For the yoga practitioner who sees the discipline as more than just a physical exercise, the saying ‘you are what you eat’ can be worrisome. Many people who are new to yoga and the philosophy that underpins it simply do not know how to make food choices that better reflect yogic principles.
Thankfully, that was all worked out by yogis who lived in India thousands of years ago. In some cases, those wise people of old suggest actual foodstuffs or herbs. Most of the texts, however, deal with the principles of the sattvic diet, which is not synonymous with being vegan or vegetarian. This article covers the basics of those principles and it offers a few practical suggestions.
Choose a Sattvic Diet
The philosophy of yoga teaches that everything in nature contains an interplay of three qualities known as tamas, rajas, and sattva. The diet of the dedicated yogi is sattvic.
Tamas is associated with slowness and lethargy. Alcohol, meat, onions and garlic, and fermented foods all are examples of tamasic food. Rajas is understood to be fast and spicy. Understandably, the foods associated with that quality is hot, spicy, salty, dry, or bitter. Sattva is associated with harmony and purity. A sattvic diet is calming, nourishing, and healthy.
A Glance at Sattvic Food
The sattvic diet recommended for yoga students is cost-effective, tasty, and healthy.
Examples of foods and beverages that have a predominance of sattva are fresh fruit and vegetables, legumes such as peas and lentils, nuts and seeds, pure fruit juice, wholemeal bread, spouted seeds, honey, and milk and dairy products such as yoghurt, cheese, butter, and ghee.
Other Sattvic Principles
There is more to a sattvic yoga diet than a suggestion of ingredients. In addition to being vegetarian, such a diet should not contain chemicals and stimulants such as alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, and artificial sweetener.
Freshness of ingredients and food is appreciated by yogis who follow a sattvic diet. Many students try to prepare a fresh meal every day.
Fasting once a week or once every two weeks can have a purifying effect on body and mind. There are different ways of fasting, such as consuming only fruit and dairy, drinking water only, or eating a single meal that day.
Serious students of yoga who follow a sattvic diet try to stick to set mealtimes. You should wait at least two hours after eating, before practising yoga asanas or sleeping. A structured rhythm to the day can help you work with your body’s natural cycles.
Ahimsa or non-violence is another characteristic of the sattvic diet. Ahimsa encompasses non-violence toward oneself and others, toward animals and toward the earth.
The sattvic lifestyle adopted by many yoga practitioners can be a challenge initially. However, the principles on which it is based have the power to change lives.