The stages of the yogi diet

Eat me, and plenty of me.

One of my students asked me the other evening after class if it was true that you get more aware of your diet when you do yoga.

I hesitated a moment, thought about it a second, gave a shrug, but said simply, “yes,” with a quietly implied “you poor soul.”

Over the course of my time doing Ashtanga, my diet has changed radically. This has been mostly motivated by my desire to do a decent backbend. But also because I’ve looked first to my diet to fix other, more complex health issues, like chronic fatigue, repeated bouts of pneumonia (triggered by early tuberculosis), bone loss, and anemia.

Now, it should be said that I”m a serious carnivore. I’m from Texas. I’m also Irish. There are many things going against a vegetarian diet in my genetics and upbringing, such as my deep and abiding love of a good steak. But slowly, slowly over the last ten years of practice, a new twist would get added to the Great Experiment that is my daily intake, and it just keeps getting worse.

First, of course, was the vegetarian diet. Although I felt better about practicing non-harming, I have to be honest I was an awful vegetarian. Potato chips, for instance, are vegetarian. So is cake. It didn’t work.

Then, I added juicing. I juiced everything. It was great. I could eat potato chips and still get the good stuff. But it seemed so wasteful, throwing out buckets of carrot or spinach or whatever. Also, I was a lazy juicer. The thing was so hard to clean, and it took forever. Bad yogi.

The bone loss started happening, along with serious problems recovering. Arthritis started as well, and bone spurs. Calcium supplements, different forms of dairy, soy milk–it didn’t matter. I was losing bone. And taking forever to recover from practice. My doctor said, “Why not try two weeks of a raw diet?”

Worked like a charm. An annoying, persistent charm. Now I am raw (seriously, you begin to identify yourself that way). Bone loss stopped. Recovery normal. But here I am, stuck with the part-time job that is raw eating. How can this get more extreme?

I’m not saying I’m some kind of Gandhi-like raw saint, either. I fall off the wagon. You can find me in line at a Carl’s Jr. every now and then. But for the most part, I feel I have no choice.

I get a dehydrator. I discover the Vita-Mix. The juicer gets relegated to the back of the cabinet. I make unholy “smoothies” of almond milk and kale, blueberries, E3 Live, whatever is in the veggie drawer.

That must be the wall, you’re thinking. No. Almond milk? Processed filler. Fruit? Who needs all that sugar? Now, I jam the Vita-Mix with dill, parsley, cucumber, mustard greens, mint, celery, cilantro, dandelion, throw in some pure water and drink that all day long. It’s disgusting. But I can’t stop. I feel great. When will this end? Is celery for weaklings?

Now, I’m not saying your should try any of this. As we become more and more aware of what dairy does to us, the evils of wheat, the utter lack of goodness in an apple, the cancerous nature of fried food, etc. I think I may have reached a point, way out here at the extreme of raw, where I think I’ve learned that whatever helps you practice must be good for you. Whatever that is. So when I come across friends who are just starting on the journey, I think the best course of action when asked, “will it change my diet?” is to just say, simply, yes.

Posted by Bobbie

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

6 thoughts on “The stages of the yogi diet”

  1. Kind of a mystery to both me and my doctor, really. But her explanation was that for whatever reason, I wasn’t absorbing calcium additives very well. The sheer quantity of dark leafy greens I get in a day is pretty staggering, and my absorbtion rate must now be much higher. I don’t take any supplements at this point. So I guess I’m getting my calcium in the same place the cow gets it.

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