Most yogis at some stage of their journey will wonder whether they should adopt a vegan/vegetarian diet. It goes without saying that a well balanced nutritious diet has a huge impact on your physical and mental well being. However due to health reasons, busy lifestyles, and certain other factors (for one the high cost of organic/healthy food) it is not always possible to maintain a strict yogic diet. It is however very important to listen to the needs of your body adjusting food choices accordingly rather than following a restrictive plan that could eventually make you unwell.
Mindfulness is not only an essential tool in your yoga practice it is also very important at mealtimes. Your food choices should be tailor-made to support you, important basic factors to take into consideration are lifestyle, health, and age. Your diet should come from a conscious, self-reflective look at how your eating habits affect your body, mind, and soul. By eating consciously, you quickly become aware of how your choices affect you. Sometimes you can feel these effects straight after a meal and sometimes the next day. Think indigestion, bloating, fatigue, constipation and so on.
The yogic diet is based on the yoga principles of purity (sattva), nonviolence (ahimsa), and balanced living. It consists of foods with sattvic qualities, which increase energy and create balance in the mind and body. Rajasic and Tamasic foods are limited or eliminated whenever possible, as their low vibration or life force and inherent toxins reduce the vitality of the person eating them. Yogis advocate a vegetarian/vegan diet, as one of the basic principles of yoga is not to harm any living creature. This is a pure diet that, with careful planning, leads to optimum health and a peaceful mind in control of a fit body.
Sattvic foods are pure and life-giving, and they promote health, vitality, strength and relaxation. These include fresh fruit and juices, vegetables and herbs, honey, whole grains, nuts, and seeds and should be organically grown, locally sourced, (where possible) unprocessed and additive and preservative-free. These foods are easy to digest. Eating slowly, chewing well and savouring each bite is also considered sattvic.
Rajasic foods are overstimulating and promote excess energy. They cause sleeplessness, anger, hyperactivity and restlessness of the mind. These include meat, fish, coffee, black tea sweets, chocolate, food additives/colourings, some spices and eggs and are spicy, sour, bitter, dry and salty. Eating in a hurry is also considered rajasic.
A Tamasic Diet benefits neither the mind nor the body. This group includes foods that are stale, over-cultivated, packaged, preserved, and deep-fried. Tamasic foods can be difficult to digest, make you feel bloated and encourage lethargy. The body’s immune system is compromised. Overeating is also considered tamasic.
5 painless diet tweaks:
- Choose whole grains – eg brown rice, quinoa, oats, spelt, rye or millet.
- Eat the whole fruit instead of having juice from a carton.
- Ditch the fizzy drinks.
- Switch to coconut oil.
- Try to eat something raw every day – fruit, salad, nuts or seeds.
Ultimately food should be used as an enjoyable fuel for our bodies – so keep it fresh and keep it funky.
- Shake up those old habits – small steps lead to big changes.
- Avoid going on diets – make healthy delicious food a part of daily life.
- A little of what you fancy does you good – enjoy the naughty stuff but in moderation!
Be mindful and remember that ahimsa also means taking care of oneself.