We all know that yoga can do wonderful things for the mind and body, such as reduce anxiety, increase strength, and improve overall function. But did you know that yoga can actually heighten the five senses, and more specifically enhance the smell and flavor of food?
To better understand yoga’s impact on enjoyable eating, we must first explore the senses of smell and taste.
Strong senses of smell and taste are of course vital to having an appetite and to experiencing pleasure while eating, but they also exercise the centers of the brain that house memory and emotion. A smell bypasses any thought evaluation and goes straight to the amygdala and hippocampus. This explains the effectiveness of aroma therapy, and the reason a smell can jog an old childhood memory and bring forth an associated emotion.
It’s no surprise the smell and taste are very closely related and work together. This explains your loss of taste when you have a cold. But what many people don’t know about smell and taste, is that just like the senses of sight and sound, they weaken with age and exposure to harsh elements. And just like a muscle or skill, if you don’t use them, you can lose them.
Overexposure to strong chemical smells or extra spicy food can damage smell and taste. And while there are no tools such as eyeglasses or hearing aids, to improve diminished senses of smell and taste, there are things you can do to sharpen these senses. This is where yoga comes in.
If there is one thing yoga does, it is encourages you to sloooowwww dooowwwwn—to be more present instead of living in your thoughts. Being aware of what you’re experiencing in the moment is exactly what is required to maintain and enhance your senses of smell and taste.
Think about it. Are you more likely to notice the taste of your food at a quiet, sit-down dinner or in front of the TV? There’s a reason the saying isn’t “work and smell the roses” or “hurry and smell the roses”. It’s because you have to STOP in order to really smell the roses. Just like you need stop to smell the cloves and to taste the cinnamon. If you are distracted while you’re eating, the signals being sent to your brain via your nose and mouth, are more likely to go unnoticed, and overtime will become less and less noticeable.
Take the advice of Ron Winnegrad, director of International Flavors & Fragrance Inc.’s New York perfumery school, “if you’re drinking a cup of coffee or tea, actually smell it before you drink it. If you do this on a regular basis you will increase your sense of smell.”
Research also shows that the senses of taste and smell are heightened after exercise. It’s suspected this is because of the increased moisture in the nose after physical activity. Think of a dog’s wet nose after a walk. The same is happening inside the human nose, enhancing the sense of smell and therefore taste.
Practicing yoga not only provides us with the physical activity needed to maintain the functions of the body and the senses, but it also gives us that reminder to slow down and take in all of the delightful scents and delicious flavors the world has to offer.
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