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While practitioners of yoga can experience several benefits from their practice, the positive impact yoga has on the digestive system is certainly one of the major benefits. Certain yoga poses and sequences are known to naturally strengthen the digestive fire, which can help you feel hungry after your practice and help you digest your food optimally.
You can eat immediately after doing yoga as your digestive system is primed to absorb nutrition from your food. Yoga can be physically exhausting, especially if you practice an intensive form of yoga, and eating right after a session will help restore your energy.
In the rest of this article, we will take a closer look at yoga’s impact on your digestive system and explore why exactly you may be craving a meal after your practice. We will also review what makes up a healthy and appropriate meal to eat after your yoga.
Yoga and the Digestive System
Ayurveda has long taught the importance of the digestive system in our overall health.
This ancient medicinal system refers to the inner digestive fire as Agni and views the strength of this system as the key to health and happiness in both the body and mind.
When your agni is strong, your body is able to break down food optimally, sending all of the nutrients to their proper places in the body. If this digestive fire is weak, it can lead to various discomforts and even disease from undigested food and toxins left in your system.
Your Digestive System Is Stimulated During Yoga
As you move through your asana practice, you will be stretching and massaging the organs associated with your digestive system. This practice helps stimulate your digestive fire. As your agni strengthens, it will help digest any food that is still in your system and make way for future meals.
Your asana practice is great for blood circulation throughout the body, and this includes the digestive organs as well. As blood is sent to the center of your digestion, it will stimulate these organs to be operating optimally.
One common outcome of a yoga practice is the feeling of hunger after your session. This hunger is prominent when you practice more intense forms of yoga, like ashtanga or bikram yoga.
The reason some yogis feel hungry after a session is because the intense forms of yoga tend to burn calories at an accelerated rate. Once you’re done with practice, your body looks to replenish these calories as quickly as possible, so you feel hungry.
Your Yoga Practice Determines Your Appetite
Your level of appetite depends on the type of yoga practice you engage in. People who practice a slower, more meditative style of yoga such as yin, may not feel any hunger compared to someone practicing the physically-intensive Ashtanga.
The more intensity there is around poses that stimulate the Agni, the more hunger you are likely to feel after your yoga session.
Only you will know how your body reacts to the practice.
Part of yoga is tuning into your body and becoming more aware of what it is telling you. As you deepen your practice, you may come to recognize your own body’s pattern of hunger upon completing different types of yoga practice.
As you prepare your ideal post-yoga meal, it pays to keep in mind the yogic best practices for ideal digestion and nutrient absorption.
Let’s take a look at some of these key principles below.
How To Eat After Your Yoga Practice
If you want to maintain the light, peaceful and calm feeling you have as you leave your yoga practice, you will want to eat in accordance with yogic principles. You can easily follow these ancient traditions by paying attention to the size and content of your post-yoga meals.
Use the Right Portion Size
In Ayurveda, there is a term called “Anjali” that is used to describe your ideal portion size.
Anjali is the measurement of what can be held inside your hands cupped together. This size will vary from person to person, but it represents an ideal serving size for your body that does not border on excess and overeating.
In a world that has become increasingly used to supersized portions, it can feel unnatural to portion out a smaller serving of food. However, yogic traditions encourage you to eat just what is necessary and to do so slowly and mindfully.
Eat Slowly In a Quiet Place
If you sit down in a quiet place and eat with your complete attention on your food, you will be able to observe how it feels in your body and recognize the signals that you are full and satisfied. Then, you will start to notice how little food it takes to satisfy your hunger.
Consider the Content Of Your Meals
When it comes to the content of your meal, eating freshly cooked foods is ideal.
Many yogis interpret the concept of ahimsa (non-violence) to mean a vegetarian diet. Whether or not this is your interpretation, eating meals with plenty of fresh vegetables is ideal for giving your body the nutrients it needs after an intense yoga practice.
Yoga typically cleanses the body, and the best nutrition to give yourself after a session is in the form of healthy salads, smoothies, and soups. As far as possible, opt for vegetarian and plant-based foods for a wholesome, clean source of nutrition.
Remember to avoid “dead foods” according to Ayurvedic traditions.
These foods are minimal in nutritional value and won’t give your body what it needs following a yoga practice. Dead foods are generally considered highly processed foods with many artificial ingredients as well as leftover foods that have been cooked previously.
Even if the food was once made with fresh vegetables, keeping it as a leftover or freezing it is going to take away its full nutritional value. Ayurveda highly recommends eating freshly cooked food in order to give your body the full nutritional content it needs to feel vibrant and alive.
If you are feeling intensely hungry after your yoga practice, it probably means you had a great session that really ignited your digestive fire. Your body will be primed to eat a nutritious meal and fully digest and absorb all the available nutrients. To keep feeling light and peaceful after your yoga practice, avoid overeating or consuming “dead” foods, according to Ayurveda. Eating light and healthy meal mindfully is ideal for your body to fully absorb all the goodness your fresh food has to offer.