Importance of the Physical Body
What to eat, what not to eat? With countless concepts and apps around diets like Keto, GM, Intermittent Fasting, Atkins to name a few, one often feels confused and always in a dilemma regarding the right kind of diet and lifestyle. Why is diet so important and what is the correct way to eat to lead a healthy and active life? Though the question may appear to be a crisis for the modern day generation, the great Yogis or scientists of yore have already given detailed guidelines around diet after extensive research.
However, before we look into the Yogic viewpoint on diet and lifestyle, let us fully understand why we need to take care of our physical and mental health.
In the TTC2 while teaching the Yoga Pradipika by Svatmarama, Sri M discusses the importance of keeping the body healthy. He says, “To undertake any studies, be it Yoga or otherwise, one must have a healthy body. Thus, great stress is laid in Yoga Darshana (philosophy) to keep the body fit”
According to the Yogis the human body is the most important instrument that one has on this earth. The science of Yoga looks upon the body as a microcosmos, comparing it to the vastness of the universe which is the macrocosm. Thus, by understanding our own bodies and minds and using them in a proper manner can bring about wonderful changes in the psyche.
Moderation is the Key
In the various ancient textbooks on Yoga, called Yoga Shastras, the path of Yoga is being variously described as a ‘middle path’. The path that could be adopted by all human beings, with due rules and regulations to be observed. Therefore, Yoga is a path of moderation where anything done in excess is detrimental to both the mind and body. Thus one should aim to consume nutrient rich and nourishing food, get enough rest, proper exercise, the right amount of water and clean air to breathe, good thoughts and company and some quality time for self reflection and meditation in silence.
We are what we eat
Starting on the physical level, we are what we eat. Our bodies are nothing but the food we are eating. This body is also called the ‘Annamayakosha’, which means the food sheath. Even our thoughts are governed by the food we eat. In Yoga and Ayurveda, food is classified into three categories namely Tamasic, Rajasic and Satvic according to the effect it has on an individual.
All reheated, old, stale, deep fried, greasy food and processed food falls into the Tamasic category. It makes the body lethargic and the mind clouded, dull and depressed. It takes more energy from your system as compared to the energy and nutrition it provides.
Spicy, hot, pungent, sour, dry and bitter food types as well as beverages come under the Rajasic category. Non vegetarian food is also included in this food type. Rajasic foods act as stimulants to the nervous system, increase passion, ambition, brain activity and may also lead you to restlessness and agitation.
Sattva is a mode of goodness, thus food that is high on life force or Prana is considered to be Sattvic. Sattvic foods are those, which promote sharpness and tranquility of the mind, helps to build high quality body tissues, purifies the body and calms the mind. Such types of food leave a person feeling light and not too heavy after a meal. Fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and beans, milk, clarified butter or ghee, unhusked and unprocessed food and naturally sweet tasting food are all Sattvic.
The essence of right eating is to balance these three qualities in such a way so as to move from states of lethargy (tamas) to that of action (rajas) that leads towards a state of harmony and balance (satva).
To summarize, food which is high on nutrition, which makes one feel energetic and light should be consumed. This doesn’t not mean that one should stay away from food types which may not fall in this category. One has to remember that Yoga is the middle path and hence does not suggest that people should make any drastic changes to their existing diet and lifestyle. Starting with small adjustments and judiciously eating and engaging various daily activities one should strive to conserve one’s mental and physical energies to experience happiness, calm and a sense of wellbeing.
We would also like to present what our founder Sri M has to say about diet and lifestyle.
Sri M about what one should eat
“The diet should be simple and easily digestible. Do not put any noxious things into your system. Onions with garlic are also okay to eat. Garlic is good for cholesterol in your body. As long as everything is done in moderation, it is good. If you overeat garlic or chili for example, it will make you more Rajastic in nature. Also be practical about it. If your doctor prescribes something that is important for you, take that. Be religious but also be practical about it.Sri M