An Excerpt from The Yoga of Food by Melissa Grabau, PhD.
Imagine that you are at a takeout restaurant grabbing a quick bite to eat after going to a doctor’s appointment. You are contemplating the menu and assessing what you want to eat, distracted by the many choices and aware that you don’t have much time before you need to be back at work. Normally you don’t leave the office and you forgot to tell your boyfriend that you had the appointment. You could have met him for lunch since your doctor’s office is quite near where he works. After placing your order, you glance around the restaurant and you see your boyfriend. Pleasure floods your body, your heart quickens, and you feel a rush of energy rise up through your core. You wave to catch his attention, eager to see him and connect. Your legs feel lighter and you are about to walk over to him when you notice that he is dining with an attractive woman several years younger than the both of you. They are looking at one another intensely.
Shock grips your body. The warmth in your chest turns cold and your stomach clenches into a tight knot that feels like a pit. Your breath stops. You are suddenly paralyzed, unable to move.
Emotions are strong energetic currents that manifest in your thoughts and behavior. The feeling of being angry, having a panic attack, being in love, or as in the case above, being threatened romantically, are felt as strong waves of energy in the body. These energetic states are intensely real and dramatic, though unless you express them to others, they are usually invisible. The second sheath of your Being is this energetic body. Emanating through and around your skin, bone, and organs is a buzzing universe of energy. Energy is a real thing in your body—your heart is a pump that is fueled by energy and your neurons exchange information through energetic impulses. Your moods, tension states, and feelings of relaxation are all governed by energy. Yoga brings new awareness to this omnipresent yet invisible aspect of your Being. Through this awareness, you can learn to manage and direct your energetic states with more consciousness and intention.
One of the greatest gifts of a yoga and meditation practice is that it opens you up to an appreciation of the subtle flow of energy in your body. In our culture, most of us are so entranced by Big energy (TV, bright lights, loud music, gossip ... ) that we have lost our ability to attend to, much less marvel, at, the small miracles of everyday life. Many of us, in search of BIG sensation, unwittingly settle for “BIG food.” One of my clients recognized that she found excitement in a day based on what she would eat. I don’t think she is unusual. David Kessler’s book, The End of Overeating, discusses the use of big, chemically enhanced fat and flavor that manipulate our taste buds and brain/stomach chemistry in order to encourage addiction to these substances. These artificially enhanced foods alter, might I even say pervert, our tastes so that subtle, natural flavors are lost on us. Instead, we seek hit-you-over-the-head textures and flavors that excite, rather than satiate, our appetites. Our gastrointestinal tracts have become amusement parks, leading us to seek out the thrills of a roller coaster (think about your blood sugar!) on a plate, or in a takeout bag, as the case may be.
Yoga and meditation are subtle practices. We do these practices so that we can turn inward and settle our attention and begin to notice things like our habitual energy patterns. This journey is a process that takes time and commitment. At first it may feel unnatural, like a waste of time. You may be so used to being continually stimulated that you feel lost when the noise is turned down. Be patient with yourself and with the practices. There is no other way to tune in to the subtle than to go through a period of withdrawal from the “normal” bombardment of noise. After a period of time, you will notice the feeling of a deep, satisfying breath, the pleasure of releasing a tight muscle, letting go of your jaw, and the gift of attuning to the gentle hum of life right under your skin.
Melissa Grabau, PhD, (Roseville, CA) received her doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Duquesne University in 1998. She became licensed as a psychologist in California in 2001 and has been in private practice since 2003. More recently, she has broadened her existential/humanistic background in psychology to incorporate her long-standing interest in yoga and Eastern psychology. She is a certified yoga teacher and currently integrates mind-body techniques in her work with clients.
Excerpt from The Yoga of Food reprinted with permission of Llewellyn Worldwide. Copyright Llewellyn Worldwide, 2014. All rights reserved.