The type of food that we seek reflects our level of spiritual development and consciousness. Yoga emphasizes a sattvic diet which encourages the development of sattva, the higher qualities of peace, love and awareness. Food is the first and foremost important form of medicine. Without right food no other healing modality can be effective. Sattvic or pure food promotes balance and eliminates harmful factors. The basis of sattva is the attitude of ahimsa (non harming) and emphasizes foods grown in harmony with nature, on good soils, ripened naturally, cooked in the right attitude of love and has consciousness and prana, Yogis are the strictest of about their diet than any others. They are not only vegetarian but refrain from commercially prepared foods, fried foods, fast foods, eggs, garlic and onions.The yogic diet includes detoxification methods like fasting, light diet and raw foods. Yogic strategy is to increase agni, digestive fire, through internal practices to reduce digestive problems and increase the ability to digest raw foods. Those who want to cleanse not only the physical body but the subtle body combine asana, pranayama, mantra and meditation with the yogic diet.
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Good Foods for Yoga Practice
- Fruit of all types, especially sweet fruit, taken fresh and whole
- All vegetables, except not too much onions, garlic or mushrooms
- Whole grains of all types, particularly rice, wheat and oats
- Beans in moderation, except aduki, mung and tofu
- Raw nuts and seeds
- Good quality plant based oils and fats like sesame, olive, organic butter, ghee,
avocado, olives and coconut butter
- Dairy from cows who have been treated well, particularly, ghee, yoghurt and
- Natural sugars like raw honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, stevia
- Sweet spices like ginger, cinnamon, cardamon, fennel, cumin, coriander
tumeric, mint, basil, fenugreek
- Herbal teas, natural water or distilled, and water with lemon or lime
- Food prepared with love and consciousness
Foods to Reduce or Avoid For Yoga Practice
- Garlic, onions and overly spicy food
- Fried foods of all types
- White sugar and flour
- Artificial sweeteners and condiments
- Alcohol,tobacco or other stimulants
- Tap water, or any artificial beverages
- Any irradiated food or microwave cooking
- Genetically engineered food
The Three Gunas
Energy has three qualties which exist together in equilibrium and are always in dynamic interaction and intertwined. In all people, one of the gunas has the dominant strength and is reflected in all they do and think. While it is difficult for tamas to become rajasic or rajas to become sattvic, once they do so they continue to stay in that same same quality. Only in enlightenment are the gunas completely transcended.
Sattva(Purity)is the quality of light, love and life, the higher or spiritual force that allows us to evolve in consciousness. It imparts dharmic virtues of faith, honesty, self-control, modesty and truthfulness.
Rajas is the the active, stimulating or positive force that initiates change, disturbing the old equilibrium Rajas is the quality of twilight, passion an agitation, the intermediate or vital force, which lacks stability or consistency. It gives rise to emotional fluctuations of attractions and repulsion, fear and desire, love and hate.
Tamas is the passive, obstructing or negative force which sustains previous activity.Tamas is the quality of darkness, non-feeling and death, the lower or material force, which drags us down into ignorance and attachment. It causes dullness, inertia, heaviness, emotional clinging and stagnation.
Sattvic Food This is the purest diet, the most suitable for any serious yoga student. It nourishes the body and maintains it in a peaceful state. It also calms and purifies the mind, enabling it to function at it's maximum potential. It leads to true health-a peaceful mind and a fit body, with a flow of energy between them. Sattvic foods include organic whole grains, fresh fruit, vegetables. dairy, a small amount of beans especially light varieties, raw nuts and seeds, sprouts, raw honey and herb teas.
Rajasic Food Foods that are very hot, bitter, sour, dry or salty are rajasic. They destroy the mind-body equilibrium, feeding the body at the expense of the mind. Too much rajasic food will over-stimulate the body and excite the passions, making the mind restless and uncontrollable. Rajasic foods include sharp spices, stimulants like coffee and tea, eggs, table salt and chocolate and eating fast is rajasic.
Tamasic Food A tamasic diet benefits neither the mind or the body. prana, or energy, is withdrawn, powers of reasoning become clouded and a sense of inertia sets in. The body's resisitance to disease is destroyed and the mind is filled with dark emotions, such as anger and greed. Tamasic food includes meat, alcohol, tobacco, onions, garlic, vinegar, stale, overripe or overcooked foods and overeating is tamasic.
