I often get asked if it’s wise to eat before a yoga class. On occasions, I have also instructed a student to lie down on the mat to digest during class, as they became queasy during Downward Facing Dog!
The general yogic advice is that it is best not to eat for at least 2 hours before a yoga class. This helps the body to digest fully, and to clear the internal organs. During a yoga class, pressure is put on the abdominal area, including the intestinal system, the stomach, the liver, the gallbladder and the spleen.
As the main function of these organs are to digest our food, they are working hard after every meal. If they are still working when you start your class, then it places a lot of extra strain on the body to maintain this normal function whilst also being put through the rigours of yoga.
Having bulk in these organs (Especially the gastro-intestinal organs) will limit your practice, make you feel full and uncomfortable, cause bloating and gas and may even give you cramps.
So it is best to have everything digested before you come to class. It gives your body the full benefit of the yoga. We all know that the external, muscular part of yoga is not the whole picture. It’s the work that happens inside the body through yoga that brings the real health benefits. You can help these along by eating a light meal no more than 2 hours ahead of your yoga glass, and then not to eat until after the class.
The other main reason for not eating too close to your yoga class, is the nausea factor. We work with gravity in yoga. Imagine turning a full shopping bag upside down – all the contents will spill out, right? Well the same happens when you turn a full stomach upside down during Downward Facing Dog, Childs Pose or Standing Forward Bend! Of course, our bodies are well-prepared to retain it’s contents but it’s best not to put this one to the test.
So what do you do then, if you want to avoid low blood sugar and losing energy during your class? A small handful of nuts, a drink of coconut water, half a banana (Careful with bananas, they take a long time to digest!) or a small piece of fruit should do the trick. Still, try not to have these too close to starting your practice. It is better to have a hungry rumbly tummy during class, than having to stop or to feel uncomfortable or embarrassed because your body is doing it’s job!
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