Intermittent fasting – four ways it can compliment your Yoga Practice

Early morning Yogis naturally intermittent fast

My Journey With Intermittent Fasting

Intitially it was natural…

Practising intermittent fasting came naturally to me when I became a dedicated Ashtanga practitioner. The two go hand in hand, especially when you practice early morning. In 2018-2020, when travelling, living in Thailand practising Hatha and Ashtanga Yoga daily, I would practice early in the morning ( starting practice 7:00am and finishing 8:30am) before having anything to eat or drink but water. Breakfast would be ate around 9:00-10:00am, after a full practice. It came naturally to me. Being up early meant I would not eat after 7:00pm. This meant, practising early, Yogi’s would naturally intermittent fast, often without realising it.

This happened to me and I really toned up and lost weight. I didn’t even realise I was intermittent fasting!

Without regular early morning routine , it became a struggle…

When I moved back to the UK and to Teesside, there was no access to classes structured every day this way. I lost my Mojo, damaged the medial side of my left knee and unfortunately my early morning practices became more sporadic.

I kept up practice, but it wasn’t as physical as I was used to.

Now my knee is fully healed, I have been working hard on discipline and hopefully returning to where my asana (postural) practice used to be.

Back to fasting & early morning Yoga routine = results.

More recently of November 2022, I have been a lot more disciplined and dedicated to my Ashtanga practice. Up at 6am every weekday morning and 7:00am Sundays to work through postural practice of Yoga.

Again, I have naturally started intermittent fasting. Due to this, I have lost 5kg (3/4stone) in just over a month. This is roughly practising eating in a window of 8-10 hours, with 14-16 hours of no eating or drinking anything with calories.

I will drink mint tea or water in this period.

Combining a physical early morning practice with intermittent fasting is a great way to improve your physical and mental health, lose weight and improve mental clarity. It works for me and works for many others too. I used to suffer from OCD and my Ashtanga practice really helped me recover from it.

It does not have to necessarily be an Ashtanga Yoga practice. It could be running or going to the gym. I have known of people who walk their dogs early before breakfast , or just following this method without any physical activity achieving results. Finding your practice, your discipline and what works for you is the best.

What is intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting is a tool used to improve mental and physical wellbeing through eating within certain time-frames during the day. Some people will also refrain from eating on certain days of the week. It is more about when you eat, rather than what you eat (what you eat is really important too!)

When we eat in this way, we use up our glucose stores from carbohydrates. Our bodies then go into ketosis- where it produces ketones, which break down fat to produce energy.

If you are thinking of trying this diet and have any health issues, always check with a qualified health practitioner before practising. Especially if suffering from any deficiencies, long-term mental/physical health conditions of you are or if you are pregnant.

16:8 intermittent fasting (16 hours fasting, 8 hours eating window)

The 16:8 intermittent fasting is the most popular and often thought of as the best way to get results. However, it can be challenging to begin with and it is recommended you build up to this. This is sometimes not recommended for women who have heavy periods.

14:10 intermittent fasting (14 hours fasting, 10 hours eating window)

This is my preferred method as I find it least restrictive and it fits in with my lifestyle and practice. It is easier to attain and, although a bit slower, you will still feel the benefits.

12:12 intermittent fasting (12 hours fasting, 12 hours eating window)

This method is great for beginners and those who snack a lot on an evening. It is a great starting point to build up gradually to the previous methods.

Four ways intermittent fasting can support your Yoga and Meditaion practice:

1. Intermittent fasting can help to improve mental wellbeing

Intermittent fasting may help to improve your mental state. A scientific study on the effects on health, ageing and disease show it can make us more resilient to stress. Many people who practice this method note feeling more mental clarity. It is thought that by reducing blood sugar in this way, it can boost our mood.

2. Intermittent fasting consistently can help support weight loss

A 2017 study in obese men showed that when practised consistently, weight loss can be achieved by intermittent fasting. I have had my own lived experience of this. When I practiced this, coupled with early morning Yoga practices, I lost weight. Conversely, when I stopped practising early and intermittent fasting, I put weight on.

Intermittent fasting may also support boosting metabolism, supporting weight loss.

It does this in one of two ways, by stabilizing blood sugar (which can help with reducing risks of diabetes) as well as converting fat stores to energy when entering a state of ketosis.

3. Intermittent fasting on a morning means you can practice with a clear digestive system and improve gut health

It is often taught that you should no eat 2 hours before you practice Yoga or practice breathwork.
Your body requires a lot of energy to digest food properly. When you eat before practice, you are taking energy away.
Most importantly, when you eat before practice, you are taking up space in the abdomen. This means, any twists, binds, forward folds, and backbends are going to feel very uncomfortable. The emptier the digestive tract, the more room and space you have to twist and bend at ease.

Feeling full can lead to lethargy and a lapse of concentration during class.

Practising early morning avoids these issues.

Studies also show that Intermittent Fasting can improve gut health by improving the quality of bacteria in the gut, improving cellular and digestive health and reducing inflammation in the body.

4. Intermittent fasting can encourage production of growth hormone, helping us to develop lean muscle

As we age, we lose the ability to produce Human Growth Hormone, which helps us lower insulin levels and burn fat. However, intermittent fasting can encourage the body to produce it. Meaning we can naturally stimulate its production, leading to leaner muscles. It is known to help slow down the ageing process and help us produce muscle mass, even as we age.

To conclude – Intermittent fasting is great for Yogis who want to dedicate to their practice.

I have first hand experience on what a benefit it has been to practice, as do many others. There are many studies but the best way is to see for yourself! Remember to always check with a qualified health practitioner before trialling any new regimes.

Will you try intermittent fasting? Do you practice now, or have you in the past?

We would love to know in the comments.

Aimee is a Yoga Teacher and Chair Yoga and Exercise teacher in The Tees Valley area of North East England. Aimee is director of AMALAwellness, a local Community Interest Company in Teesside.

Aimee loves blogging and sharing her experiences with Yoga, Meditation, Running and others. Check out AMALAwellness’ blog here.

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