15 Jun The Yogic Diet
Lord Krishna says to Arjuna in the Gita (chapter 17, verse 8-10): “Persons in the mode of goodness prefer foods that promote the life span, and increase virtue, strength, health, happiness, and satisfaction. Such foods are juicy, succulent, nourishing, and naturally tasteful. Foods that are too bitter, too sour, salty, very hot, pungent, dry, and chiliful, are dear to persons in the mode of passion. Such foods produce pain, grief, and disease. Foods that are overcooked, stale, putrid, polluted, and impure are dear to persons in the mode of ignorance.”
Food nourishes the body, the mind and consciousness as well. As our physical constitution is characterized by different proportions of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, our mental constitution and psychological balance is determined by the three universal qualities of Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas. Unlike our physical constitution, which is hard to change, our mental makeup greatly depends on the food we eat on a daily basis. Thus it is possible for us to choose between consciousness, agitation or inertia by choosing the right food.
Yogic science classifies the into three kinds according to its character and effect upon the body and the mind:
- Sattvic diet : Foods that render the mind pure. Eg: milk, fruits, cereals, sprouts, freshly made cheese, ghee (clarified butter), almonds, green leafy vegetables like spinach etc.
- Rajasic diet : They excite the passionate nature in a human. Eg: chocolate, coffee, fermented foods like Dosa, spicy foods like pickles, etc.
- Tamasic diet : They fill the mind with inertia and anger. Eg: non-vegetarian dishes like fish, eggs, meat, onions, garlic, mushrooms, alcohol, drugs etc. Frozen or canned foods, fried foods and even sattvic and rajasic foods if not consumed fresh turn tamasic.
Food preferences can give you some idea on the nature or temperament of the man also!
Sattvic, Rajasic and Tamasic are not just food qualities but they are a way of life. Afterall, a man is what he eats.
Sattva predominant people, tend to be compassionate and pure minded. Their clarity of perception and creative senses are often heightened and hence they tend to have positive behavior irrespective of situations in life and spread happiness too. Sattvic diet keeps one more alert, builds mental and physical awareness of the mind and body.
A life of sensual enjoyment, experiencing pleasure and pain, effort and restlessness showcases a Rajasic mindset. People tend to be egoistic, aggressive, proud and are control freaks. They are perfectionists and suffer from a fear of failure. Rajasic individuals are quickly drained of mental energy.
Tamasic tendencies reflect a dark mind, laziness, excessive sleep, depressing or negative attitudes. Intense mood swings, desires, greed, possessiveness and lack of empathy dominate. They age faster.
How we respond to life events depends on the specific balance of sattva, rajas and tamas in our mind.
The basic nature of the human mind is creative or sattvic, with just enough rajas and tamas to bring desires to fruition and also to rest. It is vital for health and happiness to keep this balance for our life to move in a progressive direction. The base of our diet should consist of freshly prepared grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, milk etc. A small amount of rajasic foods would stimulate creativity and outward motion. Freshly steamed mushrooms or onions although tamasic, are a healthier choice than frozen fish cutlets, which has been fried, re-chilled and microwaved. Infact, meat eating and alcoholism are closely allied. The craving for liquor dies a natural death when the meat diet is withdrawn.
The well-being of man depends more on nutrition than on anything else. So what is a good moderate diet?
A good diet means a well-balanced diet but not a rich one. A rich diet pressurizes the digestive organs and produces diseases of the liver, kidney and pancreas. A well-balanced diet helps a man to grow, become agile, stabilize his body weight, keeps up efficiency and a high standard of vigor and vitality; especially as we confine to desk jobs around the globe.
- Diet should be simple, light, wholesome, easily digestible and nutritious. Include fibre content like fruits and salads and reduce the intake of salt or any other stimulants like pickles and pungent foods.
- Cut out sugar-rich foods as they are completely devoid of nutrition. A little bit of Jaggery instead of refined sugar can keep you happy. Nervous stimulants like Tea, Coffee fluctuate your energy levels. Consuming too much of nervous stimulants destroys stamina in the long run, and affects the body’s ability to store energy.
- Fill the stomach to 3/4th of its capacity. Do not consume water in-between meals as it impairs digestion by diluting the hydrochloric acid and other digestive juices produced within.
- Throw away stale, decomposed food. Reduce consumption of fermented, twice-cooked items.
- If you have no appetite do not take anything just because the clock strikes the hour.
- Give rest to the stomach. Fast once a week or consume only fresh fruits to ease digestion.
Man has invented many kinds of dishes just to satisfy his palate. In the so called “civilized societies”, most of us are deluded by our own senses – making our lives complex and miserable. True strength cannot be gained when one is an absolute slave of his tongue. Simple and natural eating habits can help you abide by “Eat to live and not live to eat”.