The Yoga Diet (con’t)
The Yogic Way to Eat
Where to Eat
In modern culture little attention is paid to the process of eating or the settings within which one chooses to eat… or even the company with whom one shares their meal.
All of these things are important to the yogi.
When the yogi eats, he/she does so in quite a particular manner, which serves many important functions for health and spiritual evolution…
As mentioned earlier, the preparation of the food is very import to the yogi. In ideal circumstances, one would want to prepare one’s own meal, making the act a mindful meditation – keeping the mind filled with higher thoughts throughout the cooking process.
In this way, the yogi ensures that his/her food is clean, free from negativity, and infused with higher thought.
Before the Meal
Before eating, the food is offered to God. In this yogic custom a special prayer or mantra is recited.
You may already have a similar custom within your family or religion, where the food is blessed, or thanks given, which is also in keeping with this yogic ideal. If not, you can simply take a moment ‘inside of yourself’, or aloud, to think about where your food comes from, and to give thanks to nature (God, the Divine, etc.) for having provided you with the food.
This ritualistic habit prepares the mind and makes the process of eating a divine and sacred event, and not merely a task for fulfilling one’s physical hunger. Likewise, one should conclude their meal with another gesture or moment of appreciation and thanks.
Eating Your Food
In the same fashion, food should be eaten mindfully. Each and every bit of food (and drink too) should be taken with a feeling of joy and appreciation.
In this way, the yogi chews his/her food slowly and attentively, completely masticating each bite to the point where it hardly needs swallowing.
This is in stark contrast to the manner in which many people eat today, where the food hardly hits the teeth and tongue before it is gulped down the throat and another fork-full stuffed in! This ‘hasty eating’ leads to one of the greatest diseases in modern culture today, which is… Over-Eating.
… Before the stomach has even registered that a sufficient quantity of food has been taken in to satisfy the body’s nutritional needs, an ‘over-amount’ of food has already been piled into it. Most people feel the affects of this about 10 or 15 minutes after a meal as a sensation of being ‘stuffed’.
When one chews slowly and eats slower, the stomach is able to relay the message to the brain that it is no longer hungry once a sufficient amount of food is consumed.
As with all other areas of yoga, the yoga diet teaches restraint of the lifestyles and habits that are not conducive to health and wellbeing. A considerable amount of obesity, much of which results from the disease of over-eating, can be combated entirely if people would just learn to ‘slow down’ and ‘chew their food’!
The Dining Experience
All of the abovementioned points about food and eating habits revolve around a singular notion of of the yoga diet… approaching the ingestion of our food as a ‘blessed and sacred act’.
In this way, the yogi partakes in a meal within a calm environment, with a quiet mind – be that eating alone within peaceful, natural surroundings, or in the company of a small few who nurture and respect the act of eating in the same way.
This is all quite distinct from the way in which most people eat today. Our dinning environments are usually loud and full of activity. Indeed, meals have become the focal point of our social lives.
Even within the family, the dinner table is the place of active conversation, animation and political debate. Televisions and loud music playing in the background, laughing and carrying on with all manner of conversation and discussion, coupled with alcohol, decadent sweets and much in the category of improper foods, all combine to make the eating experience a physically and spiritually unhealthy event that leaves one with indigestion and an ultimate lack of nourishment on all levels.
None of these things are in keeping with the principles of yoga or the yoga diet.
Yoga Diet and Meal Time
The appropriate time for eating is during the daytime. The energy of digestion is the positive, warm, solar, yang energy of daytime, as opposed to the negative, cooling, lunar, yin energy of night.
Therefore, the yogi always takes his/her meals after the sun has risen and before it has set, which is again often inconsistent with the habits of the modern person who regularly eats well into the night (and goes to bed with undigested food still in the stomach)… an extremely tamasic event.
Why is this so bad for health?
… In the state of sleep, the metabolism slows down and the body ‘shifts’ into a state of repair and rejuvenation. This state is not conducive to digesting and assimilating food properly, and so the habit of eating late and going to bed ‘full’ leads to further digestive troubles, also becoming a factor leading to unhealthy weight gain.
This habit also inhibits proper deep sleep, causes excess sleep and makes one wake up tired and sluggish. There is a saying in the West that one should “not go to bed hungry”. The yogis would say: “one should never go to bed full!”
Additionally, the yoga diet involves a modest breakfast and makes lunch the primary meal of the day. And the yogi eats sparingly and light, if at all for the evening meal, perhaps even taking only some light fruits and tea…