What’s your “work”?

My friend Eve, yoga teacher and writer, tries to limit her consumption of carbohydrates. High-protein foods, such as fish and poultry, don’t seem to add fat around her middle as carbs do.

I’ve heard this claim before. But I’ve always eaten carbs with no ill effects. I grew up eating Japanese sticky rice and soft white bread, and now favor whole grains, especially brown rice, oatmeal, and shredded wheat cereal. I sometimes crave the clean-burning “fuel” of unrefined, unflavored carbs.

Judging from elderly relatives and my own tendencies, I predict that body fat won’t be an issue for me; rather, the trends on my dad’s side (which I resemble) are slouchy spine and skinniness. They shrink, they waste away. So, my “work” is clear: extend the thoracic spine, open the chest, and maintain muscle mass.

There is no universal Rx. We have different genes, different bodies, different metabolism, different quirks. So, if you’re trying to follow the latest health trend, stop and study your family history and your own health.

Yoga teaches us to observe ourselves from the inside, and this applies not only to asana but also practical lifestyle choices, including diet. Just because one person eschews gluten or fish or soy doesn’t mean that everyone should.

What’s your “work”?

Savasana bodies

The uniqueness of people’s bodies truly comes to life as a yoga teacher. For example, I’m ever intrigued by observing students in savasana, which displays one’s innate quirks, from tight necks to raised shoulders to legs with full turnout, feet flopping open like a book. Mental habits are also displayed: some seem instantly to drop away while others can hardly keep their eyes shut.

These distinctions remind me that general instructions are never enough. It’s important to tailor yoga teachings to each student—and to do the same for myself.

Images: Behr Rake’s blog; Yoga Flavored Life blog


  1. I cannot live without carbs, I have to have them, at every meal. I am a vegetarian, for protein I’ll rely on protein of vegetable origin and sometimes throw in eggs and dairy. That said, I can’t have to much dairy, my tummy disagrees. I eat a lot of healthy fat too, that doesn’t seem to show too much 🙂

    I have the same body structure as my mum, and my grandmother: short, solid, with a tendency to, well, have a soft and round middle (they will never read but hey, who knows?). So working the core, standing “tall”, keeping some form of physical activity anyway, that’s what’s in for me.


  2. i think diet might have a lot to do with where our great-great-great families and ancestors were from. areas with a lot of wheat? vegetables? meat?

    for example, ive heard that african americans are more likely to be gluten intolerant than europeans-americans and that it might be because there isn’t a huge wheat crop in a lot of africa. maybe?


  3. Great post! I’ve finally realized that I do better with about a 3:2:1 ratio of protein to vegetable to carb, that is, I do need carbs but definitely not so much of it. I have basically halved all the carbs I eat: one slice of sprouted wheat toast, 1/2 cup of cooked oatmeal, 1/2 cup of cooked rice, 1/2 cup of prepared quinoa or whatever and upped my vegetables and protein (including adding salmon and tuna back in after years of being vegan/vegetarian). I feel amazing! Like Emma said, I realize my ancestors did not eat a lot of wheat or other grains. But they did do root vegetables which make me feel good. I’m glad to finally know what makes my body feel good.


    1. I wonder if I could up my protein percentage on a vegetarian diet. My ancestors were primarily rice-fish-soy-vegetable eaters and, while I feel fine veering from that… I do wonder about my reduced protein intake. I am committed to a vegetarian diet for now, but I will reassess over time. Thanks for your comment. I can relate.


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