Admittedly, extending your yoga practice to the dinner table is not an easy task, mostly because the classic yogic texts such as Patanjali's Yoga Sutra and the Bhagavad Gita don't list any specific foods for following a "yogic diet." And even if they did, it's highly unlikely that the foods prescribed in India thousands of years ago would be appropriate today for each and every one of us.
But while there is no prescribed menu for yogis, there is a yogic diet, says Amira Kaur, the founder of the international yoga Institute KYSA. "These are ingredients that enhance clarity and lightness, keeping the body light and nourished and the mind clear," he explains. In other words, a diet that offers your body a great basis for practice or encourages the same effects as practice makes for a great yogic diet.
The advice of the KYSA to do yoga teaching with the learning of Ayurveda Education "Amira Kaur says": This is so important for a complete concept to giving the right lesson and giving advice to your pupils.
In the Ayurvedic tradition, foods that are considered sattvic include most vegetables, ghee (clarified butter), fruits, legumes, and whole grains. In contrast, tamasic foods (such as onions, meat, and garlic) and rajasic foods (such as coffee, hot peppers, and salt) can increase dullness or hyperactivity, respectively. But maintaining a diet that keeps your body light and your mind clear doesn't necessarily mean eating only sattvic foods. What is best for you and what in the end will best support your yoga practice is informed by your constitution (known in the Ayurvedic tradition as vikriti) and your current state (Prakriti), Kraftsow says. "Both need to be considered," she adds.
In this way of thinking about nourishment, what you need as an individual may be very different from what someone else needs. And what you need at this moment in your life may be very different from what you needed five years ago or will need five years from now. Perhaps the ancient sages were relying on wisdom when they chose not to lay down a yogic diet for all to follow. Just as you learn to listen to your body on the mat, so you must listen to your body at the table.
Beyond the basic needs of the body, many KYSA yoga practitioners suggest that a yogic diet should take into account the values and philosophical teachings of yoga. Many people name ahimsa, the yogic precept of non-harming, as an influence on their dietary choices-although how they put that principle into action varies. Just as different styles of yoga teach different versions of the same poses, and different teachers offer different, even contradictory, interpretations of the Yoga Sutra, so do yogis consider a wide range of possibilities in exploring a yogic diet. But while personal interpretations may vary, there is a consensus that exploring a yogic diet is important. "For yogis, food choices reflect personal ethics," says KYSA. "They are inextricable from our spiritual development."
Healing Wisdom: Ayurveda for Life and Love
Sure, we do a lot of exercise and meditation while practicing yoga. But do we realize that all those routines are just practiced for living a mentally centered, balanced life during the rest of the day? Enlightenment, as union with God, is the primary goal of a human lifetime, and we also wisely recognize that, at least in the early stages of seeking, the physical body must be in reasonable repair so it doesn't become a distraction on our journey. Yoga teachings embody the union of the physical and the spiritual, describing the body as a boat to carry us across the ocean of illusion, and before setting sail on that voyage, we need to attend to repairing the leaks in the boat. Or, to put it another way, the body is the temple of the soul, and the soul is the temple of God.
Ayurveda is closely associated with Samkhya philosophy, one of the classical schools of philosophy in Indian thought. Samkhya teaches that within the creative force that gives us life (prakruti) are three qualities (gunas). Sattva (essence) is creative potential. The term means pure, true, and balanced, and it represents contentment, joy, peace, and harmony. Rajas are an active vital force and Tamas is inertia. Each guna is necessary and part of living in a body on Earth. The goal of yoga and Ayurveda is to live a life of grace and love, to move toward being in a sattvic state of mind, and to lead a sattvic life as much as possible.
Our ultimate task as humans is to quiet the mind and to attain the goal of pure undifferentiated consciousness (nirvana). The human body exists as a physical entity because of the mixing of the five elements with the soul, the mind, the cycle of rebirth, and the senses. Managing the energies of the body is part of the yoga system of enlightenment.
Sattvic food is pure, clean, and wholesome and this diet gives life, strength, energy, and courage. It provides the subtle nourishment we need for vitality and consciousness. Food is seen as a carrier of prana, and sattvic foods bring us good quality energy and leave us feeling calm, alert, and refreshed. Yogic scriptures describe sattvic foods as savory, smooth, firm, and pleasant to digestion.
When we meditate we feel the inner effects of the food we ate. As meditators, we're all familiar with the two main problems of 'nodding out' and the wandering mind. Falling asleep? Scratch the tamasic foods. Over-active mind? Nix the rajasic chow. To quiet the mind, maintain alertness, and explore your Healing from food and herbs; to the science of Ayurveda; to the healing properties of gems; to the subtle healing power of Sat Nam Rasayan; all these traditions date back to ancient practices. Before modern medicine, people consciously took care of their physical bodies. They worked with their own healing power, and with the gifts of nature, to maintain their health. The systems they created have much to teach us, even todaysubtle nature, slip into the sattvic diet.
Food is best prepared with love and awareness. Then, pure, sattvic food should be enjoyed for its inherent taste and quality, rather than the spices and seasonings that are added. Sattvic foods are light, easy to digest, mildly cooling, refreshing, and not disturbing to the mind. To live and love to the fullest, focus on fresh fruit, fresh, light milk products, high-quality vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes, and healthy oils.
Rice is a very basic, yet very effective sattvic food. Easily digestible, it increases Ojas, moisturizing the tissues. Basmati (literally "queen of fragrance") is the premier variety. An aromatic, nutty flavored rice, basmati has a scent that has been compared with jasmine mixed with walnut. This rice is used in Ayurveda as a cleanser and healer for all types of people.
Ayurvedic physicians promote sattvic honey to rejuvenate your body. Honey is innately rejuvenating, with its sweet taste, and is considered predigested, allowing it to nourish all parts of the body with ease. For these reasons, honey is considered to be the best enhancer or "vehicle" for all Ayurvedic rejuvenating medicines. Mixing raw, unfiltered honey into herbal tea allows the honey to act as a vehicle for the active principles of the herbs.
Other foods that renew prana in the body are asparagus, broccoli, milk, dates, and mango. (The latter two are often blended in milk and rice or made into milk pudding.) Spice things up with sattvic ajwain seed, cumin, turmeric, and black cumin (kala jeera).