The Yogic Diet
Yoga is a very holistic approach to health and many guidelines about personal hygene and diet can be found in the ancient yogic texts. I feel strongly that regular practice of yoga, coupled with a wholesome diet is the way to optimal health. There are obviously many different ideas about what the best diet is and it can be confusing. It does take constant interest and research to really make some clear decisions about what to eat and what not to eat. And of course, new research is being done on nutrition constantly. Here’s some yogic philosophy on good diet, coupled with some of my own extensive research.
In yogic philosophy the manifest world is made up of three types of energies, called gunas. These different types of energy are called Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. Everything that is, is energetically predominantly one of these forms of energy, although it may also contain elements of the other two.
Sattva is the purist form of energy, its characteristics, are light, positive and peaceful.
Rajas is the energy of change, action, passion and restlessness.
Tamas is the sluggish energy of ego, laziness, inertia. Think couch potato and junk food.
Food falls into all three of these categories. If the food contains sattvic energy-then the body becomes more sattvic by eating it. It is very obvious that what we eat not only affects how we look physically, but also how we feel energetically and how clear and creative our mental energy is also. Some foods support and enliven our yoga practice and life-force energy, whilst other foods inhibit and undermine them.
Foods that are considered Sattvic are all fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and whole-grains. All dairy products are also considered sattvic.
Rajasic food is hot, spicy, bitter, salty or stimulating. Eggs, fish, and beverages containing caffeine are all rajasic.
Tamasic food is all processed food, meat, alcohol, any fermented foods and surprisingly garlic and onions.
A predominantly Sattvic diet is obviously the best diet, that supports good health, well-being and a regular yoga practice.
Our understanding of nutrition is growing daily. It is only really recently that we have a fuller understanding of what effects certain types of food have on the body. And there is still a lot of controversy around certain foods. The research is ongoing and it is challenging to keep up with the latest research.
What is widely agreed upon is that fresh organic vegetables are the best thing you can eat. Organic fruit is also good but should be eaten in moderation, due to its high sugar content. Of all the fruits, berries are the lowest on the glycemic scale, and therefore the most healthy.
Raw food is much better than cooked food, due to the fact that cooking destroys the much needed enzymes in fresh foods. A diet that is at least 70% raw is optimal. Of course 100% raw is even better, but for most that is a very challenging diet. There are many great raw foods cookbooks on the market these days. There are also a number of celebrated raw foods restaurants sprouting up (forgive the pun) in many large cities.
Investing in a juicer, is very helpful. Drinking one-three glasses of pure organic vegetable juice, especially green juice(made with all green vegetables and herbs) is incredibly beneficial to your health and is known to help prevent cancer and other serious diseases.
Sprouted food rules the roost, as it is bursting with life-force energy. Most grains and pulses can be sprouted. Soaking raw nuts in water for a period of 20 mins-2 hours also greatly enhances their nutritious and digestive qualities.
Meat and meat products are definitely no longer considered to be healthy, by most. For yogis, abiding by the Yamas and Niyamas, meat is prohibited by the first Yama, Ahimsa or non-violence. Eating meat is contributing to violence perpetuated upon the animal you are eating. There is something inherently unsavoury and unaesthetic about eating meat, particularly as we no longer need to eat meat for survival. There is absolutely nothing lacking in a vegetarian diet-in fact it is far superior to a meat-based diet. These days most animals being bred for slaughter are pumped full of hormones and antibiotics, which are ingested with the meat. At the time of slaughter the animal releases a lot of adrenalin into its blood stream, and that is also imbibed. If you grow up eating meat, you are conditioned to enjoy the smell and the flavor and can often feel that you like it too much and will be really missing out on something if you give it up Almost in the same way that a wild animal experiences blood-lust. The second, and very compelling reason, for not eating meat is that it is not an efficient way to feed the growing population of the planet. It is far more efficient to use land that is being used to raise livestock, to grow cereals, vegetables and legumes. Up to fifteen times more protein can be produced in an acre of land devoted to growing these products than an acre of land used for raising livestock.
Another winning argument is that a lot more people would probably be vegetarian, if they had to go work in a slaughter house for a period of time. A good rule would be, if you are not willing to kill the animal yourself, then you shouldn’t be able to eat it with a clear conscience.
Becoming vegetarian does take a certain amount of renunciation in the beginning. A good way to wean yourself off meat, is to start eating all the fake meat products on the market. These can fulfill that carnivorous desire and help you to make a bridge between meat-eating and vegetarianism. Ultimately, you would want to limit your intake of fake meats also, as they are often over-processed foods, lacking in vitality. Eventually your taste-buds will change, you will feel more vibrant and you will begin to find the smell and thought of meat distasteful.
Obviously, as I said earlier, there are many different philosophies about what is the most healthy diet. Some people think grains are good, and some people think they are not. There is a fair amount of controversy over how much protein we need every day. In general, I think we have an unreasonable fear of not getting enough protein. Gorillas, who we are genetically very close to, live happily on leaves and vegetation. Bulls, who are incredibly strong muscular creatures, live on grass.
Lately there has been a lot of controversy about soy and it has become a very questionable product, in any form. Organic whole milk, may in fact be healthier than soya milk, although of course it is still an animal product. Making your own nut milk, which is not too difficult, is the best substitute for milk.
Nowadays, dairy is not considered to be very healthy, for various reasons. It is high in fat, not easily digested by humans, creates mucous and cholesterol. Again, there are varying views on this but most alternative health practitioners would agree, these days, that dairy is not a good thing.
Also, in modern times, garlic and onions are considered very beneficial for good health, acting as natural antibiotics.
To conclude, a diet high in fresh raw organic vegetables, vegetable juices, sprouts and soaked nuts is considered to be the healthiest diet possible by most alternative nutritionists these days.
Drinking as much pure water as possible, is possibly the single most important factor in maintaining good health. Most of us tend to be de-hydrated to varying degrees. Genuine spring water is good. Distilled water is widely considered to be the best and purest form of water you can drink. Drink at least 3 liters of water a day, and more if possible.
Fasting has been practiced for centuries by yogis and is extremely helpful for maintaining good health. It is beneficial to fast at least once a year for a period of one week to ten days. More if you can. There are many different types of fast-from just plain water, to juice fasts, brown rice fasts etc. It is good to find one that appeals to you. It is also helpful to get the advice of someone you know who has fasted. If you can fast with a friend or family member it helps a lot to have the moral support. There are also fasting retreats you can attend, where you are in a supportive environment and can follow a safe program.
Water fasts are quite extreme, and it may be difficult to continue with your usual daily activities, whilst doing a water fast. Juice fasts are easier. Fasting causes the body to go into detox mode. The more toxic your system, the stronger the side-effects of fasting will be. Especially if you drink caffeine, you will get headaches and fatigue as you detox. The purer your diet already, the less unpleasant the side-effects will be. It is helpful to do enemas or colonics during a fast, to prevent toxic build-up in the colon.
Usually the first few days are the hardest, and after that the detox effects usually wear off and you cease to be hungry. If possible stay away from the kitchen and other people who are eating. It is helpful to have massages and other body treatments during this time. It is also good to practice yoga every day during the fast.
During a period of fasting your skin becomes radiant and transparent, your eyes become clear and you usually find that you are more flexible in your yoga practice.
Your digestive system benefits greatly from the rest, and healing happens on a deep level. Fasting is often used to treat serious diseases with good results. Regular fasting along with a healthy diet and a regular yoga practice will go a long way to preventing the development of life threatening diseases and increasing longevity.
Return to archive>