Raw Food Diet and Yoga
- Yogic Diet is traditionally fruits and roots though it includes grains and dairy
- Yogis in retreat in nature live on wild foods as part of their spiritual regimen to and
as a means of connecting with the forces of nature
- Raw foods and fasting increase the development of air and ether elements, not
only for detoxification but for opening the mind whose nature is mainly air and
- Raw foods reduce the body which allows the mind to develop and expand and lowers body
consciousness and increases detachment
- Raw foods are rich in prana, which the yogi is seeking to develop the higher
energy of the mind and brings pranic force not only into the body but the mind as
- Raw food is part of the traditional diet for cleansing of the nadis or channels,
which occurs through increasing prana
- Great yogis were said to live on air or prana alone-others on only water, others
on a little fruit or milk or ghee only
- The correct practice of yoga increases the agni, digestive fire, particularly
pranayama, which increases the digestibility of raw foods--with a higher
internal heat we are not so dependent on heat in our food and do better with a
- Part-time yogis may not have the digestive power to handle raw foods, particularly
for a long time especially those with a vata dosha who tend to have weak
- Most people can benefit from periodic raw food diets for detoxification purposes, particularly in late springtime (April and May)
- We require at least 10-20% raw foods in our diets to afford the proper vitamins, minerals and enzymes that abound in these foods
- Good raw foods to take with meals regularly are cucumbers, celery, radishes,
carrots, celery, tomatoes, red peppers as well as various types of sprouts and lots of green leafy vegetables
- One should take raw foods only to the extent that one's digestive fire has the
capacity to digest it though as one advances in spiritual practices, one can handle more raw food and require less and less food
- Advanced yogis naturally gravitate toward raw foods as well as dairy and grains.
They prefer to live on pranic foods to anything processed or overcooked, and may
ultimately give up cooked food altogether
- Spiritual progess requires a growing sensitivity to food and requires food that
contains both prana and love as the main ingredients.
The yogic diet is not just a sattvic diet but a pranic diet, full of vital force needed to energize the mind and subtle body. It consists of mainly green leafy vegetables and sprouts. Raw foods diets with many chlorophil dominant foods and herbs promote prana, especially when combined with mild aromatic spices like ginger, coriander or mint.
Yoga, Meat and Ahmisa
Meat-eating is something that any serious student of yoga should reduce, if not avoid altogether. This is particularly true of red meat. Of course, the main reason is that meat-eating violates the yogic principle of ahimsa or non-violence, which is the first of the yamas or lifestyle disciplines of yoga practice. If our yoga practice is based on harming other creatures it cannot go far spiritually.
The human body, teeth and digestive system are that of a vegetarian animal. Vegetables foods provide the ideal nutrition to build up our human sensitivities through a refined physical and astral body. We cannot readily break down animal tissue, it's animal energies are preserved and become substituted for human tissues.
Meat increases the animal fire in the body, bringing the samkaras or tendencies of carnivorous animals to function within us. This promotes anger, lust and fear and other negative emotions. The flame created by a meat diet is impure and projects an emotional smoke that distorts the mind and the nervous system. A meat diet communicates the energy of destruction to the cells, which in turn promotes processes of disease and decay within them. It brings in a subtle energy of death into the auric field, reducing the flow of higher pranas into the body. The lives of creatures we have eaten weigh down the astral body with their negative feelings and impressions. Meat produces a heavy or tamasic type of tissue that clogs the channels and tend to make the mind dull. This doesn't mean that spiritual practices will have no effect for a meat-eater but if they are successful, which is less likely, there is a danger that the person will overheat or create a kind of smoke that distorts any higher experiences. Not only violence and crime but religious intolerance has historically been more common among meat-eaters. This is not just a moral issue but an energetic issue for body. mind and spirit on both individual and collective levels. If we add the damage that meat consumption is doing to the planet through the destruction of the rain forests pollution of land and water, and the increasingly difficulty of sustaining a meat diet for an ever-growing human population, then the magnitude of this problem cannot be glossed over. We cannot truly evolve as as species and go beyond war until we give up eating our animal brothers and sisters. Many people today are still not strict vegetarians but eat chicken and fish. While this animal flesh is less harmful than red meat, it is still the life of another living creature. Not only are these foods harmful for yoga practice, they are harmful for the planet and for other creatures. The amount of chickens raised today in factoru farms is in the many billions.
Lacto-ovo vegetarians eat eggs. Even a vegetarian is trying to avoid eggs, they are common in many products they may be consuming like breads, pastries, noodles, mayonaise and salad dressings. Many Hindu temples do not allow those who eat eggs into their inner sanctuaries. The complications of factory farming and genetic engineering to chickens and eggs are other reasons to avoid them.
Other sources for a vegetarian diet are Food Revolution, Diet for a New America and Healthy at 100 all by John Robbins, the founder of Earthsave International and earthsave.org and 101 Reasons I'm A Vegetarian by Pamela Rice, the President of Vivavegie Society of NYC and No More Bull -The Mad Cowboy Targets Our Worst Enemy-Our Diet by Howard Lyman
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