Yoga and chocolate

IMG_1566 Dark chocolate, especially if it’s ‘raw’  (made from unroasted cocoa beans) is associated with yoga, meditation and particularly with the deep guided relaxation practice of yoga nidra.   I know from my own experience that chocolate seems to be just what is needed after an intense yoga practice and deep relaxation.

But why?

What’s interesting is that there doesn’t appear to be one definitive explanation for the connection. People recommend chocolate after yoga for varying reasons. Putting these together, there appear to be 4 main themes…

Firstly, there’s the stimulation. Raw cacao in particular can give you a bit of a buzz, something of a wake up call after deep relaxation. But it’s not from caffeine. Cacao contains  theobromine which stimulates the heart but is, apparently,  less addictive and has lesser impact on the central nervous system than caffeine. Theobromine has also been associated with ashrodisiac effects.

Or there’s the pure joy of chocolate to extend the feel good factors of the practice. Culturally, we view chocolate is a treat, a bit of self indulgence and that is inevitably part of the pleasure. But there is a chemical basis too. Cacao contains anandamide, a substance also produced naturally by the brain and known as the ‘bliss chemical’ because it is released when we are feeing good. It can also lower stress by inhibiting stress chemicals like cortisol.

Then there’s the health giving benefits.  Cacao is a potent source of antioxidants which protect us from disease and keep us looking young. Weight for weight, cacao beans are, apparently, a more concentrated source of these goodies than goji berries, blueberries , acai and pomegranates put together. Cacao is also a good source of zinc.

Finally, there’s the mystic element.   Central and South American cacao ceremonies were held by ancient peoples who revered it’s healing properties and endowed it with a sacred status. It’s consumption was regarded as restorative, nourishing and enlightening and a means of communing with the gods.

So perhaps my sense of chocolate feeling ‘just right’ after yoga is a combination of all these things.

Pictured above is my first attempt at raw chocolate making. These chocs were made  for my yoga class in Kilchoan for a post savasana treat. I now have the chocolate making bug and I’m hoping to experiment and make many more…..


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