Flow State and Food: Practicing Intuitive Eating

Applying the fifth Yama of Aparigraha, we look at how to let go of eating habits that don’t serve us.

Emily Hightower is a past Wanderlust Festival presenter. For the 2016 lineup, click here.

This article is part of a series on applying yogic philosophy to food. Check out the previous articles on Brahmacharya, Ahimsa, Satya, and Asteya

We are designed to eat intuitively. Imagine a bountiful potluck. Instead of analyzing choices for your future body, or being plagued with past addictions, you drop into connection with your whole being in present time. You scan the forest of potluck options and certain foods pop up with vibrant life. You touch, smell, and taste to let in what resonates and let go of all else without a second thought. In this state you are attuned to the choices and amounts you need without checking your diet app. You let go when you’re full. It’s native.

Aparigraha, our fifth Yama, means non-grasping. It is the doorway to what I teach as Intuitive Eating or Flow State for Food.

Flow State is an optimal consciousness where time stops and you rise into creative, successful engagement doing something you love. It’s associated with extreme sports but can come from anything. It often takes knowledge, practice, and skill to attain flow. The surfer having the ride of her life didn’t pick up a board yesterday. She practiced. She has access to her intuition out there, to read the current wave in present time without self-doubt or over analysis. As an avid skier and whitewater kayaker, I know this zone and the quality I experience when there is embodied, responsive availability.

Embodied, responsive availability takes practice, and the more you find it anywhere, the more you have it everywhere. In anything—from writing, yoga, or sex, to surfing, powder skiing, or food—we are in flow when these three qualities exist. Being embodied, we choose with our present power. Being responsive, we let go of reacting out of habit. Being available, we let go and let in what we need in the now. We can’t feel flow if we are not in our bodies, are reactive, or are inflexible. In a word, we lose it when we grasp.

We all know what it’s like to grasp in food behavior. I’ve literally left good people in mid-sentence to sneak another brownie. I’m full, I’ve already had some, but can’t help but feel emotionally possessed by its comforting, chocolatey goodness. Can you relate?

I see another kind of clinging in my holistic nutrition practice. Clients will say, “Things are wonderful! Let’s cancel this week’s session and meet when I slip back again in a few weeks.” The enjoyment of success is already tainted by the expectation of failure. We need to let go of our old stories and allow ourselves to grow.

We also attach ourselves to a future body that we hope to gain by analyzing our food. Even the healthiest eaters are often missing the intuitive connection to food that creates real bliss through nourishment. You can choose foods based on abstract nutrition knowledge without ever listening to your own body. Grasping at your future self, you miss the present wisdom and flavor of the now. The potluck becomes a test for your nutrition knowledge instead of a flowing experience of trust and pleasure with your body. With Aparigraha, we let go of our need to know and need for control.

Aparigraha presents a radical notion; we can trust our bodies to tell us what, when, and how much to eat. When eating intuitively, we let go of our discerning mind and tap into what Ash Ruiz referred to at Wanderlust Aspen-Snowmass this year as our “vast, stable, clear eternal being.” This being is always there for you and is key for intuitive eating. Or as Martha Beck would put it, we eat this way when we become “Bewildered” or awakened.

If you’re ready to drop in deeper, use skill and play to discover Aparigraha with food.

Skill: I took years of skiing before experiencing flow state in powder. To enjoy intuitive consciousness with eating we need to start gaining skills with body and food. Yoga helps us trust our bodies’ wisdom. Warrior One shifts with practice from a mechanical struggle to an expansion of inner power and self-trust. Practicing kitchen skills like dicing, mincing, chopping, and learning spice combinations give you more choice in the moment. Also, intuitive eating does not abandon knowledge. Not all waves are safe to surf, and not all foods are good for your unique body. Learning nutrition for your body’s needs helps you roll through the market with confidence.

Play: When you start down a rut, let go by shifting your state. Do a headstand in your kitchen or roll a summersault! Go walk barefoot in the grass or snow. Soak in music you rarely listen to. Cook playfully without a recipe. Suddenly the world is fresh, you are here now, and you are available to options you didn’t see before.

As with Vinyasa Flow Yoga, when we move with skill, ease, and presence in our eating, we flow without force. Let go of everything you’ve ever eaten, how your body has been, or what you hope it will be. Use Aparigraha to become the intuitive, bewildered eater you were designed to be!

For a powerful recap of our Five Yamas for Food so far, tune in for next month’s article or sign onto my broadcasts at www.ondalu.com.

emily-hightowerEmily Hightower founded Ondalu to empower people to make holistic decisions for their health. Her integrative programs have helped thousands of people including Wounded Warriors, Teens, and Women in Crisis using yoga, nutrition, and nature. Emily guides in person, on retreat, or by Skype and is based in Carbondale, Colorado, with her husband, son, chickens, and huge dog.