10 Sep Ayurvedic and Yogic Insights to Food
Ayurveda is considered as the Mother of all Healing. It emphasizes on prevention and focuses on the balance of body, mind and consciousness. As per Ayurveda, every food has its own taste (Rasa), a heating or cooling energy (virya) and a post-digest effect (vipaka). When foods having different tastes, energy and post digest effects are combined, it creates confusion to our digestive systems and results in the production of toxins and other imbalances. For example, milk should not be taken along with bananas, cherries and other sour fruits. Similarly, yogurt should not be taken along with fruits, cheese, eggs, fish, meat etc.
Yoga explains that the simplest diet is the best. As per Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Mitahara is defined as an agreeable and sweet food, leaving one-fourth of the stomach free and eaten. Mitahara means ‘Sattvic’ and light food which is easy to digest. Sattva is the pure quality of spiritual goodness. It is the state of balance, intelligence, and harmony. Sattva denotes purity, freshness, strength, energy and nature. According to the Bhagavad Gita, there are three types of food: Sattvic food (pure food), Rajasic food (stimulating food) and Tamasic food (impure and rotten food).
Sattvic diet means the food that improves Sattva quality in us.
Sattvic foods include:
1. Fresh fruits and vegetables.
2. Warm milk and ghee.
3. Whole grains, nuts, dates, and legumes.
4. Natural honey.
5. Cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, basil, coriander, ginger, turmeric.
6. Rice, barley, wheat.
Sattvic foods make us feel calm, happy and peaceful. Sattvic foods are full of prana. Prana is the driving force and it is the prana that is manifesting as the actions of the body, as the nerve currents and the thought force. Depletion in Prana creates an imbalance in the body and mind. Thus, Sattvic food increases our overall life energy. They are pure which in turn will increase the purity of mind and body. It sharpens your intelligence and improves your memory.
A diet containing milk, ghee, fresh fruits, leafy vegetables and whole grains constitute an ideal Sattwic rich diet. Such a diet is nutritionally balanced. It improves the life force and aids in digestion. It makes our body, mind and soul positive.
Spices, hot substances, bakery products, meat, alcohol, fish and eggs, tea, coffee that stimulate the nervous system, come under Rajasic food. Average worldly people prefer the Rajasic food. Rajasic food brings hyperacidity, constipation, obesity, arthritis and diabetes. It also causes anxiety and aggression due to its pungent and bitter features.
Food that is rotten, decayed and overripe comes under the Tamasic or impure food category. Undeveloped man prefers such type of food. Tamasic food destroys immunity power and alters the normal functioning of the brain. It makes a person lazy and dull and takes him to the level of animals. Meat, fish, onions, eggs, soybean, white flour, tea, alcohol, flavored drinks, jam, jelly etc are all examples of Tamasic food.
The way of cooking influences and changes the gunas or qualities of food. Sattvic food like ghee will convert to Tamasic if frozen. Similarly, honey becomes poisonous when it is heated. Freshly prepared sattvic food will be converted to Tamasic when it is refrigerated. When food is cooked and again reheated after it has gone cold, bacteria set in. When we eat this reheated food, fermentation happens in the stomach leading to acidity and indigestion. Digestion has to be a quick process and prana should not be wasted.
Sattvic food is cooked with love and eaten with full awareness and thankfulness. Mindful eating generates more awareness and links us to the food that we eat. It is always better to stay tuned to natural food as nature represents the ultimate sagacity of all creations.
The complete illustrated book of Yoga by Swami Vishnu-devananda
The Hatha Yoga Pradipika by Swami Muktibodhananda