- Food has to be Sattvic
In yogic and Ayurvedic philosophy, there are three qualities (gunas) of all things in nature: 1) Raja (hot, spicy, fast), 2) Tama (slow, lethargic, bland), and 3) Sattva (purity, harmony). These three qualities are present in all things, but in different amounts, making one quality dominant.
Rajasic foods are hot, bitter, dry, salty, or spicy. They overstimulate the mind and excite the passions. In contrast, tamasic foods are bland and include meat, alcohol, tobacco, garlic, onions, fermented foods, and overripe substances.
Sattvic food is the purest diet, the most suitable one for any serious yoga student. It nourishes the body and maintains a peaceful state. This, in turn, calms and purifies the mind, enabling it to function at its maximum potential.
A Sattvic diet will ultimately lead to true health; a peaceful mind in control of a fit body, with a balanced flow of energy between them.
- It Comprises of Vegetarian Food
The diet includes all types of vegetables except onion and garlic which induces heat in the body. The presence of only green and leafy vegetables in the yoga diet makes it easily digestible, thereby resulting in a healthy digestive system. Exclusion of meat/flesh of animals keeps the body from too many toxins and uric acid which may result in various diseases like gout, cancer, skin diseases, etc. This also keeps the heart-healthy. Non-vegetarian food like animal protein is full of unhealthy fats which gives rise to high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Fear of protein deficiency is the meat-eaters main objection to a vegetarian diet. Yet, ironically, meat-eaters obtain the worst quality protein from their food—a protein that is dead or dying.
Animal protein contains too much uric acid and other toxins to be broken down by the liver; some are eliminated, but the rest is deposited in the joints and tissues, leading to problems such as arthritis and cancer.
Meat is also among the greatest sources of cholesterol, which contributes to heart disease, hardening of the arteries, and senility. Meat takes three days to pass through the digestive system. For optimum health, men need to digest food within 24 hours, women 18 hours.
Nuts, dairy products, leafy greens, and legumes are full of high-quality protein. Their main residue is cellulose, which is inert and does not pollute the body. It is readily digestible, utilized by the body quickly and efficiently.
- A yogic diet should be free of chemicals and stimulants.
Choose organic when available, and avoid caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, and artificial sweeteners. These substances are not healthy for the body and alter the mind, making it more difficult to concentrate on the Divine.
- A yogic diet should be at regular intervals, two hours before asana practice or sleep.
If you train your body to eat at regular times, say at 10 A.M. and 6 P.M., it will better utilize its energy throughout the day as it anticipates the intake of calories at these times. The body has cycles and functions best when these cycles are regular and steady. The same goes for our mealtimes.
Avoiding food two hours before exercise or sleep helps the body function at its best capacity. Energy for digestion should not be taken away for the purpose of the exercise. Ensuring proper time for digestion before sleep helps to keep the mind clear.
Thus, the hormones produced during sleep can be utilized efficiently to repair tissue damage and fight infection, which is ideal, instead of for digestion.
- Take time to fast.
The yogis recommend choosing one day each week to fast. A fast can be strict, not allowing anything to enter the body. Or, it can include water and fruit juices. Whatever you choose, keep in mind that the goal of your fast is to purify the body and mind.