Eat, drink & be merry

It’s okay for even the strictest yogis to relax the rules now and then. By Victoria Jackson

I find it funny when people ask me what I eat, as if being a yoga teacher implies some radically different way of nourishing oneself. I resist the temptation to joke that I’m breatharian! After all there’s a lot of discussion and interest in what a ‘yogic diet’ might be. I’m sure there always has been, right back to the days of Vedic horse sacrifices and offerings of milk and honey in the temples. In modern times we pick and choose from such ancient traditions to find the aspects that cohere with our current ideals. I don’t know any yogis who would sacrifice a horse as part of their practice, but I do know those who will debate intensely whether Patanjali’s discussion of Ahimsa (non-harming) means that we should all become vegetarian, or ideally vegan. Or those who tend towards Ayurvedic understanding and think of food as Rajasic or Tamasic, foods that increase or decrease our energy, as they seek the perfect Sattvic diet that will keep them in balance, from the inside out. Clean eating, we might say, to use a modern expression.

Such issues are all well and good, and I do love a discussion about interpreting ancient traditions to suit modern needs. But right now my concerns are more practical in nature. It’s the run up to Christmas — and that means party season! As if fitting meals around my teaching schedule and my practice times wasn’t a challenge enough, I’m now juggling some extra social activities into the mix — and they all involve food or alcohol or both.

Ordinarily the difficulty I have is in spacing mealtimes away from practice times without the need for too much pre-class snacking or without eating dinner ridiculously late at night.

Now there are invites to work lunches and after-work meet-ups in the pub, celebrating the holiday season with colleagues and friends from the office. Even if I stick to soft drinks and avoid the bar snacks, I still don’t feel like doing a yoga practice when I finally get home. Having fun can be tiring!

But yoga is about flexibility, isn’t it? Flexibility in our mindset, that is. So my yoga practice in December looks nothing like my yoga practice in July and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m not about to disappear in a sea of boozy lunches, but I am making space for having some seasonal fun, lighting up the winter months with some extra social activities — and a few glasses of festive cheer. January, bringing with it the compulsion for new year’s resolutions and austerity, will come round all too soon. 

Victoria Jackson lives and teaches in Oxford. She is registered with Yoga Alliance Professionals as a vinyasa yoga teacher

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