On my last trip to Kripalu, I was struck by the Ayurvedic concept of mittohar. Now, I’m not sure if I have the spelling correct and when I Googled it, nothing turned up. But I am quite sure that it is close since I read and re-read the idea of it over and over again as I breakfasted in silence with the rest of the dining hall. Whether the spelling is correct or not, the notion is the same: to eat just enough to be alert and balanced.
Hmmmph, I thought. That sounds like a simple enough plan. Intellectually, it is quite simple, if not quite obvious. In practice, it’s quite challenging.
Like most people, I have breakfast, lunch and some sort of semblance of dinner given I’m teaching or taking yoga almost every night at dinner time. I don’t snack too much right now, mostly because I am too busy with three little kids to actually snack. Perhaps I was already eating just enough to be alert and balanced.
So after watching my eating habits over the past few weeks, I realized, um, nope. You’re still overeating. Granted, I’m not eating MacDonalds, but still, too much is too much. I have a rather large smoothie or juice for breakfast that sometimes persuades me not to teach a twisting class. I have a large salad for lunch. It is packed with vegetables rather than dairy or meat, I but still feel kind of full after it. Though not full enough to skip the chocolate covered almonds. Dinner is a crap shoot depending on how much cleaning I need to do before things settle down. Read: before the kids are tucked in to bed. When the kids are asleep I indulge/unwind (however you want to spin it) with wine, guacamole and tortilla chips, and, if I don’t have a real dinner and go straight to indulgence, a bag of chips can go pretty quickly.
All in all, I realized that I often eat out of habit, boredom, comfort or fear that I’ll never eat again. When that happens, lethargy sets in — even if it was simply overloading on too many fruits and veggies — and I feel anything but balanced and alert. Most of us have grown up with parents who were worried we were hungry. You weren’t done eating until you pushed the plate away and said “I’m full.” As a parent myself, I’m always encouraging my kids to eat something. “Take two more bites.” So to take a step back and do the opposite, to ask yourself do you really need those two more bites seems and feels like starving.
As spring rolls in, (yes, I know it doesn’t feel like it yet), perhaps take this time of renewal to observe your own eating habits. Are you eating just enough to be alert and balanced? And even if you have no desire to follow the idea of mittohar, just stopping to notice and appreciate the food you choose to nourish your mind and body can be revelatory.
Below are some more beneficial Ayurvedic routines suggested by Kripalu that resonated with me, even if I can’t yet follow them.
1. Go to bed, wake up, and eat around the same time every day.
2. Eat freshly prepared meals.
3. Make lunch the main meal of the day.
4. Sip hot water throughout the day and avoid iced and cold beverages.
5. Move your body.
6. Follow the rhythms of nature.
7. Practice meditation.