Article by Hayley McAlinden, Vivo Nutritionist and Yoga Teacher
When you first start yoga, you’ll find you pick up the basics pretty quickly. However, if you really want to improve your strength and flexibility, the first place to look is your diet!
The food that we eat provides the building blocks for new cells, so if you want those cells to be strong and flexible, choosing the right foods is so important! Flexibility is determined by the length and elasticity of your connective tissues, whilst strength is determined by the amount of lean muscle mass you carry. Choose the right foods to compliment your training, and you’ll improve both!
To support your strength and flexibility from the inside out, I recommend the following steps:
#1 - Eat Real Food!
It may sound simple, but you should always build your diet on real food - whether you are a yogi or not! Take out the hard to digest processed foods such as wheat, sugar, pasteurised dairy and ready meals. If your body feels tight and uncomfortable, this is a sign that your diet needs to shape up!
Fill your plate with lots of fresh vegetables of different colours at every meal. Choose organic and seasonal vegetables whenever possible. Complement these with a palm sized portion of protein to help build healthy new cells - hemp seeds, lentils and chick peas are all great choices.
Compliment your meals with healthy spices such as ginger, turmeric, black pepper and cayenne to really nourish your body from the inside out. Most importantly, keep things simple – you’ll feel the difference!
#2 - Stay Hydrated!
Water is the transporter. More water, more elasticity in muscles and connective tissues. The planet is 70% water and so are we! As well as 2 litres of clean filtered water daily you should also eat your water. Fresh fruits and vegetables contain tons of highly absorbable structured water plus the vitamins, minerals and nutrients needed to nourish ourselves on a cellular level. A pineapple, for example, is 87% water by weight, whilst a cucumber is 96%!
#3 - Embrace Fat!
Just like a car engine, your body needs to be ‘well oiled’ to function optimally. Getting sufficient omega 3 fats is essential for healthy joints and skin – if you have dry skin or clicky joints, this is a clear sign you need more omega 3! A good saturated fat such as coconut oil is a great one to include especially for cooking as it is stable in high temperatures. Also a quality cold pressed olive oil used cold on salads is a must for internal oiling!
#4 - Eat your greens!
Green foods contain chlorophyll, and chlorophyll helps the body absorb oxygen. Muscles and organs thrive on oxygen as this supports blood flow. More greens equals more oxygen which equals more energy, strength and flexibility! Obviously eating green leafy vegetables daily will help greatly but having concentrated super greens blends in your smoothies can really step up your chlorophyll oxygen boosting levels.
#5 - Magnesium
80% of the population is deficient in magnesium. It is needed on a cellular level to help the body produce energy through the ATP cycle and help the detoxification pathway. But it is also used for the nervous system and as a muscle relaxant. If you suffer from any tightness, cramping, twitching, spasm, or general tension, anxiety or have high bouts of stress you need to get the vital mineral magnesium in to the rescue! Epsom salt baths are my favourite way to load up on magnesium.
#6 - Silica
Silica is the most abundant mineral on earth yet the least absorbed by the body. When we are younger we have heaps of this mineral, that’s why we are super bendy and wrinkle free, but as we age our levels rapidly decrease. Silica improves and restores the elasticity in the skin, connective tissue and ligaments. Having a shot of liquid silica daily will greatly improve your flexibility and I strongly believe it contributes to enhancing your natural ‘glow’ as it is one of the main ingredients in collagen formation.
#7 - Amino Acids
To maintain lean muscle mass you need protein. You also need sufficient amino acids for liver detoxification, and better cleansing equals more energy, strength and flexibility! Not all protein powders are equal, I use a plant based protein powder I trust daily.
#8 - MSM
MSM acts as a powerful antioxidant and healing agent. Stretching puts a great deal of stress on your muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments. MSM is an essential building block for repair and recovery. Again as we age our levels of natural sulphur in the body decrease, so topping up is a must. Another one to start slow on as it is used by the liver for detoxification.
Following the above tips will 100% have you addicted to that yoga high in no time, and will also benefit your health & wellbeing long term!