As unique beings we all have different hopes, fears, conditioning, expectations, and agendas around our health and relationship to food and eating. Over the years of teaching and doing nutritional counseling, I have found it valuable to establish my own set of personal ethics in regards to my health and that of the planet. As Marion Nestle says, “We change the world by what we eat or chose not to eat.” I believe this to be true and am a firm believer that each person choosing with their fork CAN make a difference!

I’ve used the Yamas from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras to make a wheel of ethics, which support and frame my holistic lifestyle. From my own experience I have found a great deal of benefit from weaving these principles – compassion, honesty, non-stealing, moderation, non-hoarding, cleanliness, contentment, heat, self-examination, and faith – into my daily life routines beyond the yoga mat. As a nutritionist, I find exploring these moral values in relationship to food and eating fascinating. UCLA Professor Peter Sellars poses the question, “Can you put your belief system into your body”? It’s a question like this that moves me to look deeper into my own ethics with food and eating. I often ask myself “Am I putting my belief system into my body?”

The Yamas prepare you to see how you and Nature are one. How you treat the outer world (Nature) reflects how you care for your inner landscapes. John Robbins does a wonderful job incorporating the essence of Yamas in this statement in the book The Food Revolution, “I don’t care whether your diet is politically correct. I care whether your food choices are consistent with your love. I care whether they bring you health, uphold your spirit, and help you fulfill your true nature and reason for being alive.”

It is through conscious application of the Yamas that you will learn to see that compassion is your birthright, trust begins with yourself, healthy boundaries make healthy relationships, and balance is not as bad as it sounds. Although the Yamas are all interrelated and work together, if one Yama stands out more than the others, consider spending some time deepening your relationship with that one principle.

Here’s a brief questionnaire to get you started reflecting upon these ideas. I’ll be discussing this arena in more detail in my upcoming workshops at 8 Limbs Yoga Centers in Seattle (February), Piedmont Yoga Studio in Oakland (March), and Surya Yoga in Yakima (April).

Ahimsa (non-violence): You, Food and The Environment

  • How do I practice ahimsa towards myself?
  • Towards others/community?
  • Towards the planet/environment?

Satya (truth/honesty): Eating Healhty Food & The Knowing The Benefits Of Healthy Food

  • How do I practice satya towards myself?
  • Towards others/community?
  • Towards the planet/environment?

Asteya (non-stealing): Rotate Seasonal Practices & Eating Frequent Meals

  • How do I practice asteya towards myself?
  • Towards others/community?
  • Towards the planet/environment?

Brahmacharya (moderation): Moderation vs. Extreme in Everything

  • How do I practice brahmacharya towards myself?
  • Towards others/community?
  • Towards the planet/environment?

Aparigraha (non-hoarding): Sharing Resources, Time, and Community

  • How do I practice aparigraha towards myself?
  • Towards others/community?
  • Towards the planet/environment?