Food is everything! Each organism needs food to survive and thrive…Wait a minute…
Ideal Yogi Diet? Is there any… After all, yogis are also humans… and can eat what other humans…right…?
If you are into yogic path, your body behaves differently than other humans. Being on a ‘yogic path’ doesn’t mean that you are doing half an hour of yoga sequence thrice a week! Or can walk a mile on your hands…Instead,
If your purpose is to build your body in a certain way or make your zumba class possible, which of course is with the help of yoga, your dietitian can suggest you a better diet. And you shouldn’t be looking for an ideal yogic diet either.
Because yoga improves strength, balance and flexibility, slow movements and deep breathing increase blood flow and warm up muscles, while holding a pose can build strength.
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Buttt…. You Are On A Yogic Path
If your ultimate purpose of doing yoga is spiritual development, to train the body and mind to self observe and become aware of one’s own nature. And…
To cultivate discernment, awareness, self-regulation and higher consciousness! Understand the meaning of your own existence and also to understand the nature of this cosmos… up to some extent…
There is a subtle and ideal ‘diet plan’ for Yogis described in Hatha Yoga Pradipika.
There are foods, ideal time and appropriate methods a yoga practitioner should follow and there are some prohibitions which you should follow too.
Gunas An Ideal Yogic Diet Should Possess
First -What is a Guna?
The Hindi and Sanskrit word Guna translates to ‘properties or qualities’ in English.
The three Gunas are kinds of different qualities of energy in prakriti–The physical matter.
Any living being has Gunas, and it is one of three “propensities” of the mind, body and soul or consciousness.
The three gunas are Sattva, Rajas and Tamas gunas. These categories define and reflect our health, behaviour, thinking and diet. In a person all three gunas exist for the proper balance in life. However a yogic way of life aims to increase the Sattva guna to nurture consciousness via a healthy body and mind.
- Sattvic means purity, health, harmony and well-being (spirituality and consciousness).
- Rajasic stands for stress, anger, activity and restlessness (act and work).
- Tamasic means dullness, laziness and lethargy (sleep and rest).
From the above views it is obvious that a person on the yogic path should relish upon a sattvic diet. Ayurveda, the sister science of yoga also emphasises On The Sattvic Diet.
Bhagavad Gita too advocates for sattvic foods since eating such foods purifies the mind and becomes part of our pure consciousness.
“āhāra śhuddhau sattva śhuddhiḥ” Meaning: People with a pure mind prefer pure sattvic food.
A Sattvik diet is live, clean, pure vegetarian (ahimsa- non violence) diet which includes seasonal fresh fruits, ample of fresh vegetables, whole grain, pulses, sprouts, dried nuts, seeds, honey, fresh herbs, milk and dairy products which are free from animal rennet.
These foods enhance the ‘sattva guna’ or our consciousness levels.
It is crucial for the Sattvic foods to be cooked and eaten with love, gratitude and awareness.
Eating of this food shapes up a sattvik body which is calm, peaceful, serene, amicable, full of energy, enthusiasm, health, hope, aspirations, creativity and balanced personality.
Moreover a sattvic diet helps to keep the weight in check and works great in your journey of weight loss.
However, a sattvic food turns tamasic when over processed, kept for a longer period or deep-fried.
Yours Relation With Food
I have seen people gasping for air after each meal, like they have committed some crime by consuming the most essential thing for their living. It’s very common to have guilt after eating a ‘comfort food’. For sure, occasional feasting isn’t bad at all. It is highly uplifting and satisfying.
Looking at your food with love, thinking of a meal as your friend not enemy, developing a sense of happiness instead of regret is the key point to create a great habit to harmonize with your food.
The food you eat plays a huge role in your journey to achieve consciousness.
Yoga is the best tool for this purpose, and when complemented with an ideal yogic diet, can do wonders in achieving your spiritual path. Eating the right food becomes an essential part of living a yogic life.
Be Aware Of The Prohibited Diets For Yogis
The foods which are prohibited for the yogis are those which are bitter, sour, pungent, salty, heating, green vegetables (other than those recommended), sour gruel, oil, sesame and mustard, alcohol, fish, flesh foods, curds, buttermilk, horse gram, fruit of jujube, oil cakes, asafoetida and garlic.
