DAY 5. (read to the end for your challenge today)
The yoga diet.
Please note that this is just a brief introduction to the yoga diet. It is a very interesting topic and we invite you to read more about it. We will include a few links below for those interested.
In the modern Western world we are fortunate to have access to an abundance of food – far more than we actually need. Nevertheless, our diet is frequently impoverished. Many of the foods that we eat are high in saturated fat, sugar, salt and flavorings, and lacking in fibre, vitamins, minerals and trace elements.
The yogic approach to diet shares its origins with Ayurveda – the traditional Indian system of medicine. Both teach that the cosmos originates in the interactions of the three primal qualities known as gunas. These three qualities are rajas (energy), tamas (stasis) and sattva (harmony and balance). The gunas are present in everything: the air, the earth, animals, plants, food – even inanimate objects.
Each of the three gunas has its own character. Rajas is hot, fiery, energetic and forceful. Tamas is slow, cool, inert and sustained. Sattva is pure, wholesome and clear; it is lucidity, a balance of tamas and rajas. It is believed that although all three gunas are present in each of us, one always predominates and influences all of our actions, thoughts and desires. It is not until we reach enlightenment that we finally transcend the influence of the gunas and become free.
Sattvic food is best for someone who is looking for the purest diet. It is most suitable for serious yoga students. It nourishes the body and maintains it in a peaceful state. It also calms and purifies the mind, enabling it to function at its maximum potential. Sattvic food leads to true health; a peaceful mind in control of a fit body, with a balance of energy between them.
Here is a more comprehensive list of sattvic foods:
Unlike Western principles of diet, which advocate similar dietary habits for everyone, a yogic diet must be tailored to an individual character, physique and circumstance. The process of identifying your dominant guna is complex and requires time and guidance. But on a basic level you can try to adjust your dietary habits in relation to your personality and environment. If you are rajasic in character – fiery and energetic – you may need to eat sattvic and tamasic foods to achieve sattva (balance). If you are feeling hot, stressed or overworked, you should decrease the amount of rajasic foods in your diet. If you live in a cold climate and you have a sedentary job, you may need to eat more heating rajasic foods. Even if you find it difficult to identify your dominant guna, try experimenting with different foods to see what effect they have on the way you feel. Regular yoga practice often leads people into a greater sensitivity to the needs of their body and the effects various foods have upon them.
Yoga practitioners have followed the same dietary principles for thousands of years. They advocate a balance of pure and nutritious foods that should be eaten in moderation. According to “Hathayoga Pradipka” we should not eat so much that we are completely full, but instead should leave the stomach one quarter empty after a meal. We will discuss this a bit more in a future blog entry.
The yogic term for the physical body is anamaya kosha, which literally means “the food sheath”. According to some teachings, the coarsest part of the food that we eat is eliminated from the body by the digestive system, the less coarse part is turned into flesh and the subtle part becomes the mind. This is why it is so important to pay attention to what you eat – you ARE what you eat. Food is not only fuel to keep you going through the day, it becomes part of your very being.
The yoga diet does not simply prescribe a specific range of foods to be eaten or avoided. Instead it sets out a range of underlying general principles, such as the three gunas and vegetarianism, which can be adapted to our individual circumstances. If you were wondering, the rational behind a vegetarian diet is ashima – the yogic principle of non-harm and non-violence to all living things.
On that note, many people ask whether it is essential to be a vegetarian to practice yoga. The answer is no. Yoga does not demand overnight conversions or changes in lifestyle. Even if you are not a vegetarian, you will gain benefits from other aspects of your yoga practice.
Below is a great link discussing the yoga diet and exploring how it can be molded to each individual circumstance:
This link discusses more about the gunas:
This article discusses how this diet heals not only the body but also the mind:
Day 5 challenge:
Take a moment to be introspective. What do you think your dominant guna is? Let us know in the comment box below.
All participants’ names will be entered in our 30 days of yoga with hipS-sister draw Oct. 1st.
Tomorrow, we have a look at Water – the source of life.