The Yoga of Food

The regular practice of yoga brings many, many positive benefits – more than just a strong, toned & flexible body. 

When I first started going to yoga classes I only noticed the physical benefits –  I could lean over the sink & clean my teeth for 2 minutes without my back seizing up or sleep so well after a yoga class.  But little by little, I noticed more subtle changes that had a positive effect on my daily life.  I was less stressed & this in turn gave me a greater sense of calmness and mental clarity – which was really useful in the busy marketing role I had at the time.

I guess you could sum it up as yoga made me feel more ‘balanced’.

One of the unexpected benefits of going to yoga was that I became more ‘in tune’ with how different foods made me feel –  whether that was feelings of sluggishness, foggy headed, more hungry or simply more energised.    

The yoga classes & short periods of just quietly sitting – which now I realised was meditation – seemed to have ‘opened my ears and mind’ so that I was more able to ‘hear’ the messages my body was sending.  And it told me quite clearly what food made me feel light & energised and what zapped my energy.  Maybe you’ve noticed this yourself?

It’s well known that certain foods promote a greater sense of well-being whilst others just  do nothing for us.

Gunas

As part of my yoga teacher training I was introduced to something called ‘Gunas’ which can be translated as quality or merit.  And, according to ancient yogic texts, there are 3 qualities (gunas) that exist – in varying degrees – in all things … including the food & drink we consume.

Rajas, Sattva and Tamas

Humans have a proportion of each Guna:

  • Rajasic tendency displays itself in humans as restlessness, stress and anger
  • Those with a predominant Tamasic quality are more likely to be lethargic, dull and lazy
  • Whereas those with more Sattvic tendencies appear more balanced & harmonious and display a sense of  lightness & well-being

 The foods & drinks we consume also contain gunas – qualities – that affect how we feel and the level of well-being we experience.

A diet rich in Rajasic food would include highly spiced & pickled foods, fried foods, coffee, tea, fizzy drinks and all sugary foods.  These foods give us a lift in energy but ultimately they create heat and stress in the body.   Someone who has predominantly more rajasic qualities will often eat on the run, rush food and experience poor digestion and health as a result.

A Sattvic diet includes fresh fruit and vegetables (not packaged or tinned), freshly squeezed juices, all pulses, healthy grains, sprouted pulses, nuts, seeds, eggs, honey, all plant based dairy alternatives (ie. almond, oat, soya & coconut milks & yogurts), fresh herbs & fresh  fish.   Generally,foods that are fresh, clean & light on the digestive system & easy to digest.  These foods are highly nourishing and healing to the body and are said to raise our consciousness, inspire us to positive action, deeper meditation and unleash our hidden potential and creativity.    Someone who consumes a predominant sattvic diet will appear more calm, balanced and easy to be around.

 

A Tamasic diet would be foods that are heavy on the digestive system and take longer to digest such as red meat, poultry, dried food such as pasta, stale food, alcohol, processed food, chemicals & preservatives, take away fast foods, reheated food, cigarettes and drugs.   These foods do nothing to lift our energy, in fact they pull us downward into laziness and inertia.  Living on a diet rich in tamasic food will lead to complaints such as obesity, diabetes, heart and liver disease and leave us feeling unmotivated, careless, unaware of ourselves and others.

So the key here is to be more mindful of the foods you eat regularly and notice how they affect how you feel, think and act.  Ideally, a diet rich in more sattvic foods is deemed to be the best to encourage balance & harmony in the body and mind.

Further Reading: 

The 3 gunas of nature

The 3 gunas to balance conciousness

 

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