1. Your new book is called The Yoga of Food. Most people think of yoga as a physical practice—how does yoga apply to food?
The word yoga means "to yoke" or "unite;" yoga can be thought of as a method to unite the mind with the body. For my purposes, the yoga of food means to yoke the purpose of eating, nourishment of the body, with the act of eating. In other words, the physical practice of yoga aims toward more embodied living. The yoga of food aims toward more embodied eating.
2. What inspired you to write The Yoga of Food?
I've struggled with my own relationship to food and my body, so that provides the visceral backdrop for the book. On top of that, many of my clients struggle with their bodies as well. That may not be why they seek out therapy, but it often comes up. Years into therapy, a client may say, "You know, I haven't mentioned this before, but I think about my weight everyday and beat myself up about it all the time."
3. What are some examples of such a negative self-body relationship?
Often, it's very subtle. It may be a backdrop buzz of self-criticism. Sometimes it is an unconscious girdle of holding around the belly and shallow breathing of which you are not even aware. The incessant preoccupation with looks or the need to exert control over the flesh, for example, by losing weight or getting a prescribed amount of exercise. These all reflect an outside-in relationship to the body rather than allowing the body to be the guide. On the extreme side are instances of bingeing and purging, or even starvation.
4. How can yoga help with this?
The physical practice of yoga focuses on slow, mindful movement where you are learning to first bring awareness to, and then eventually to manage your own energy. The rhythm of a yoga class usually involves deep, focused breathing, intensity and work followed by rest and relaxation. As this practice becomes known by your body, you are more able to stop the negative build up of "bad energy" during the day that might culminate in a binge at night. Instead of rushing around all day in a haze of urgency, you slow down and self-regulate. This greatly reduces the false dependence on food as a soother or pick-me-up.
5. So yoga and meditation are definite solutions to these negative self-body relationships. Are there any other solutions you discuss in The Yoga of Food?
Another solution, a by-product of yoga and meditation, is increased comfort in your own skin and more awareness and appreciation for your own viscerality and vitality. Self love really is the key, and for many of us that is a tall order.
Self love is an attitude of self acceptance and affirmation of your own experience. As humans, particularly here is the West, we tend to be very self-critical and harsh toward ourselves. If you are very critical of your body, a place to begin is remembering all the hard work your body does every day and giving your body a little credit for what is going well—do you have a strong, healthy heart? Adequate eyesight? Healthy lungs? The shift of attention from what is going wrong to what is right with you acts like a reset button and begins a movement toward increased self appreciation.
6. What do you want readers to take away from The Yoga of Food?
We all have a living relationship with our bodies. We literally live in our bodies and we relate to them all the time. How we breathe, move, bathe and groom, and of course eat, are all expressions of that relationship. Making our feelings about our own flesh more accessible to consciousness allows us to begin caring for ourselves in a more mindful, gentle way.