The Yogic Diet
A Yogic diet is a diet conducive to the practice of Yoga in all of its aspects. That is, it’s a diet that not only refrains from disturbing your practice, but actually assists in creating the calm state of mind necessary to practice successfully. In Yoga, this state is called sattva. Sattva is the Sanskrit word for the quality of purity. From a sattvic or “pure” diet follow a pure body and a pure mind. A sattvic diet is defined as simple, fresh lacto-vegetarian food.
This brings us to the other two qualities we experience: rajas and tamas. Rajas is the quality of action, or stimulation of the mind. It can be described as passionate and egotistic. When the mind has the quality of rajas, it never calms and never stops moving. This quality makes it very difficult to meditate, or to concentrate on asana practice! Similarly, foods that are rajasic will stimulate and unbalance the mind. The main ones are garlic, onion and eggs. Other foods with this quality are vinegar, fermented and overly spicy foods, and caffeine.
Tamas is the quality of inertia, or dullness. It promotes laziness, negativity and depression. When these qualities are in the mind it is very difficult to do anything at all, let alone any sort of spiritual practice. Meat, processed, overcooked, leftover and spoiled foods as well as alcohol and drugs are tamasic.
All foods can be categorized into a Yogic Food Pyramid consisting of these three qualities. Imagine a pyramid. At the bottom are rajas and tamas, with rajas at the bottom left corner and tamas at the bottom right corner. The very top of the triangle is sattva. Most foods we normally eat are somewhere in the middle of the pyramid. The rajasic and tamasic foods mentioned above like meat, garlic and onions are the very bottom. Fresh foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fresh, unprocessed milk are closer to the top. In the Yogic Diet, we strive to move our eating habits towards the top of the pyramid.
Prana is vital life force or energy. It is what allows plants to grow and our bodies to move and function. Food is one of our largest sources of prana, so it’s important that the food we put into our bodies is full of that vital energy! Freshly cooked, organically grown food has an ample supply of prana for our bodies. Avoid overcooked, frozen, or processed foods as well as leftovers as they have been depleted of prana.
Why follow a lacto-vegetarian diet?
There are many reasons the practice of Yoga calls for a vegetarian diet. Here are a few key points:
- Meat is difficult for our bodies to digest. It also putrifies more quickly than plant-based foods, which produces harmful chemicals. Meat creates excess acidity in the body, and increases the potential for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, as well as many other ailments.
- A lacto-vegetarian diet is calming to the mind. Meat, eggs, garlic and onions have stimulating and dulling qualities, and taking food with these qualities into our bodies will surely stimulate and dull our minds as well.
- Ahimsa, or non-violence. The first point in the ethical code of Yoga is not to cause harm to any living being.
- Meat is not a primary source of prana. While plants receive prana directly from the sun, animals receive prana from eating plants, and are therefore a secondhand source.
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