You may have noticed it already. If not , it’s sure to happen to people practicing Yoga. Their nutritional revelation. You’ll be tending to the business of grocery shopping or ordering from a menu, and it will hit you “I am eating better than I used to, and I didn’t even realize I was doing it.”
Our lives are not in the lap of the Gods, but in the lap of our cooks – Lin Yutang
Virtually, all those who have been into Yoga for a while find themselves eating healthier foods. The yogic explanation for this is that doing asanas, pranayama, and meditation changes you at a cellular level. My affinity towards yoga started when I was 21. I tried all kinds from Bikram yoga (a.k.a Hot yoga) and Power yoga to Hatha yoga. The first lesson I learnt, more than anything was about food, and how food can completely re-design your body and mind.
Foods that are greasy, chemically preserved, or excessively sweet simply stop looking good. Beyond this gradual leaning toward more natural, healthful foods, yoga teachings themselves include a detailed philosophy of diet that categorizes foods in three classifications called gunas. They are: tamasic, or inert; rajasic, stimulating; and sattvic, balancing.
Tamasic foods include anything stale or tasteless, leftovers of more than a day, alcoholic drinks, chemical-laden processed foods, aged cheese, and anything deep fried. Eating these is believed to cause fatigue, laziness, and depression and makes it easier to give in to the desires of the lower nature.
Rajasic foods are the stimulants, such as meats and eggs, salty or highly spiced dishes, refined sugar desserts and soft drinks, and beverages containing caffeine. These can provide a temporary enery boost, but it’s an artificial energy that can lead to a letdown later.
Sattvic foods comprise the bulk of the yogic diet. In this category are whole grains, fresh fruits, raw or lightly cooked vegetables, nuts, beans, high-quality dairy products, and raw honey. Yoga teaches that a diet based on these foods leads to high-level health, a sharp mind and a contented spirit. The traditional yogic diet is vegetarian. This is both because most sattvic foods come from the plant kingdom and because the yogic tenet of ahimsa, nonharming, precludes all killing, even that of animals for food. If a vegetarian diet is attractive to you, it can be both health promoting and delicious. It is also believed to aid one’s progress in yoga, but it is certainly not a requirement. Even some of the highest profile yoga teachers in the West today are not vegetarian. I am still a meat eater and did not deprive myself from eating lean meat like fish and chicken 🙂 As in all other aspects of this practice and philosophy, you’re free to take what fits for now and discard what doesn’t.
In yoga, study and exploration are always encouraged. If you’re interested in learning more about a vegetarian diet, contact The Vegetarian Resource Group (www.vrg.org), Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (www.prcm.org), or the North American Vegetarian Society (www.navs-online.org)
The overweening yogic attitude towards eating is moderation. “Even nectar,” the yogis say, “becomes poison when eaten too much.” This outlook reflects yoga’s overall view of life and health. Eat enough but not too much. Sleep well but don’t sleep late. Walk and dance and labor, but do not exhaust yourself. Enjoy every moment of life on earth, but know all the while that you live in eternity.
Foods that promote life, mental strength, vitality, cheerfulness, and a loving nature…..are agreeable to the sattva-natured person – The Bhagavad Gita
Let these suggestions spur your writing, Don’t feel the need to respond to all of them; just reply to the ones that speak to your heart.
1) Are you attracted to the idea of nourishing yourself in a more yogic fashion? What steps could you take to do this?
2) Has your diet changed since you started doing yoga? Do you feel different about certain foods?
3) A vegetarian diet is one of the more controversial of yoga’s suggestions. Let me know your feelings about this choice some people make to live without meat. Do you think it’s wise?
4) Is eating moderately difficult for you? Do you overeat or undereat? Do you go on weight-loss diets? How do you think yoga can help you? What else might you look into to help you develop a healthier and peaceful realtionship with food?