While I’m out on maternity leave, please welcome Meredith Magnini, a dietitian and yoga instructor from North Carolina.
It’s a Wednesday afternoon, my house is quiet (this never happens), and I felt like now is a good time to sit and write. With my estimation, I have about a half hour to get some thoughts down about this blog and the topic of connecting the dots between Intuitive Eating and Yoga. An ambitious task for sure, but here I am!
To start, I should tell you why I want to write about this topic. See, I’m a Dietitian and a Yoga Teacher, and I have seen such a connection between the two for years now! The learnings I have experienced with my relationship with food and the lessons learned on the mat, are one in the same! I figured it was about time to bring these two together and show just how much the messages are intertwined!
This topic is broad, and I have so much to say, that I struggle to find the perfect way to say it. I have started this blog post three times now and each time it just doesn’t work for me. Then it occurred to me, I’m putting too much pressure on myself; time constraints, wanting the blog to be written “perfectly,” “having” to get across a message a “certain,” way. I use quotations to show that these words are often what all of us say to ourselves. Writing this blog piece is no different than how we see and talk to ourselves about our bodies and food and nutrition. Intuitive Eating principles taught me to question the food police. I don’t “have to” eat a certain way. I am not “supposed to” eat at certain times because that’s what the “experts” say.
And as I’m thinking all of this, I’m writing the first sentence with such difficulty. Then it hit me, here I go again… there’s that external pressure or as Brene Brown says, “the gremlins.” The words “have to” “should” “can’t,” “need” are all triggers for me that I’m focusing too much on the external and I’m not being authentic. Therefore, it’s my cue to turn inward and pay attention to what my voice has to say. Over the years I have found if I tune in to my wants and needs, there’s less resistance. Let’s take a step back and refocus as this post is really about Intuitive Eating and Yoga. For those of you who don’t know or aren’t aware of Intuitive Eating, let’s talk about what Intuitive Eating means.
What is Intuitive Eating?
IE is an evidenced-based, mind-body health approach, that is made up of 10 principles and created by two Dietitians. It is a weight neutral model. It’s an integration between the mind and body and works by cultivating or removing obstacles to body awareness; also known as interoceptive awareness (Tribole, E. What is Intuitive Eating? September 12, 2018.)
To go a step further, IE is not a diet program. It is not a structured meal plan or any kind of program. The idea behind IE helps to self-reflect, self-discover, cultivate, and redefine and connect to the needs of the mind and body, therefore creating a healthy relationship with food, body, and self. In this model there is no focus on the external (i.e. counting macros, counting calories, etc).
Essentially, IE empowers and allows you, the client, to become the “expert of your own body. Only you know what hunger, fullness, and satisfaction feels like. Only you know your thoughts, feelings, and experiences.”
Let’s look at yoga. Again, maybe some of you are familiar with yoga, maybe it’s a form of exercise, mental health, stress relief, etc. Maybe some of you are familiar with the philosophies of yoga. Maybe some of you practice power yoga, hot yoga, gentle yoga, restorative, meditation, breath work, etc. Whatever form you practice, it’s all the same!
What is Yoga?
The definition of yoga is…well there is no one definition. But the Sanskrit definition of yoga means ‘union’ or ‘connection’. Yoga is both a state of connection and a body of techniques that allow us to connect to anything. Practically and simply speaking, yoga is a process of becoming more aware of who we are. Yoga techniques help cultivate balance and allow us to be more aware of ourselves and feel connected. Yoga is a process of self-discovery.
Interesting enough, when I teach to yogis, I often say the phrase “you are the expert of your own body. I’m only here teaching to be a guide.” Do you all see the similarities between IE and Yoga? It’s fascinating and so rewarding to be able to put together two of my passions. Let’s take this a step further and put yoga to use if you find yourself focusing too much on the external world or falling into the trap of “diet culture” of counting calories, points, macros, etc. Try a few of these yoga poses and see if they help you breathe a little bit easier, help you to feel a bit more grounded, and get you back into thinking about you as being the expert!
Ujayi Breath- The sound of Ujjayi is created by gently constricting the opening of the throat to create some resistance to the passage of air. Gently pulling the breath in on inhalation and gently pushing the breath out on exhalation against this resistance creates a well-modulated and soothing sound—something like the sound of ocean waves rolling in and out. The big thing here is to work on a smooth inhalation and a smooth exhalation.
- Try this for a count of 4: in-breath (count 1, 2, 3, 4) and out-breath (count 1, 2, 3, 4). This can be done anywhere making this practice so accessible!
Grounding Poses (sitting or standing)
This is a variation of tadasana (if you are sitting). It is a great way to cultivate grounding whether you are in public or in the privacy of your home.
- Feel your feet on the ground. Really notice the sensations at the point of contact between your feet and the earth beneath.
- Bring awareness to your back body. Allow your shoulder blades, spine, sacrum and back of your neck to provide a sensation of support.
- Bring awareness and depth to your breathing. Fear and anxiety causes us to constrict our breath, making it shallow. Several minutes of slow, steady, deep cycles of inhalation and exhalation create a body-minded physiological state of calm well-being.
*Tip- if at the office or at home, try using a golf ball or lacrosse ball and roll the feet. This will bring help switch the awareness from an anxious mind to the grounding sensation on the feet. Side benefit, it’s a massage for the feet!
Grounding poses (privacy of your home)
Child’s Pose- is a resting pose. Stay anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes. This pose allows the practitioner to feel sensation in the body, specifically in the hips, thighs, and ankles. Physical sensation allows the practitioner to shift gears from an anxious mind into the feelings and sensation in the body.
Meredith Magnini has been involved in the health and fitness industry in many different capacities since her college days at Penn State University, where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Nutrition Science. She continued to pursue her studies in Nutrition at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, where she completed her dietetic internship and received her graduate degree in Nutrition Science. She has been practicing as a Licensed and Registered Dietitian Nutritionist since 2005. She has worked in the hospitals, the food industry, and is currently in private practice specializing in disordered eating counseling through an Intuitive Eating and Health At Every Size lens. She is also a yoga teacher and brings her teachings in yoga philosophy, breathwork, and physical movement to her nutrition clients to help further cultivate a mind-body connection. You can find more info on her website, www.meredithmagninird.com, or on instagram @mmrdwellness.