How Yoga Can Lead to a Healthier Lifestyle
This year’s National Nutrition Month theme is “Put Your Best Fork Forward,” and it encourages people to be more mindful of the tools they use to make healthier choices. One of the campaign’s key messages reminds us that eating healthier or becoming more active doesn’t have to be a dramatic change — we can take small, consistent steps that over time lead to lifelong results.
Last year, I focused on a small change when I decided to try yoga to increase my flexibility, loosen tight hamstrings from distance running and prevent future injury. After months of practice, however, I’m realizing that I’ve benefited in many other ways as well.
Making a Habit
Taking an hour-long yoga class seemed intimidating, so I started by practicing at home, choosing two to three poses a day before I took the plunge into a full class. It’s often said that it takes 21 days to make a habit, so choosing one or two small goals and maintaining them for three weeks is a good first step to creating a healthier you. It can be as simple as adding 30 minutes of walking each day or eating a cup of vegetables with every meal. I set my intentions to practice yoga for a specific length of time each day, eventually leading up to an hour. In other words, I made the change slowly and comfortably, which led to it becoming a habit as opposed to a temporary hobby.
More Than Just Yoga
In the U.S., more than 36 million people practice some form of yoga. When most people hear or talk about yoga, they think of the physical practice, but there is so much more that it can influence. When I’m inside the four corners of my yoga mat, I have no work, no emails, no stress — just listening to my breath and practicing self-observation. On a grander scale, the yamas and niyamas, or the ethical practices of yoga, teach us the significance of mindfulness, nonviolence, self-discipline and truthfulness — things that influence our daily choices and improve our relationship with our bodies.
Mindful Eating Leads to Bigger Changes
Why is yoga’s ability to make us more mindful important? Mindful eating is a powerful practice. When we bring awareness to the present moment, we can slow down and eat with all our senses, enjoying every bite. Like so many others, including myself, you may sometimes snack in front of the TV or multi-task while eating, making you less aware of what you eat or when you’re satisfied and full. By taking the time to truly focus on the food we eat and limit distractions, we are empowered to break old habits and start discovering options that work best for us.
Remember to “Put Your Best Fork Forward” by making small changes that lead to positive habits in the months to come! For me, that change was yoga. Today, I’m not only more flexible and confident in my own skin, but I’m more aware and mindful in my daily life.
Danielle Stadelman, RDN, is a Southern California-based dietitian working for a corporate wellness company educating the public about health and wellness. You can connect with her on Facebook or Instagram.