There’s a lot of talk and advice out there these days about what to eat, have you noticed?
As a culture we’re starting to come to grips with the impact our diet has on who we are and who we’re capable of being. And as we expand our understanding of both of those things, we naturally start to wonder how and what we can eat in order to achieve our goals for a healthy body, AND a happy life.
Since our ever increasing love affair with yoga has deepened the desire to embrace the yoga lifestyle and all that comes with it, these days lots of people are curious about the diet of a yogi, and how yoga and ayurveda answer the age old question, “what to eat?”
The What Follows the Why
The fact that yoga and ayurveda come from the same traditions and are so deeply connected, means that there are quite a few similarities between their approaches to diet. But like any sisters, they definitely have their differences!
Both yoga and ayurveda see what and how we eat as critical to our overall health and experience of living. But their food philosophies differ slightly in keeping with their individual aims.
As a Practice, Yoga Aims To…
- Calm the fluctuations of the mind.
- Cultivate internal and external awareness.
- Create a sense of ease and stability within the mind, body, and spirit.
- Aid in uniting us with our highest nature.
- Ultimately liberate us from suffering, allowing us to transcend the limitations of the body, mind, and senses.
To support these goals, a yogic diet centers around creating physical and mental clarity, purity and lightness. It’s light both in the quantities and qualities of the food it recommends, and aims to keep the mind and body bright, highly tuned, and teeming with life force energy (Prana).
It also includes a particular focus on regular fasting and detoxification in order to establish a calm, clean, peaceful, and unified whole.
A Yogic Diet…
- Is primarily sattvic diet — promotes calm, clear, receptive, and peaceful mind.
- Eliminates meat, processed, and frozen foods.
- Favors reduction or elimination of highly stimulating (onions, garlic, chili, alcohol), heavy, and dull foods (leftovers, processed foods, mushrooms).
- Includes mostly fresh, whole, local fruits, vegetables, and grains.
- Includes a good amount of raw foods that aid in the process of detoxification.
- Favors foods that are high in air and space elements and qualities (i.e raw foods, leafy greens, beans).
- Includes a regular practice of fasting and cleansing to maintain lightness and clarity.
Ayurveda Aims To…
- Prevent illness and disease.
- Treat illness in order to restore balance and good health.
- Promote rejuvenation for enduring vitality.
- Protect and improve physical, mental, and emotional digestion and assimilation.
- Balance the doshas.
- Create awareness of ourselves and our relationship to the world around us.
An ayurvedic diet supports these goals by recommending a diet that is unique to each individual, their mind-body constitution, and their state of imbalance. It favors foods that are easy to digest and assimilate, and promotes the health giving benefits of cooking and eating as sadhana, a spiritual practice or discipline that is shaped by intention and incorporates mind, body, and soul.
An Ayurvedic Diet…
- Recommends eating to balance the doshas and agni.
- Favors eating in accordance with your dosha.
- Is substantially sattvic.
- Changes relative to the season or routine.
- Recommends mostly warm, cooked foods that are suitably spiced in order to stimulate digestive fire.
- Includes primarily foods that nourish and build the tissues and increase ojas(immunity/vitality).
- Recommends eating in a calm, comfortable environment free of stress or distractions.
- Is taken at certain times of the day in harmony with the natural daily cycles of internal and external energies.
Which Diet is Right For You?
The gorgeous thing about both of these approaches to nourishing the mind and body, is that they each recognize that the most important aspect of choosing a diet is starting with who you are, and what’s important to you.
Who are you right now in this moment? Calm or chaotic, clear or foggy, balanced or overwhelmed? And who do YOU want or need to be? Energized, clear, radiant, grounded, enlightened?
Since both yoga and ayurveda aim to have you understand and embrace what it feels like to be your highest and best self, you can make space for both approaches to eating in your life, applying them as medicine to bring you a sense of lightness and clarity if you feel weighed down and cloudy, or a more grounded and connected experience of balance when your world feels knocked off center.
Making the right choice for you is a matter of tuning into your body-mind and trusting what you hear.