Yoga at the Co-op?! Yes! Lately you might have seen a couple of specialty yoga classes pop up in our regular classes and events listings. These are part of a new partnership we developed with Sangha Studio. Sangha is Vermont’s only nonprofit, donation-based yoga studio and has two locations in Downtown Burlington and the Old North End. We started this class collaboration back in February with our first Valentine’s Day yoga class. We had a lovely evening that included an hour long yoga class followed by some sweet treats. Our second class was at the end of April and was a combination of gentle yoga and an introduction to mindful eating! You might be wondering where in the Co-op these classes are taking place. Well, our South End Community Room is truly a multi-purpose space. With some rearranging, we transformed the room into a relaxing yoga spot where we set up 18 mats for participants to practice.
It was a bright and beautiful Sunday morning on April 28th, the day of our Gentle Yoga & Intro. to Mindful Eating class. The first part of class was taught by Taylor Downs. Taylor is a mindfulness practitioner and yoga teacher at Sangha Studio. She teaches weekly classes at Sangha including her very popular Spa yoga class on Friday evenings. It was the perfect way to slow down, check in and start to connect our body and mind with the present.
After a delightful yoga flow, we transitioned into the Mindful Eating portion of the class. Dana Notte who is an experienced dietitian, nutritionist and mindful eating expert led this part of class. She began by providing a basic definition of mindful eating. This four-part definition comes from The Center for Mindful Eating :
- Allowing yourself to become aware of the positive and nurturing opportunities that are available through food selection and preparation by respecting your own inner wisdom.
- Using all your senses in choosing to eat food that is both satisfying to you and nourishing to your body.
- Acknowledging responses to food (likes, dislikes or neutral) without judgment.
- Becoming aware of physical hunger and satiety cues to guide your decisions to begin and end eating.
After participants had a moment to digest (no pun intended) this definition, Dana gave this some context by asking participants a simple question, why do we eat? Here are some answers for what the group came up with:
- For fuel
- To celebrate
- Because of rituals (Example: movie and popcorn)
- For Comfort
- Stress (any feeling and emotion can elicit an eating response!)
- Cultural politeness, going over to someone’s house for dinner
The point of this list was to recognize that we eat based on a variety of desires and motivations. Dana explained that one of the main benefits of a mindful eating practice is to put a pause in our busy lives, in order to help make eating a more internal process that is less likely to be influenced by external factors.
After all this background information, the group was ready to put this knowledge into practice. Dana asked for there to be no talking for the duration of the exercise. So with that, participants were instructed to gather a plate of food from a spread of fresh fruit, crackers, hummus, Miss Weinerz donuts and more!
Dana then guided the group through the three-step mindful eating practice. Before eating, she instructed participants to pause, observe and then decide if they were interested in eating. Then, to take a small bite and while eating, to chew the food slowly, and notice all the senses during the experience. Lastly after the eating, to observe how the body feels and what they learned from the exercise. See the handout below for a more detailed guide through the practice.
Afterwards the group reflected on the experience. Participants surprised themselves with their food choices. After an initial pause, many opted for the raspberry or piece of fruit instead of the donut which they thought they wanted at first. One participant after checking in, realized they didn’t even feel like eating at all! Somebody made the comparison that they felt mindful eating is yoga for food-- a perfect statement to connect the two practices of the day.
In closing, becoming a mindful eating expert is not something that is going to happen overnight and it is not a practice of should and should nots. Instead, it is a process that will help one connect back with their innate food desires and in turn help to holistically nourish the body.
For more information, check out The Center for Mindful Eating website, linked here!