What is the ideal food, according to yoga philosophy? Read on to know
Yoga emphasises eating the right food in the right quantity and at the right time for maintaining inner harmony and promoting spiritual growth. The physical, mental and spiritual development of a person largely depends on the kind of food he/she eats. Yogis believe that a person eats those foods that reflect his/her personality. Making minor changes in the diet can lead to major changes in health; it can prevent or reverse health problems. Yogic diet gives "peace of mind." It is essentially a vegetarian diet that fulfils all the nutritional needs for mind-body balance. This diet does not build toxins and helps practitioners of yoga do advanced asanas with precision and ease and meditate without disturbance. Yogis have classified food based on the three gunas or attributes that reflect the state of mind. Sattva (purity, calmness), Rajas (activity, instability) and Tamas (inertia, dullness). They have said that the quality and the preparation of food make it Sattvic, Rajasic or Tamasic.
Sattvic diet is essentially foods that are pure, fresh, organic and wholesome, that are easily digested, giving maximum energy to the body and mind. There are no toxins in this diet. It is ideal for seekers of wisdom. Sattvic foods are cereals, legumes, pulses, fresh fruits and vegetables, green leafy vegetables, dry fruits, milk, butter, ghee, cheese, curd, nuts, natural sugars such as jaggery, honey, green leaf tea and herbal teas, besides plant based oils such as sesame, olive, sunflower and coconut oil.
Rajasic diet is over stimulating and destroys the mind-body balance leading to circulatory and nervous disorders. They arouse negative emotions and cause restlessness to the mind. Sattvic foods become Rajasic when eaten in a hurry or with a wrong attitude. Rajasic foods are stimulants such as coffee, tea, soft drinks, tobacco; pungent foods such as onion and garlic, though good for the body, disturb the mind. Excessively hot, spicy, sour, salty foods, deep-fried foods, refined sugar and flour and foods with preservatives are also Rajasic.
Tamasic diet causes heaviness, dullness and lethargy leading to lack of motivation and depression. They benefit neither the mind nor the body. There is no `prana' or energy in such food and the body's resistance to disease is lowered leading to ailments. Sattvic food reheated several times becomes Tamasic. Over-eating Sattvic foods becomes Tamasic. Tamasic foods are old, stale, unclean, burnt and overcooked foods. Meat, fish, chicken, eggs, mushrooms, (as they grow in darkness), vinegar (as it is fermented), alcohol, overripe or unripe fruits and foods frozen for more than two days are Tamasic. Though some of these foods provide nutrition, they disrupt digestion and disturb the mind.
According to yoga, anything in excess is bad. Occasional and moderate eating of Rajasic and Tamasic foods prepared at home will not harm, provided asanas and pranayama are practised regularly. Cooked and uncooked food can be stored for a day in airtight containers in the refrigerator. The attitude of the person preparing the food is very important, as positive thoughts have positive vibrations on the food and negative thoughts have negative vibrations. It is true that old habits die hard but yogic science teaches us the techniques to change old habits. For many it will be difficult to give up alcohol, tobacco, junk foods, fried foods and non-vegetarian foods. With determination and control and guidance from an expert, these old habits can be changed. According to yoga philosophy, we should eat only half stomach and never overeat as this can lead to disease. We actually eat to keep our body and mind nourished and to repair the damage. To follow the rules, we should eat when the mind is calm, eat two proper Sattvic meals at fixed times, snack on fruits, drink 8 to 10 glasses of water and fast once a month. For a healthier life, "eat right", "eat less", and with the "right attitude."GEETA IYER