What do the Hebrew month of Elul — the month leading up to Rosh Hashanah — and the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur have to do with yoga? They all give the opportunity to reflect, be introspective, consider the past and think about the future with all of its wonderful possibilities.
On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we think about the past year. The opportunities we took advantage of and those we inadvertently let get away. We reflect on all the blessings that have come our way, we consider all the good we did for people and the golden opportunities we let slip away. It is truly a time for retrospection and introspection.
So goes the practice of yoga. Yoga gives us the personal time to be introspective. It gives us the chance to be mindful and to think about our bodies like no other exercise routine. As we go through a yoga practice, we do a series of poses, which connect the mind, body and soul. Through breathing exercises and poses, we are given the opportunity to connect with ourselves. It is called a yoga practice for the very reason that as we
go through the practice we become better at making the connection.
In yoga, meditation, mindfulness and concentration are all companions in the same process that leads inward to the center of consciousness. By working with both mindfulness and concentration, the three skills of focus, expansion and non-attachment all come together. The mind is trained to be able to pay attention, not being drawn to here and there due to external stimuli. The ability to focus is accompanied by a willingness to expand our consciousness, and it goes along with our ability to remain undisturbed and unaffected by thoughts of the mind.
Nutrition, the science of eating, is very similar and encompasses some of the same principles. Part of enjoying our food is being mindful. In this day and age, multitasking has become a necessity. We typically have to engage in many tasks at the same time to accomplish the myriad of goals we’ve set. However, when eating a delicious meal, it is important to enjoy the whole experience, to be mindful when eating. How often do we consume a delicious meal — whether it be a perfectly grilled steak or a wonderful piece of homemade apple pie or even a bowl of shredded wheat with raisins and nuts — and shortly after the experience, we are not even able to identify the contents of the meal? It is important not only to eat the meal, but also to experience the meal.
Using the five senses, with the example of the apple pie, what does it look like, what does it smell like, what does it sound like when taking a bite, what does it feel like on the tongue, and how does it taste? Only after using all the senses can one truly experience the food. Experiencing the food is an important aspect of making the food count, helping in our quest not to overeat.
Next time you are getting ready to enjoy that delicious rib steak grilled to perfection, take a deep three-part breath, filling up your belly, ribs and heart (called dirgha breath). Enjoy the sight and smell of the steak and enjoy every last bite from beginning to end. You won’t forget it for a very long time.
Keeping with the theme of Rosh Hashanah and the opportunity of reflection on the old and on what is ahead, here is a wonderful new tool for food preparation, called the Spiralizer. There are many types available, but the one I recommend for the best price can be found on Amazon.com. Using a Spiralizer to create raw vegetable pasta is fun, quick and easy. Zucchini, cucumber, turnip, carrots, radishes, sweet potato or any combination of your favorite raw vegetables work. It is also so wonderful for those who need to avoid gluten but still like the noodle.
There are many unique and out-of-the-box healthy recipes that are now possible with so little effort. Many different ingredients can be added to the vegetable noodles; experiment to your taste.
Wishing you a happy, healthy New Year filled with lots of yoga, healthy delicious food and, above all, wonderful thoughts of the mind, body and soul.
Vegetable Noodle Sauce
A few tablespoons of olive oil or mashed avocado
A teaspoon of lemon juice
1 tablespoon of non-nutritive sweetener (for example, agave nectar or stevia powder)
Mix together and then eat the sauce raw. Can also brown the dish in the oven or fry it.
Adriane Stein Kozlovsky is a licensedregistered dietitian in private practice, working with individuals, groups, corporations and nonprofits for the past 30 years. She recently completed a 200-hour yoga teacher-training course at the University of Maryland and is teaching individual and group yoga classes. For more information, call 410-870-LIFE (8433) or visit ChaiLifeNutritionForU.com.