LAST FALL I LANDED ON SALINA—one of seven inhabited Aeolian Islands off the southwestern coast of Italy—ready for an eight-day yoga retreat to reset my health, calm my nervous system, and help me get perspective on my relationship with work. I was gearing up for two asana classes every day, long walks, longer naps, and healthy eating at a gorgeous, sun-soaked estate called Capofaro.
So when the retreat kicked off with a winery tour and a five-course, four-hour dinner that ended after midnight, I said, “OK, I’ll start my detox tomorrow.” The only problem was that my vinyasa class the next morning was followed by a two-hour breakfast that included an endless supply of cheese and coffee. Three hours later, I was back at the restaurant for a three-course, two-hour lunch, where I couldn’t resist another Americano, homemade pasta, and freshly baked bread. Before I knew it, it was time for yoga and dinner—and I quickly realized the first night’s indulgence wasn’t going to be an anomaly.
It turns out the focus on food became a brilliant guide. Sitting around the table with a dozen other yogis from around the world led to the conversations that make yoga retreats memorable. And embracing the carbs, sugar, and tannins made the Italy experience complete. When in Rome, right?
On my third day at Capofaro, belly and heart full, I spent the afternoon with the resort’s chef—a whimsical man from Salerno who has dedicated his career to the slowfood movement. Over a glass of wine, he told me how the various tomatoes grown in the garden beds on the grounds taste different because of variances in soil minerals, sun, and sea spray; he talked animatedly about more than 30 different types of salad greens and nine different species of mint. “Food is not just for your body, it is also for your mind,” chef Ludovico De Vivo told me, his blueish-brown eyes twinkling. “When you are mindful about taste, when you are present, you can feel more.”
I was starting to understand. At some meals, the combination of earthy grains, lighter fish, and young capers was so good, I wanted to cry. It was as if all of the sweetness in life had been unleashed in just one bite.
Before my stay in Italy, I was turning to asana and meditation for my daily dose of feeling present. I scheduled it in just like work meetings and social engagements. My hunch is that a lot of you can relate. But in Italy, meals, work, play, community— everything—seemed to merge into one single effort to live with joy. Savoring food set off a chain reaction: detail came into focus as I ate tiramisu, practiced Triangle Pose, felt the breeze on my skin, slipped between crisp sheets at bedtime, and smelled the residue of volcanic ash buried beneath years of viticulture.
I went home and started to cook—something that, before my trip abroad, had amounted to buttered potatoes and steamed broccoli. Now, nearly every night I prep food for the next day—elaborate juices, adventurous Mediterranean recipes, or a batch of peanut-butter cookies. I am more mindful than ever of what I put in my body, which is why I am so excited about this issue of Yoga Journal—our food issue. Food can determine your mood and help you sustain the other things you love to do; it can be a yogic practice on its own or fuel your regular asana and meditation practices.
If we set out with the intention to be healthier, happier, more well-rounded students of life, we can’t avoid nutritious living as part of the equation.
In this issue, we take a close look at trending yogi diets—including keto—and offer advice on how to maintain balance on each (page 30). We feature a must-try smoothie recipe from 90 Monkeys teacher Amy Ippoliti (page 28) and our favorite on-the-go snacks (page 21). Plus, we spend quality time with yoga icon Kathryn Budig, who is redefining her career as she pivots from asana posterchild to homebody and health food chef (page 78). Kathryn’s story, like time in Italy, shows us that when we slow down (and follow our hearts and dreams), we get a delicious taste of la dolce vita.