Tag Archives: Health

Cutting The Fat Out of Our Practice: An Open Letter to the Yoga and Health Community

3 Dec

Dear Students, Teachers, and Friends!

This season, I have one wish for all of us: Nourishment.

For too long, I have heard (and even been a part of) a rhetoric of unhealthy reciprocal speak about exercise and eating behaviors during the holiday season. Do we really need to do more asana to “burn off” those holidays? I think not!

I’ve privately struggled to see how this type of communication serves anyone. At best, I feel that these commentaries are cheap motivators. Sadly, I fear that perpetuating a dialogue like this is actually a type of passive violence that is antithetical to our code of yamas and niyamas. For the health and happiness of our spirits, we can and need to make a change. This is why I am bringing this conversation to our beautiful community.

I know that yoga is not infallible. Nothing is. Yoga is a living practice and we are all a part of it. I also know that not all of us speak like this. And, surely, few of us speak like this intentionally. But still, we CAN listen and improve! As teachers and students, we CAN raise a consciousness around how we speak about food, exercise, and nourishment. And, I’m certain that it’s time we did.

Every time we speak in terms that portray food, exercise, reward, even love(!) as part of an economy of exchange, we are latently affirming a message of: you are not good enough as you are. Every time we permit this language of hierarchical conditionality, we allow for the continuation of the belief: you are not enough. Every time we employ a rhetoric of action-consequence we effectively say: you are not enough. Simply, this is not yoga. We must be mindful of this. We are SO much more than conditional thinking.

On a more personal note, as a recovered anorexic/bulimic and eating disorder (ED) recovery advocate, I feel that this language is not only maladaptive, but that it also reinforces a dangerous ideal. Both from my personal practices and my work in the ED recovery field, I’ve encountered how the negative conditioning an exercise-exchange economy adversely affects people. It is often tantamount to verbal abuse. This is ironic, because as yogis, we are committed to ahimsa.

So, this season, I am committing to nourishment. I am committing to nourishment not just through physical food, but through language and action. I and my studio (The Grinning Yogi) promise to offer a message of acceptance and nourishment starting NOW. We are pledging the following:

  • We will NOT teach from a voice rooted in an exchange economy of food, guilt, calories, indulgence, or anything related to not “being enough” as you are.
  • We will create a safe-haven for our friends to feel empowered so they can take effective steps in promoting their own self-care and overall wellness.
  • We will open a dialogue about what real nourishment is.
  • We will remind our friends that food is food, love is love, and yoga… yoga is a GIFT!

Please join us in this commitment…

We are sharing this letter with friends, students, teachers and studios in the area. We will be posting our commitment publicly in the studio and on social media as well. We will be honored if you join us in making this a powerful, communal statement, grounded in love and health. Please feel free to share this and post this letter as you see fit.

We can do this, together!!! I leave you with gratitude and this: And love says: I will. I will take care. To everything that is near. —Hafiz

Thank you for your nourishment,
Jamie Silverstein and The Grinning Yogi

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‘Normal’ Eating

2 Jul

Have you ever wondered what ‘normal‘ eating is?  Yeah.  Me too.

This question comes to my mind a lot both as yoga teacher and as an advocate for eating disorder recovery.  What is ‘normal’ eating?  What is nourishment?  Can eating and nourishment be (de)coupled?

Registered dietitian Ellyn Satter is quoted in the NYtimes for her definition of normal eating.  Below are some exerts:

  • Normal eating is going to the table hungry and eating until you are satisfied.
  • Normal eating is being able to give some thought to your food selection so you get nutritious food, but not being so wary and restrictive that you miss out on enjoyable food.
  • It is leaving some cookies on the plate because you know you can have some again tomorrow, or it is eating more now because they taste so wonderful.
  • Normal eating is trusting your body to make up for your mistakes in eating.
  • Normal eating takes up some of your time and attention, but keeps its place as only one important area of your life

I appreciate these.  There is not a carb or -ism or rule to be found.

And, yet, is it really THAT simple?

Is ‘normal’ eating really about listening to our needs in the moment and honoring them with compassion?  The yoga of eating if you will…  (<—READ IT! :P)

Having spent time investigating my own nutrient needs (in good times and bad), I’m quite certain that there no STANDARD PRESCRIPTIVE DIET for ‘normal’ eating.  But, what does exist is a ‘normal,’ or better said, nourishing eating for every individual person.

Because my needs (raspberries please!) are uniquely my own, what is normal to me most certainly will not look or feel normal to you.  

And, why should they?!  

But.  

We can practice making nourishing choices in our daily diets and then ‘normal’-ize these choices.  

The question then begs:  How do you find your nourishing choices?  What do you listen to?  And, how do these choices manifest in your (normal) eating?

Let me know!