Monday, August 24, 2009

Diet and Yoga

As a yogini every aspect of my life is approached with a yogic attitude. Yoga is indeed a lifestyle for me that goes beyond asana, pranayama and meditation. Each moment of each day is a practice of my yoga. We are faced with a plethora of choices on a daily basis, some we act on, some we don't, but there is not one thing we choose more times in one day than the food we eat. It's something we all do, every single day, preferably 3 or more times a day. Food and diet gives us an opportunity each morning, afternoon, and evening to live our yoga. Yoga promotes a healthy body, mind and spirit and without proper nutrition our full potential will not be reached.

In yogic philosophy there are 3 gunas. The gunas are the earthly qualities that bind our spirit to our body. The gunas represent an attitude that can be applied to everything in our life. The three gunas are tamas (the quality of being sluggish or lethargic), rajas (the quality of being over stimulating or over active), and sattva (the quality of being pure, relaxed and clear). These 3 qualities can be evident in all of our choices, from the food we eat to the way we approach our jobs.

In Ayurvedic medicine foods are classified with regard to their guna. Sattvic foods are foods that are wholesome. They keep us centered, and peaceful. Sattvic foods keep us nourished and energized. Examples of sattvic foods would be organic fruits and vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds and grasses. Rajasic foods are foods that are stimulating to the nervous system. They create an unbalanced effect on the body-mind-spirit connection. This category includes coffee, sugar, tea, tobacco, flesh foods and oily or fried foods. Also included in this category are onions and garlic. While these are both very healthful foods they produce a stimulating effect on the body. Tamasic foods are foods that detract from our health and pollute the body. These are stale, spoiled, decaying, highly processed, and chemically treated. Tamasic foods create an unbalanced energy state within our bodies.

Asana practice teaches us to cultivate mindfulness. We learn to still the mind and allow ourselves to become one with the moment. This is easy to do on the mat, as we twist, turn and contort our bodies it's hard for the mind to be anywhere else. The challenge comes when we move our practice off of our mat. Remaining open, aware, and mindful as we go about our daily lives isn't always easy. There's no better place to start than with the activity you do more often than any other, eating.

As you cultivate awareness around your meals you will begin to notice the subtle energy shifts that occur within you based on your food choices. You will notice that when you include more sattvic foods you feel energetic, full of life, and ready to take on your day. When you fill your body with tamasic foods you will feel sluggish, lethargic and inert. With this increased awareness of your subtle energies you will naturally begin to make smarter and healthier food choices. As the mind becomes centered, peaceful, and clear you will be able to continually evaluate the quality of your diet, and start to question and possibly abandon some of your food addictions that are detracting from your full potential.

1 comment:

  1. when I became acquainted with the Gunas I gravitated towards a similar interpretation. Though Over the years that has changed and refined. I recently explored Samkhya philosophy - where it seems Gunas are first postulated.

    All 3 gunas are indeed qualities (of Cosmic Matter) - they are interdependent and this sometimes gets lost in an over-stimulated (Rajasic?) western interpretation:
    Sattva = that which illuminates
    Rajas = that which moves and activates (not necessarily over-stimulating!)
    Tamas = that which restrains (not necessarily lethargic)