Yogic Diet – Indian Traditional Wisdom For Healthy Mind & Body

Yogic philosophy is that Food we eat has a direct connection with our mind. Yoga, therefore, outlines principles of food that can nourish our body and mind both in a positive way and reduces physical and mental stress.

As said we are what we eat. It is also said our skin, Eyes, Hair are mirrors of what we eat and our health. Therefore under eye dark circles, skin tone, wrinkles, elasticity, hair loss if any can be used to evaluate what we have eaten in the past months or year.

Another point as per Yogic philosophy is that Food we eat has a direct connection with our mind. Yoga, therefore, outlines principles of food that can nourish our body and mind both in a positive way and reduces physical and mental stress.

While planning our Yogic diet or choosing food one should consider the following principles:

Here are few notes about food and nutrition from yogic texts like Hathpradipika, Gheranda Samhita, and also from Sribhagavadgita.

I) Concept of yogic Diet is described as Mitaahar (Mit Aahar -Moderate Food)

This concept is related to quantity, quality, and proportion of the diet.

In Hatha Yoga it is explained as– Eat up to the filling of half part of the stomach. Then fill 1/4th  part with water and keep remaining part empty for the proper mixing of the food inside the stomach. Offer food first to lord shiva and then eat as naivedya. Since the stomach is an expansible structure mathematically it is difficult to understand when the half part has filled, so to make its easy,  at food (quantity and quality) in such a way that after eating, it will digest easily (without any trouble like heaviness, laziness, etc) within 5 to 8 hours.

So after taking food one should not have any difficulty to perform his regular activities.  Mitaahar does not produce strain on the digestive system. At the same time, the functions of the nervous system and also other systems remain proper during the process of digestion.

After Atyaahar: (Ati Aahar- Heavy food/Too much eating) the blood circulation is more towards digestive organs and then as compared to that the other systems get less circulation. So the activities of other systems remain dull up to the completion of digestion.

Signs of proper digestion

Clean burp (without the smell of food), Feeling fresh, Proper defecation, Lightness in the body, getting proper hunger, and thirst at right time are the signs of complete digestion.

On the basis of this reference, we can explain the signs of indigestion as Bad burp, laziness, constipation, heaviness in the abdomen as well as in the body, disturbing hunger, and thirst timings.

II) Principle of Diet In Bhagavad Gita

Sattvic Food

lt is obtained without hurting others (ahimsa).

Sattvic Diet

  • Taking milk from grass-fed cows who are loved and taken care of  (no injection, non-pregnant)
  • Vegetarian, vegan
  • Seasonal fresh
  • Mostly bland food.
  • Use of fewer herbs and spices.

Effect on Body and Mind

  • Digest Within 5to 6 hours
  • One feels light and fresh
  • Keeps mind calm
  • Restores awareness.

Rajasic Food

  • stimulant: caffeine, salty, cola, chocolate.
  • Spicy, too salty pungent, too bitter.

Rajasic Food

Effect on Body and Mind

  • Increase the secretions of glands
  • In large quantity, it increases irritation to organs
  • Small quantity activates the mind.
  • In large quantity increases, irritability, over-reactivity.
  • Leads to addiction to that food.

Tamasic Food

  • sedative: alcohol
  • Stale food
  • Non-veg
  • Onion, garlic.

Tamasic Food

Effect on Body and Mind

  • Delays digestion.
  • Produces indigestion.
  • Produces heaviness, pain in the body
  • Produces lethargy, sleepiness.
  • Mental activities are disturbed.

III) Principle of intervals in diet

Approximately one heavy meal (Atyaahar) takes 8-10 hours to digest food depending on choices of food and quantity and proportion. On that basis, if someone eating 5-6 frequent heavy meals called (Bahubhukta) his digestive system remains too busy for 24 hours which leads to indigestion, other related problems. He feels sleepy, dull, and irritable because of blood flow is directed towards digestive function than to the brain.

But when someone eats lesser meals, then the digestive system remains busy for 16-20 hours and gets enough rest to digestive organs and you feel energetic, calm, active most of the time, and better concentration.

Considering today’s life if someone is taking three or more meals, he can follow the Mitaahar principle at each meal to reduce the burden on the digestive system.

IV) Principle of Incompatible foods

Yoga and Ayurveda are considered two parallel tracks to drive health in a healthy way.  In the Charaka Samhita, a list of food combinations considered incompatible (opposite/antagonist) are given are considered to be a cause of many diseases.

Examples of combinations that are considered incompatible include:

  • Salt/anything containing salt with milk (produces skin diseases).
  • Fruit with milk products
  • Fish with milk products (produces toxins)
  • Meat with milk products
  • Sour food or sour fruit with milk products.
  • Leafy vegetables with milk products
  • Milk pudding or sweet pudding with rice
  • Mustard oil and Turmeric.

V) Principle Diet of Hatha Yogic Diet

Emphasizes taking nourishing and sweet food (rice/sugar/jaggery) mixed with, ghee and milk (kheer/tirtha) before a meal as it nourishes the dhatus (basic body constituents) and is pleasing and suitable. Yogic diet gives importance to ghee They make food appetizing, digestible, and satisfying. They help in healing the mind too. The presence of fats in the body improves memory, neural conductivity, and mental well-being.

After studying a few basic things from our Indian philosophy I got overwhelmed to understand how enriched our tradition is to give us a Healthy Mind and Body that can synchronize for our ultimate happiness.

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