( Fact that the above prohibited products are good for a healthy body and mind in general but prohibited for the Yogis in their spiritual journey!)
The point here is that,
A yogi’s diet should be simple and bland
Anything that is highly concentrated or might cause acidity and overheats the entire system should be avoided.
That is why all greasy, spicy and stale foods and foods which create toxins and deteriorate in the intestines, such as meat, should definitely be avoided.
Even in ideal yogic diet, Asafoetida and garlic are considered aphrodisiacs as they supposedly stimulate the production of sex hormones.
They are not harmful if consumed in small quantities because of their medicinal properties but they do leave a pungent smell and leave some kind of body odour.
Herbs like garlic should not be taken at night because it arouses sexual fantasies. One who is trying to maintain awareness of the higher aspects of reality should definitely refrain from taking such substances until s/he is established in a set state of awareness.
Alcohol should surely be avoided for not only this intoxicates the mind, but also gradually destroys liver and brain cells, which do not reproduce themselves.
Brain cells once destroyed cannot be generated by either means.
Since the main aim of Hatha yoga is maintaining and sustaining the body it’s better to avoid all sorts of alcoholic substances.
Reheating Of Food
We all love cooking in batches then storing it for later consumption after reheating.
But reheating a cold food is considered unhealthy.
This process can reduce nutritional quality of foods.
Each time you cook, store and reheat to consume, there is enough space for the development of microorganisms.This food is the principal cause behind the most intestine related diseases apart from causing food poisoning.
Consuming such a kind of food leads to fermentation instead of digestion in the stomach leading to the wind and acidity.
Texture, Moisture, And Fat Contents Of Food
Food which is dry (devoid of natural oil), which is excessively salty or acidic, stale or has too many (mixed) vegetables are not considered appropriate for Yogis.
Dry food means that which has absolutely no natural oil or water left in it. Oil is necessary in minimum quantities.
Excess salt and acidity imbalance the system, in fact, salt directly affects the heart rate. If salt is taken in excess it makes the heart beat faster and heats the body.
Many different types of vegetables should not be cooked together as the resulting chemical reactions can upset the digestive system and disturb body functions.
The process of Digestion should always be homogeneous and smooth which does not overstrain or overheat the system.
The essential Prana should not be wasted on digestion.
Yogic Lifestyle Suggestions For Ideal Yogic Food
On the contrary to believe that Yogis always walk on fire or lead a tough life living in forests, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika suggests the most honourable ways of living a yogic life. It strongly advocates:
Exhausting Activities Should Be Avoided
Fire, women (read opposite sex) and long pilgrimages should be avoided. Bad company, ‘over indulgence’ with opposite sex, bathing in the early morning, frequent fasting and tasks which produce pain in the body should be avoided. That said…
“Anything which demands excess energy and depletes the system should be avoided”.
Standing or working near a fire exhausts the prana.
‘Bad company’ means those who live an anti-spiritual life or who think negatively.
People without any purpose in life, who are unaware of the importance of spiritual evolution do not enlighten one’s soul and should be avoided by a sadhaka.
Involvement with the opposite sex and sexual intercourse just for pleasure, deplete energy and tax the nervous system.
Sexual desire can never be fulfilled and when you feed that desire it is like throwing kerosene on a fire (says the book).
It is not the physical act which is ‘bad’ but may cause mental repercussions which can be harmful for the sadhaka.
Thus it is better not to indulge for some time if one wants to awaken prana through hatha yoga.
One is also advised not to undergo long journeys or pilgrimages. Of course, it should be remembered that when Hatha Yoga Pradipika was written, jets and fast cars were not in existence.
People travelled by foot, physically exhaustingthe bodily and pranic reserves. A pilgrimage implies a religious search to find God somewhere else. The hatha yogi can realize that highest state travelling anywhere.
‘Bathing early in the morning should be avoided,’ but the sentence is
incomplete without adding ‘with cold water when the weather is winterish.’
