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Aligning Your Plate with Your Practice: Nutritional Philosophies for Yogis

Aligning Your Plate with Your Practice: Nutritional Philosophies for Yogis

As you know, a meaningful yoga lifestyle is about far more than poses and attending classes. At its best, any yoga practice is part of a holistically positive and aligned way of living. One essential component of this is making dietary choices that best support your practice.

Nutritional philosophy has historically been a central part of yoga. Nevertheless, it’s worth looking a little closer at how you can leverage traditions and modern nutritional knowledge to fuel your body in a way that’s right for you.

What is Nutrition?

The first step to aligning your plate with your yoga practice is getting a better understanding of nutrition. Let’s start with the definition. At its core, nutrition is the way your body uses food and other elements to nourish itself. It’s a process that supports the various basic needs of your holistic wellness. This is why balance is so often considered vital in nutrition. Different food groups — fruits, vegetables, grains, and proteins, among others — give your body specific fuels. When these are unbalanced or the body is missing something, it can impact performance and your experience.  

So what difference does knowing nutritional principles make to your yoga practice? Mainly, it empowers you to make more informed decisions. Yoga is, of course, a route to your overall well-being. However, it also needs fuel to make a practice practical. At the most basic level, recognizing what makes a balanced diet that boosts your physical and psychological attributes gives you the foundation on which to assess your current condition and make adjustments.

Remember, though, that nutrition isn’t just about adopting general guidelines, such as consuming 2 cups of fruit or 6 ounces of grains per day. The volumes can vary depending on age and gender, too. There will also be nuances if you have specific health issues that impact aspects such as blood sugar or how your body metabolizes food. Do a little research into the nutritional foundations that best fit you. If you’re uncertain, check with your doctor or nutritionist. By establishing this baseline nutrition, you’re in a better position to augment it with nutritional philosophies that are relevant to yoga.

Connecting Your Mind and Body

One significant yoga philosophy is the importance of connecting your mind and body for mutually positive and harmonic outcomes. This is particularly vital in dharana and dyana practices that lean into concentration and meditation respectively. While the poses in these practices are often the primary focus, nutrition also influences strengthening and supporting the mind-body connection that empowers you to enhance your experience.

Alongside balanced nutrition, there are foods that are known to boost cognitive functioning. Leafy greens — such as kale, spinach, and cabbage — are rich in vitamins E and K, which can be useful in fending off age-related cognitive impairments. Oily fish includes omega-3 fatty acids that help build brain cells, while its docosahexaenoic acids (DHA) contribute to healthy brain cell composition. Incorporating these into your diet may improve your focus and cognition-related yoga practices.

Of course, cognition isn’t the only aspect of the mind-body connection. Emotional well-being plays a role, too. Some nutritional self-care that supports your mental wellness can put you in a mood that keeps you motivated and able to maintain a beneficial yoga routine. This isn’t just about the types of foods you consume. It is important to eat protein as it contains amino acids that help regulate mood. You also need to ensure you’re eating regularly and staying consistently hydrated, as gaps here can lead to drops in your energy levels and mood that are likely to impact both your wellness and yoga experience alike.

Discovering Your Prakriti

The prakriti has long been considered a core element of yoga nutritional philosophies. In essence, this is the way your doshas combine to determine your physical and psychological makeup. The tradition asserts that every person has a prakriti that is entirely unique to them, based on their specific body functions, their emotions, and even their life experiences. In yoga nutritional philosophy, the better you can understand your prakriti, the more informed choices you can make about a diet that best feeds it for positive holistic outcomes.

So, how do you get this understanding of your prakriti? Well, according to Ayurvedic traditions, people tend to fall into specific body types. Ayurveda practitioners perform analyses of everything from lifestyle to excretions and place people in the most likely categories. According to these processes, yogis who are dominant in a certain body type can benefit from incorporating foods into their lives that bring greater balance into their doshas. For instance, vata-dominant prakriti individuals are often recommended to eat ghee, almonds, and pomegranates.

Nevertheless, you don’t necessarily have to go down this route. You can get a better sense of your individual nature by simply paying close attention to your whole self. Be mindful of what your current and developing physical challenges are and what foodstuffs help you manage these. Perhaps keep a food diary, so you can recognize what types of foods have a negative or positive effect on your physical and psychological wellness. When you’re craving junk foods, consider what your body is really yearning for — whether flavors or sensations — and substitute these for healthier options.


Mindful nutritional choices form a part of any holistically positive yoga practice. This involves gaining an understanding of what contributes to nutritional balance alongside making tailored choices in line with your prakriti. Yet, bear in mind that your needs and how you respond to different foods develop as you age. Be curious enough to keep exploring what your nutritional needs are and what changes you can make to optimize your practice and your health.

By Katie Brenneman

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