The yogic diet
Yoga is a holistic science, so it follows that a yogic diet that is suitable for someone who practises yoga should be in harmony with body, mind and spirit.
To sum it up, any food or drink consumed should:
- Be the kind that gives health to the body.
- Be the kind that does not interfere with mental processes.
- Be ethical and not cause suffering to any living being.
Food for the body
Asanas detoxify and rejuvenate the body. Our food and lifestyle should work with, not against, this process. Yoga practitioners are often vegetarian partly because meat has more toxins in it than vegetables, fruits, grains, beans, pulses and seeds. Organic vegetables are preferable in order to avoid the consumption of pesticides, which can build up toxins in the body. The fresher the food, the more prana, or life force, it has in it to give us vitality.
Food for the mind
Meditation stills and clears the mind and increases consciousness and we aim to support this process by the food and drink we consume. Any food or drink will have a positive or negative effect on the mind. Some can visibly interfere with mental processes, such as alcohol. Other commonly consumed ingredients that affect the mind include sugar, caffeine, onion and garlic.
Food for the soul
A yoga practitioner views the body as the vehicle of the soul. As such, the body is looked after carefully, in the same way that one would look after any property in order to improve its efficiency and prolong its lifetime. As such, a yogi eats for sustenance and health rather than for taste and pleasure, where there is the danger of consuming unhealthy or unethical foods and overeating.
Ahimsa – non-violence
Ahimsa, or non-violence, is a central tenet of yoga practice. It means having the minimum impact on the environment by your existence and respecting all the living beings we share it with, whether human, animal or plant.
When we see life as one on a spiritual level, we develop compassion for all living beings and wish to avoid their suffering. We certainly do not wish to cause it and opt to satisfy all our nutritional needs with a vegetarian diet, since vegetables have a less developed nervous system.
A vegetarian diet also takes up less room on the planet – the equivalent area of a vegetable crop can feed many more people and requires less water than if, for example, cattle are raised for food.
But it is not as simple as adopting a vegetarian diet. Although vegetables are normally considered as an essential part of the yogic diet, some commercial vegetable production could be the result of unfair employment practices or cause harm to the planet. Local, fresh and organic food is therefore preferred also for this reason.
Feel the difference
As we practice yoga, our awareness of the subtle effects different foods have on us increases and we naturally feel inclined to turn towards those that are conducive to a healthy body, clear mind and enlightened spirit.