• Casey Giovinco

Feeding the Soul

Updated: Jul 12

I don't know why it came as such a surprise to me that my yoga practice began to focus on diet when I got to the navel chakra. One of the aspects of this energy that the West often forgets about is its connection to digestion. Manipura (or the navel chakra) is often called the mixing bowl, because it is in this energy center where physical digestion occurs. On an energetic level, it is here that apana and prana are mixed and distributed throughout the rest of the system. (Might we say digested?) I've known this for a while, but I guess I got caught in the trap of Western thinking where I separated the physical from the energetic. I don't know.

The point is that I was feeling a bit guilty about not being as focused on my chakra awareness meditations and my asana practice as I could have been in June, but with my travel schedule, I could only do what I could do. Instead, I found myself focusing a lot more heavily on my diet. For the first time, I attempted to embrace a more "yogic diet."

In all the years that I've done yoga, I've never really been the one to embrace a vegan or even a vegetarian diet. My love of the gym and bodybuilding has always swayed my tastes towards the high protein meat-based diets. However, earlier in June, I I asked myself the question "What would it look like to actually try a vegetarian diet as a bodybuilder?" That one question started me off on a parallel journey to this kundalini awakening journey that I am currently on, and, to be honest, I am genuinely surprised by how much this Ayurvedic concept of food supports my Western weightlifting goals as well as my yoga practice.

I found this amazing website on vegan bodybuilding, which gave me a lot of confidence that I could eat a plant-based diet and not lose ground in the gym. (Here is the basic meal plan, which I have been following over the last month.) I also found some really wonderful books that have helped me tremendously. (I think these three are my favorites so far: The Way of the Vegan Meathead, The Beyond Bigger Leaner Stronger Challenge, and The Vegan Bodybuilder's Cookbook.)

At first I tried to be vegan, but I just couldn't accept it. While I definitely heard what these amazing authors had to say, I couldn't accept giving up the protein that comes from dairy and eggs. When I tried the strict vegan plan, I found myself very lethargic and irritable. It wasn't long before even getting up to make another meal made me cranky, and, truthfully, my bad mood was beginning to annoy me.

After about a week of that, I decided that I would have to be more plant-based than simply vegetarian or vegan. Moderation in all things became the motto, and that has actually worked out quite well. I have been allowing myself to eat dairy and eggs on a regular basis when needed, and when I feel called to do so, I will even eat lean meat to fuel my workouts. What's interesting about that though is that I haven't needed as much meat to maintain my workouts as I thought I would in the beginning. Over the last month, I have probably eaten meat twice, and I really haven't missed it at all.

Ironically, this approach is actually very true to the more tradition practices of yoga, by the way. Yoga and Ayurveda actually talk a great deal about the benefits of dairy.

To be fair though, I can't claim this calm, composed perspective as my own. It's only been three days since I've been able to see the wisdom in what I did accidentally. It wasn't until I checked in with my kundalini instructor that all this acceptance and wisdom came together for me. I have a tendency to be really tough on myself. It's actually one of the major stumbling blocks in my own kundalini awakening journey, and it's no surprise that it would show up while becoming more aware of the navel, the center of willful action, but that's a topic for another time.

As I said, I was feeling quite guilty that my meditation and my asana practices have come to a screeching halt, but her response was perfect. "It sounds like you've actually been doing quite a bit. Okay, you let your asanas go, but you just chose to focus on another part of the practice for a while. What would it look like if you reframed things a bit? Instead of saying you've abandoned your yoga practice, what if, instead, you've been listening to your intuition and prioritizing a different (but equally important) part of your yoga practice?"

WHAT A FOOL I"VE BEEN!

She was 100% right, and I just couldn't see it till she pointed it out. The whole entire point of the preliminary meditations is to get you aware of your chakras, to help you locate them in your body and to help you become aware of their influence on your thinking. Of course I would find my thoughts and actions focused on different things in each chakra, so why did it surprise me so much that my thoughts and actions were focused on food (i.e. digestion) when my practice got to the chakra associated with digestion?

This wisdom brought me right out of my guilt and shame and got me refocused on the good work that I have been doing. It also taught me a valuable lesson that I can't let myself forget. I really do need to be kinder to myself. It's not always about achieving the goal I set. Sometimes the goal is just to go with the flow and be present in the moment.

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