indicated that we could open our eyes. The room was a little dark, but everyone confirmed their suspicions.

 It was indeed, a ripe, red raspberry.

She asked us to hold the raspberry up with two fingers and observe it. Suddenly, I was noticing the tiny balls of flesh that came together to make the berry and the little cavern in the middle that held the body to the bush and, finally, the tiny hairs that tickled my fingers when I touched them. She had us meditate on this single raspberry for three full minutes. Then she asked us to pop the raspberry in our mouths and hold it there. “What are all of the flavors that you taste?” She asked. At first, I tasted raspberry. But, then, slowly the flavors unfolded – earth, warmth, and bitter, mingled with tangy sweetness.

It was by far, hands down, the most delicious raspberry I had ever tasted.

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The little sprite had brought consciousness to the act of eating. Brilliant genius. I reflect back to that moment often because as an overeater I tend to intentionally NOT have any consciousness regarding what I eat. For many, there is an insane work schedule, multiple kids, and hectic life activities. It is no wonder that there are empty wrappers on our car floors that we have no memory of ever consuming. (Or is that just me!)

I think that the berry tasted so splendid because all of my senses were acutely attuned to this one particular tiny item. Also, the flavors popped because I took the time to savor before swallowing. I realized through this meditative exercise how important it is to bring that level of consciousness to the act of eating. In other words, when we are conscious and in tune to what we are eating, we eat less, we eat more slowly; we digest better, and we enjoy it more!

So what are some easy ways we can become more conscious of our eating habits?

  • Breath: Take three deep breaths before putting any food in your mouth. The act of grounding yourself, before eating allows your attention and focus to join you at the table.
  • Observe: Pause for one minute and observe your food. How does it smell? How does it look? What are you most looking forward to when consuming the food on your plate? That level of attention will slow you down, and permit you to fully appreciate what you are eating.
  • Gratitude: Give thanks! In other words, appreciate the person who prepared this food for you (Even if that is you!), the farmer who grew it, the delivery guy who brought it to your city, or the grocery where you shopped. The list is endless.
  • Plan: In advance, think about how hungry you are. If you are not that hungry, then take a moment to decide how much you want to eat, before actually digging in. Even set a time in the future when you will eat your leftovers. Maybe leave space at the edge of your plate for the food you do not plan to finish.
  • Desensitize: Try to eliminate distractions when eating. Remove the TV, iPad, phone, and even reading materials. These all take you away from the act of observing and focusing on your meal. We tend to eat more if we are not fully engaged in the act of eating. (Movie popcorn anyone??)

That single raspberry shifted my thinking regarding my level of conscious behavior towards food. It made me realize that thoughtful actions and respect placed on the act of eating can yield significant results toward a healthier body.

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This week can you bring more consciousness to your eating?  In Europe, they spend two additional hours eating than we do and eat less! We need to take a page from that book! How can you make eating more of an intentional act? 

 

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