And the Food Will Set You Free
December 5, 2013
A proper diet free from fanaticism is an important part of any yogic practice. So often we see advertisements promising quick and easy results that tempt even those who value mental stability over a six-pack. There are so many ways to eat: vegetarian, vegan, raw, paleo, and fruitarian, just to name a few, that it’s overwhelming. We don’t even know what to feel guilty about eating anymore!
As yogis, however, our dietary practices can be quite simple. Eating only vegetarian food is beneficial to meditation, as well as overall health, but is not a requirement. Some yogis will eat only simple foods, or foods that follow the principles of Ayurveda (Indian medicine). Often the way that yogic practitioners choose their diet is by the food’s dominant spiritual quality or “guna”.
The Bhagavad Gita, a popular Hindu scripture, mentions three gunas: tamas, rajas, and sattwa. All food, in fact everything, is a mixture of these. Tamas is deadening and destructive; it gives you feelings of pride and jealousy. Rajas is stimulating and makes you more emotional and active. Sattwa is calming and spiritually uplifting.
Examples of tamasic foods are red meat, liquor, and anything highly processed. Rajasic foods include onions, garlic, eggs, potatoes, spices, fish, and fowl. Because rajasic foods make us active and strong-minded, some people find them desirable. Yogic teachings, though, emphasize a harmonious diet that will relax our nervous system rather than stimulate it.
Sattwic foods are fresh, minimally processed, and full of life. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fresh dairy, and nuts are sattwic. They put us in a spiritual and uplifted mindset that allows our bodies to be filled with calm strength and energy. Here are some delicious sattwic dishes you can try:
You don’t need to follow fad diets; if your main goal is to be a great yogi someday (or tomorrow) all you have to do is focus on foods that make you feel good. Not in a “oh wow that fudge cake was so good” kind of way, but in a “wow these fresh, juicy tomatoes are really heavenly” kind of way. Go with what makes you feel more free and alive, even if you have to develop new tastes and recipes. It will be worth it when you’re finally able to sit still and just be.
For one day (or longer), try to eat only sattwic foods. See how you feel in comparison with days when you eat more rajasic and tamasic foods. Find out which foods make you feel better and try to center your diet around them.