In ancient times in India (and other parts of the world too) most people bathed in water from the well or water reserve, which remained very cold in winter.
In the early morning bathing with cold water strains the nervous system and lowers the body temperature.
On the other hand, hot water baths weaken the body’s resistance to the outside temperature and can make one feel very lethargic and sluggish.
Fasting In Hatha Yoga
The hatha yogi should eat regular meals and not make a habit of frequent fasting.
While fasting is useful to stimulate the digestive system, to eliminate toxins and to help bring the senses and mind under control.
At the time of sickness it stimulates the body to produce the necessary antibodies to fight disease and rebalance the body structure.
In India many people follow the age-old tradition of fasting in conjunction with the phases of the moon.
However, there are specific days which are conducive for either a full or half day fast, e.g. the fourth, ninth, eleventh, fourteenth and fifteenth day of either the bright or dark fortnight.
Swami Sivananda says, “Occasional fasting once a month or when passion troubles you much, will suffice.”
Though fasting has a lot to offer and many people advocate it, one who is devoted to ‘hatha yoga sadhana, should not strain the body in such a way.
Any actions which are strenuous and create pain, discomfort or extreme conditions in the body should not be undertaken by the yogi.
Point here is that without being maniacal about food habits, one should take proper care of the body and avoid any unnecessary strain or injury, since the body is considered as…
The vehicle to higher consciousness!
Here again you need to be sensible about all these instructions and take into account your health situation and conditions.
So What Is The Most Conductive Ideal Yogic Diet For The Sadhaka
The most conducive foods for the yogis are:
Whole grains, wheat, rice, barley, milk, ghee, brown sugar, honey, dry ginger, patola fruit (species of cucumber), five vegetables, mung and such pulses, and pure water.
Whole grains and rice supply essential carbohydrates and vitamin B complex.
Fresh milk and ghee maintain the mucous lining of the digestive tract and alimentary canal which is washed away by shatkarma practices; which yogis perform regularly.
Milk and also neutralize any acidity or heat in the stomach which the yoga practices may create.
Sugar (unrefined) is necessary for brain functioning as well as other body functions. Honey is recommended as it is a predigested and whole food. Dried ginger is also agreeable.
According to the Gherand Samhita, the ‘five vegetables’ are said to be balasaka, kalasaka, patolapatraka, vastaka and himalochika. These are leafy vegetables which are similar to spinach.
Light, easily digestible pulses such as mung, red lentils, etc. are more recommended as they supply protein, but pulses and gram such as horse gram, which are hard to digest and create flatulence, are to be avoided.
Pure water which is free of chemicals, excess minerals and harmful bacteria is essential, particularly for the purification practices.
The yogi should take nourishing and sweet food mixed with, ghee and milk; it should nourish the dhatus ( basic body constituents) and be pleasing and suitable*.
The most important attribute of the diet is that it should nourish the dhatus.
There are seven dhatus or basic body structures: skin, flesh, blood, bone, marrow, fat and semen/ ova.
Anything which destroys their natural balance should not be taken.
Although milk and ghee are recommended, moderation is the key because excessive milk consumption creates mucus problems and excess ghee causes fat deposits contributing to obesity.
On the other hand, if you are lactose intolerant, do not take it. If rice creates swelling in the abdomen or fluid retention, leave it.
Pleasing And Suitable food Means…
The food which suits your body metabolism and which makes you feel healthy, mentally content, satisfied and stable.
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Wrapping Up- Health Conductive Ideal Yogic Diet
Diet suggestions vary from person to person, so you may have to experiment with different foods and quantities before you find the correct diet for yourself.
Of course, it has to be taken into consideration that the diet given here is more suitable for the climate and environmental conditions of India.
This diet plan is prepared keeping in mind exclusively ‘the Hatha Yogis’ who are devoted to many hours of constant sadhana, and not those who do a one hour yoga class once a week and have other household commitments.
Furthermore, most of the foods mentioned here are easily available all over the world, and even as a householder, such a diet will help purify the body and stabilize the mind and passions.
And don’t “forget to remember” these lines uttered by some wise person-
Eat your food like a medicine otherwise medicines will be your food
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