Do food and yoga go together?
They sure do, reports the NY Times in a profile of a new movement of people who love to eat and who love to do the tree pose. “The past decade has produced thousands of new foodies and new yogis,” the Times writes, “all interested in healthier bodies, clearer consciences and a greener planet.”
Tapping into the trend, David Romanelli, a yoga teacher at Exhale Spa in New York City, devised a “Yoga for Foodies” series that he plans to expand to Chicago, Cleveland and Dallas. After a recent class, a multicourse dinner of pasta, red wine and chocolate was served on the floor.
Romanelli, who has offered chocolate truffles after yoga class, proffers sound bites like: “It’s a way of getting people in the door,” and “The world is a better place if people do yoga. And if they come because chocolate or wine is involved, I’m fine with it.”
He embraces eating all kinds of foods — even meat, which many yogis shun. But other yoga enthusiasts say he’s tapping a new trend.
“Nowhere is it written that only vegetarians can do yoga,” said Sadie Nardini, a yoga teacher in New York. “We do not live in the time of the founding fathers of yoga, and we don’t know what they wanted us to eat.”
But yoga purists aren’t so sure, and they say many foods — like wine and meat — are no-no’s. “The very first teaching of yoga forbids us to eat meat,” said Eva Grubler, director of New York’s Dharma Yoga, which only admits vegans into its teacher training program.
“Yoga used to be much quieter, but now there are more people, they are more activated, and they are questioning everything,” said Grubler, who described her own vegan diet as a “given.” “Steamed vegetables, salads and fresh juices are really the ideal.”
Not all agree with her, though: “This is the hottest of all hot-button issues in yoga,” says Dayna Macy, a managing editor at Yoga Journal. Indeed, some yoga teachers now have “don’t ask-don’t tell” policies when it comes to eating meat.
Mary Taylor, a yoga instructor who was a culinary student under Julia Child, said she tries to take the “middle path” by eating only vegan foods, but not judging those who eat more liberally. “If your grandmother is making a wonderful meat dish that you have loved since you were a child, is it yoga to push it away?” she asked.
Taylor said she found a way to reconcile eating well and practicing yoga: “Until you appreciate the fullest taste of a vegetable, you don’t know the truth of it,” she said. “And you bring out that truth by cooking it, making it beautiful and delicious and appealing to the senses.”
For his part, Romanelli said any pleasure of the senses — including eating — can bring on a “yoga high.”
“What yoga teachers do and what chefs do is not so different,” he said. “We take everyday actions like moving and eating, and slow you down so you can appreciate them.”