Everyone has heard the advice that you’re not supposed to swim on a full stomach, and that running after you eat can give you a side cramp. But what about yoga? Should you wait to practice yoga for a specific amount of time after you eat?
This is a common question with a range of answers. There are some differing schools of thought on the matter. But what is most important to keep in mind is to always listen to your body.
So, here are some common answers to the question:
Should I practice yoga after eating?
Some people strongly believe that yoga should only be practiced on an empty stomach. To achieve this, they say, one should practice yoga first thing in the morning or at least four hours after eating.
This might sound extreme, but there are reasons behind this stance. First, the body requires a great deal of energy to digest food, especially shortly after eating. Therefore, in order to get the most out of a yoga practice, the body’s energy should be directed toward maintaining the postures and not towards digestion.
The second reason some say that yoga should only be practiced on an empty stomach is so that it is more comfortable to hold certain postures, such as twists. If you think about how much your torso twists during those postures, this makes sense. The same idea can be applied to things like backbends (wheel pose) and inversions (handstand and headstand). The emptier your stomach is, the easier it will be to achieve stillness in some of the more complex postures.
However, this idea comes from the traditional roots of yoga in India. And it’s safe to say that most people do not adhere to the same kind of discipline as yogis from the past. If you are starving but want to get the most out of your practice, it’s best to try and find some balance between eating and not eating.
Have something small to eat
This attitude is more appealing to our North American habits. If you know that you will be practicing in the near future and you are famished, eat something light and easily digestible like a piece of fruit or some raw vegetables.
Eating something small an hour or two before class should give you the energy you need in order to practice without causing too much heaviness in your gut. If you are going to eat before class, it’s a good to avoid dense or greasy snack foods if you can.
Eat as much as you want before!
To be honest, we don’t know many people who actually think this is a good idea. If you have just finished a large meal, you might want to give your body a chance to work it through a little before engaging in anything overly physical.
Your body does need time to digest food, so don’t feel like you need to rush it. And it just doesn’t feel great to exercise after you’ve chowed a massive dinner. It may only take a couple of hours to digest some fruits and veggies, but it may take as much as six to eight hours to digest larger quantities of meat. So give yourself some time to relax after your meal, then when you’re feeling ready, go for it!
Basically, the rule of thumb, as mentioned above, is listen to your body. While some yogis are strict about their food schedule, others are less so. Some yogis are completely dedicated and have a great deal of discipline, others fit yoga in around their otherwise busy schedules. This might mean sometimes practicing on a full-ish stomach is the only way to fit a class in.
If it so happens that you are in a class and wishing that you’d skipped those last two extra slices of pizza because it’s making you feel nauseous, no worries. Chill out in child’s pose or lay on your back until you feel like joining in again. Or lay there all class long if you feel like it. Or if you feel light headed because it’s been six hours since you’ve eaten and your teacher is driving you hard, stop and chill! It’s your class, your body and your decision. Yoga is not a competition and there is nothing to prove.
Every yogi should listen to what they’re bodies are telling them, before, during and after class. Always, actually.