“But they say you should do yoga on an empty stomach!” This is what I often hear from my clients and on my Facebook page. So often that I have stopped wondering why ‘they’ don’t mention ‘yama’ and ‘niyama’, the two crucial aspects of Patanjali Yoga Sutra that precede asana and pranayama. The yama and niyama can be loosely translated as restraints and observances that one must follow to make the most of one’s life or at least to derive maximum benefits out of asana and pranayama practice. They aren’t esoteric but rather common sense ‘laws’ which can improve one’s physical, mental and emotional well-being.
One such yama is mitahar, the ability to eat the right food at the right time, pretty much aligning itself to the ‘everything in moderation’ wisdom. Though there is no direct reference in yogic scriptures to ‘not eating anything’ in the morning before practice, there are many references to overeating and even a warning that one must not overeat: ‘A light stomach aids asana and pranayama practice’.
Now, we modern yogis have reduced or ‘adapted’ this to ‘do yoga on an empty stomach in the morning’. Conveniently forgetting that a light stomach is attained by early dinners, regular bedtimes, good bowel movements—an entire lifestyle. This isn’t instant noodles where all that matters is what you ate minutes before starting your asana or pranayama. Late-night binges or that fancy restaurant dinner after which you crashed in the car all lead to a dull and clogged gastro-intestinal tract—not conducive to asana practice and completely out of tune with yama or niyama.
So my dear yogi, wake up, smell the coffee. Early dinners—that should be thy focus. A fruit in the morning will not make your system ‘heavy’, late dinners will.
(The author’s latest book is called Women and the Weight Loss Tamasha)