Under the best circumstances, your yoga practice, stellar diet and optimal exposure to the sun should provide you with all the vitamins and minerals you need. Unfortunately, life seldom affords any yogi this luxury. Perhaps one of yoga’s many contemporary functions is to compensate for the repeated disruptions to balance and mindful living inherent of modernity.
Here are five supplements to keep you centered, strong, focused and all the better for your noble, modern yoga practice.
Probiotics are “good” bacteria that reside in your intestines. Dietary sources include fermented foods, such as kefir, yogurt and kimchi. Probiotics ensure optimal intestinal function, preventing gas and bloating while facilitating smooth digestion and the extraction of nutrients from the food you eat. Probiotics also fortify your intestinal walls, keeping them strong, healthy and appropriately permeable.
Probiotics spend most of their time colonizing your lower intestines and preventing the proliferation of bad bacteria, viruses and yeast strains associated with disease and malignancy. In this regard probiotics are an extension of your immune system, fighting all sorts of illnesses, from common cold to yeast infections.
There are at least 18 well known strains of probiotics, and 15 of them have been heavily researched and confirmed as efficacious and health-boosting, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus rhamnosus.
Depending on how often you eat fermented foods and how much, shoot for a probiotics supplement that supplies 10 to 50 billion colony forming units (CFUs), such as Probiotic-10 by NOW Foods or Dr. Formulated Probiotics Mood+ 50 Billion CFU by Garden of Life. The latter product is completely organic and sourced from whole foods, which improves its absorption.
4. Vitamin B-12
Vitamin B-12 helps your body to synthesize cellular energy from the food you eat. It also has adaptogenic properties, enabling you to withstand stress and thrive at moments of physical and psychological demand (read: Bikram yoga). B-12 is essential to your nervous system health and circulation as well as red blood cell formation. As a result, it indirectly impacts your mental clarity and focus.
B-12 is water-soluble, so your body kindly excretes whatever it does not need. It appears in most B-Complex supplements, but taking it as a separate supplement lets you adjust dosages according to your needs and lifestyle. B-12 is the vitamin that combats those unexpected mid-afternoon crashes and that dreaded post-workout lethargy.
B-12 is available in a variety of forms, and the jury’s still out on the most bioavailable. Whole food B-12 is superior, but animal products are the usual source, which isn’t an option for everyone. Synthetic B-12 is most bioavailable in the form of methylcobalamin, especially when administered sublingually. Swanson Ultra B-12 and Source Naturals Methylcobalamin are both quality formulas, and the latter is sublingual.
Turmeric is an underground stem in the ginger family. It is often dried, ground into a powder and sold as a spice. Turmeric has a bright yellow-to- orange hue that gives curry sauce its famous color. Turmeric contains hundreds of highly bioactive compounds called curcuminoids, or curcumin. The list of evidence-based health benefits attributed to curcuminoids continues to grow as research continues. Some of the standout benefits include:
- Antioxidant activity
- Improved brain function
- Reduced risk of brain diseases
- Lowers risk of heart disease
- Prevents and treats cancer
The last benefit is of particular value to yogis. An active yoga practice has the potential to alleviate inflammation. However, yoga is also quite athletic, and turmeric augments your body’s anti- inflammatory defenses, preventing soreness, swelling and aching joints.
Turmeric’s antioxidant powers are equally notable. Recall that antioxidants scavenge free radicals throughout your body. Free radicals are atoms with one or more unpaired electrons, making them highly unstable. Antioxidants are the only compounds in nature that can donate electrons without becoming free radicals. Unchecked free radical damage ages you prematurely and leads to many long term degenerative diseases.
2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids potentially lower the risk of a slew of chronic diseases, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Consistent supplementation may effectively prevent the onset of
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Macular degeneration
- Heart Disease
Omega-3 fatty acids are also vital to healthy vision, circulation and nervous system function. Omega-3s are highly concentrated in the brain, which substantiates the old claim that fish is brain food. Fish are particularly high in eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), two types of long-chain omega-3s your body utilizes most readily.
Fish obtain omega-3s from marine algae, and new marine algae-based omega-3s are available on the market as a viable vegetarian and vegan option. In the brain, omega-3s are directly responsible for
- Mood regulation
- Visual acuity
- Behavioral function
- Cognitive abilities
Omega-3s also mitigate the lubrication and padding of joints while reducing inflammation throughout the body. They are a nifty all-around supp that help your body withstand any daily wear and tear you must endure when you’re not on the mat. This keeps you in the best health, so you stay strong for future sessions on the mat.
Yoga Journal recommends Ultimate Omega by Nordic Naturals. The product packs 700 milligrams of EPA and DHA into a two-softgel serving. It’s also non-GMO, gluten-free, devoid of dairy and additives.
Protein is the building block of nearly every cell in your body. Lacking this essential macro can severely impact your performance on the mat, not to mention the integrity of your muscle. Although Eastern practitioners frown on any supplementation, Western yoga teachers advocate the use of protein to
- Promote lean muscle
- Improve metabolic activity
- Deliver vital nutrients
- Increase satiety
Protein also makes a great post-class refreshment, supplying nutrients and much needed hydration to tide you over until your next whole food meal. Yoga Travel Tree suggests whey protein, since it absorbs quickly, is widely available and economical. However, whey protein comes from dairy. Luckily, vegans have many plant-based alternatives to consider, such as hemp, pea, brown rice and soy.
Designer Whey protein is the fitness industry’s go-to whey. Meanwhile, vegetarians and vegans should check out this post by Dr. Josh Axe for 11 great plant-based proteins worth checking out.
Not all supplements are created equal, and not all are good quality. However, many types of supplements are good for you, and some of them are of great quality. Holistic, whole food-based yoga diets are fantastic, but widespread soil depletion and pollution greatly diminish the nutrient density of most foods you eat.
Harvard University’s School of Public Health advises vitamin supplements to cover nutritional gaps created by poor quality food and demanding lifestyles. This goes for yogis as well, perhaps even double. Give one or all of these supplements a try today, and observe how they improve your overall health for your long-term yoga practice.