There’s no escaping it now. Summer is officially around the corner and there’s still time to get into fighting shape by Independence Day. But before you think you need to literally hit the pavement running to drop a few extra pounds, consider something a little less stressful on the body and a whole lot better for your chi—yoga. More than just a fleeting trend, yoga was founded on the aim to use meditation to attain salvation but the byproduct of practicing yoga isn’t too bad, either. Leaner arms and a toned core can happen after just a few weeks of holding a Warrior Two and repeated chatarungas. Maya Haile (AKA Mrs. Samuelsson) maintains an avid yoga practice and we can vouch for her flexibility and composure (there were a lot of held poses at the Vogue shoot for Yes, Chef).
There’s not much talk about what you should eat before and after a yoga session, but we got Lara Land of Harlem’s Land Yoga to break down the best foods to make for your very best practice.
There’s a lot of different takes on what you should eat if you’re going to do yoga. Ideally you actually don’t want to eat anything before you practice because your body is clearing the digestive system. You’re wringing out all the bad stuff—twisting and going upside down—and turning your food into energy. You want your body to be relaxed and not have to work overtime. But if you have low blood pressure or high metabolism it’s ok to snack on a little something an hour before you start.
People are always surprised to hear that I drink coffee a half hour before I teach a class. A little bit of coffee is actually good for you because it gives you that little boost. Many yogis adopt the lifestyle of eating only raw, but I actually believe a little warm food is necessary. You have to choose what works for you, but I can guarantee that if you’re careful of what you put into your body when you first start to practice, eventually you’re not going to want anything processed.
Here’s how it works: when you start practicing your body is going to feel the effects of what’s going on in your system. You start getting in tune with your digestion and you begin to clearly realize what your body doesn’t like—you know when you’re eating something bad and making bad choices and you’ll start moving away from the things that don’t agree with you. You’ll start to crave natural fresh foods and have an aversion to packaged foods.
There are different phases of yoga practices and you should actually try to eat to your constituion. Fiery people (who anger easily) should avoid coffee, chocolate and alcohol; spacey, thin people should eat heavier, warm foods; and heavier, slower people should eat more raw crisp foods. Some yogis get very strict about food because at first you start to notice everything. You can become sensitive to alcohol or things you used to always eat, but eventually you become balanced—it’s like meditation. At first you need to be in a quiet room free from other noise to concentrate on your thoughts, but eventually you’ll get to a place where you can do it anywhere.
In this phase you’re going to want to do everything the best, the best, the best. Support that good habit! Eventually you can incorporate other things because that good habit can become ingrained in you. But I refuse to be dogmatic in my approach to food—when I lived in India I ate only fruits for a couple of years but it took me such a long time to incorporate other foods back into my diet that I now allow myself a little bit of chocolate and guacamole (my weakness!) into my diet.
Lara’s Power Foods for the Best Yoga Practice:
1) Dark leafy veggies like kale and spinach (Be sure not to overcook it so it still maintains all of its nutrients.)
2) A small palmful of nuts like almonds or walnuts
3) Fresh juice for energy (Have it fresh squeezed but watch your portions—they can be caloric.)
5) Dried fruit for dessert (Again, careful of portion control.)
6) Baby carrots with fresh peanut butter or my Guacamole
7) Coconut water
To find out more about Land Yoga, click here.
To see Land Yoga in action, please join us for Harlem Community Day on June 25th in Marcus Garvey Park.