By: Robin Samples
The new year welcomes more than just a resolution to get in shape (aka “practice more yoga”). At Bare Feet, we realize so many individuals in our community enter into the new year in search of more mindful eating as a complement to a regular yoga practice.
We are in the midst of the 40 Days to Personal Revolution – a program designed to bring about more awareness, intentional practices like consistent yoga and meditation and of course, mindful eating. There is a scientifically-proven connection between the brain and gut – called the brain-gut connection – that directly links our gut to our mental health.
The digestive system actually has its own nervous system with over 100 million nerve endings, in addition to containing over 90% of our serotonin levels. (For those who need the reminder, serotonin is the natural happy juice that lives within our bodies and is released through things like exercise and even sex)! Our gut is directly tied to how we feel, therefore paying attention to what we eat can have a positive correlation to our mood.
I have watched so many students at Bare Feet flourish from their yoga practice. Physically, through the ability to achieve more challenging postures, hold poses for greater lengths of time and achieve increased mobility – just to name a few. I’ve also witnessed the emotional transformation that living a more mindful lifestyle creates for so many individuals. I believe these shifts have so much to do with the brain-gut connection.
So how, exactly, does the brain-gut connection work, and what does gut health have to do with yoga?
Physical postures that emphasize the brain-gut connection
First, there are physical postures we can take that aid in digestion. To simplify, twisting and lower abdominal compression are two. Here are some examples!
Wind Releasing Pose (yes, that’s what it’s called!)
The nutritional component to the brain-gut connection
Second, we have the power to nourish our bodies and souls through smart food choices. When we start to feel sluggish, moody or perhaps a little blue, there is a high probability that it is a result of a food or beverage choice.
So what do we do about it? Here’s a simple guide to help get you on track.
Foods to Avoid:
It has been scientifically-proven that what we eat, especially foods that contain chemical additives and ultra-processed foods, generate an increased risk of depression and disease.
Stop eating these!
- Processed foods
- Canned fruit and vegetables
- Fast food
- Anything that has been alternated from its natural form
Happy foods to include:
On the flip side, there are a number of foods – plant and animal – that are considered to be antidepressant food choices and contain nutrients like potassium and magnesium that actually fight depression. When shopping at the grocery store always shop the perimeter because that’s where the healthiest food exists.
Eat more of these!
- The list really goes on…
You might be wondering what is included in happy foods that help to boost our mood! Most of these contain the RDA (recommended daily amount) of key vitamins like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B, zinc, magnesium and vitamin D. If diet and exercise alone don’t achieve the results you’re looking for, consider a supplement regimen.
The mind’s role in the brain-gut connection
Third, we have the ability to listen to what our bodies are telling us about what we choose to eat. When we tap into the stillness, sit in silence and simply be, we open up the potential to learn. How do we feel? If there are any side effects like bloating, changes in mood or temperament, physical discomfort or anything that just doesn’t feel right, trust your intuition and seek alternatives in your consumption and perhaps amplify your yoga practice.
The bottom line here is this: everything we choose to put in our body has some kind of impact on how we feel. So many of us spend a lot of time and energy attempting to fix the problems that arise in our bodies with a ‘cure.’ But what if the cure came first? What would happen if we started to eat wholly and naturally, fueling our bodies with actual nourishment versus just feeding? My prediction: more happy people. And you know at least one thing is true, there is nothing I love more than seeing all of the happy and healthy faces that make up the Bare Feet community.
Namaste on the perimeter of the grocery store,