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A flexible approach to food

TIME TO REFLECT: Yoga can promote oneness and stability

TELL ME if this seems a little faretched, but are we starting to see a growing trend arise in people actively becoming more interested in nutrition and health – especially where food and diet is concerned? Would I be correct in implying that there is a vegan movement building, maybe?

It may sound drastic, but according to new research from The Vegan Society, there are now more than half a million vegans in the UK alone, making it one of the largest lifestyle movements.

The shift to consuming a more vegetarian/vegan diet, has grown dramatically in the last decade by 350 per cent – and it is definitely one which is on the rise in the African Caribbean community.

It is becoming a popular topic of discussion in peer groups and households, and with the release of numerous thought-provoking health documentaries about the issues in the food and farming industries and the health implications, people are starting to wonder about the process and state of our food. Yes, the awareness is there, and plant-based options in food chains are becoming a lot more accessible, appeasing to the needs of those ‘on the go’.

We have mainstream icons such as Russell Simms, Venus and Serena Williams, Mike Tyson, Angela Basset and Erykah Badu, to name a few, all advocating the importance of vegetarian/vegan diets for various reasons, and that list is getting longer as we speak.

It has been almost a decade since I started my transition to eliminating meat and dairy from my diet and, if I’m completely honest, it was more geared towards stepping my health game up and making some type of change for my family.

Don’t get me wrong, over the years I’ve come to learn more about the implications of animals in the process, but it wasn’t the initial driving point. I spent a week with the intention of withdrawing from foods I became accustomed to growing up in a Caribbean household, and what was intended as a seven-day fast became an instant way of life.

A lightbulb switched on and hasn’t switched off since. Curried and jerk chicken, rice and peas, fried fish, curried goat, were a big part of my diet. To say it seemed extreme to my family at the time, is an understatement.

I probably spent the first two years trying to explain why I had done it to those worried I wasn’t getting enough protein, and that my diet consisted of more than just lettuce and carrots – just one of the many stereotypes that pops up when you mention vegans.

EXCITING

In fact, creating new dishes is still an exciting part of the change. From Caribbean coconut Ital soup to plant-based lasagne, there are so many dishes to choose from. I’m sure we would all agree that food is a major part of our culture, not just because of its traditional associations to nana’s house and family celebrations, but it plays a huge role in our social engagements, and has done throughout our history.


MEAL TIME: Adapting a Caribbean diet to become meat-free can be easy

The whole process made me question whether what we deem to be ‘soul food’ is really that soulful. Organisations such as Black Vegans Rock, one of the many platforms I’ve had the pleasure of sharing, help in creating a space for black vegans.

We all seek to be healthy, and rightly so. But finding the means to do so is the biggest hurdle, living in a society and culture that’s so absorbed in quick fixes and living in the fast lane. We rarely get time to stop and actually take a minute to reflect. Diet is only one piece to the ever-changing quest of how we become our optimum self.

If the body is clean and the mind remains unsettled, stressed and negative, we still harbor a breeding ground for imbalances and disease. Mental health is just as important, and yoga teaches us this. It is why I decided to pursue training as a practitioner, to share something so valuable, and healing, with others.

From the Uganda Equator to the foothills of the Himalayas in India, my findings in yoga have been transformational. It is not something that you do. It is a discipline that you become through practice. It is how we are able to move through the mind and body to create balance through mediation, and incorporates what we put into our bodies, how we construct our thoughts and how we deal with our everyday lives, elevating to our highest self.

Only then are you really experiencing the true essence of what we call yoga along with the physical practice. Yet, it is still an under-represented practice in the mainstream black community. Why is this? We have so much history attached to the original system of yoga, and although we see a lot more black instructors, delivering authentic African/Kemetic systems, uptake is still low.

I developed meta yoga (a combination of African Tai Chi, with postures, conscious breathing and planetary alignments) a few years back to enhance this deeper connection. There is no doubt of the many benefits yoga has, and it all starts with the small steps.

Adopting a more holistic approach to the future of our health means we begin to take control of our lives and that of our families. We need to re-educate our selves on what true health is and take the necessary steps to paving the way for a healthier life.

Find Nai Davina on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @naidavina, or visit naidavina.com

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