Every living entity is searching for happiness always. The source of happiness is within as realized by sages and directly experienced by everyone in deep sleep where one is happy even without one’s body consciousness. To realize this unbelievable source within, different practitioners adopted different yoga techniques. Yoga is a process of re-union with the source of all happiness. One of the different yoga techniques is Ashtaanga yoga or yoga with 8 limbs/steps. The third and fourth major steps in this yoga process are yoga asanas and pranayama.
Yoga asanas are body postures. Steady practice of asanas develops agility, balance, endurance and great vitality. It is a state of complete equilibrium of body, mind and spirit.
Channeling/control of breath to calm the mind which in turn helps in keeping healthy body is pranayama. Pranayama is the science of breath.
Mind is formed by a subtle portion of food itself and grows according to one’s desires. Pure mind is the one which would lead to healthy body, mind and intellect and a very happy life since the consciousness within is always pure. Thus the intake of type of food plays a very important role in yoga.
Yoga classifies food in to 3 categories, similar to the classification of human beings into predominantly, Tamasik, Rajasik, and Sattvic
Sattvic food or food in the mode of goodness purifies mind, Rajasic food or food in the mode of passion gives rise to passionate thoughts/desires and takes one away from contentment. Tamasic food or food in the mode of ignorance gives rise to laziness, slumber, inactiveness, intoxication, etc. Examples of sattvic food are fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts, milk etc. Examples of rajasic foods are too-spicy and strong tasting foods which over-stimulate the nervous system. Tamasic foods are putrefied and decayed foods namely alcohol, meat, eggs. Sattvic food is the best food for yoga and overall happiness.
The basic principle of nutrition, from the yoga perspective, is to eat small quantities of high quality foods. The high quality foods are those which promote the life force of the body without producing toxins. The recommended foods are fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts. The foods such as meat, alcohol, too spicy and too salty foods lower the energy level in the body.
In essence, practicing hatha yoga, pranayama, eating sattvic food, good relaxation and right thinking are the key guidelines for holistic health
Always respect your food. Begin each meal by thanking.
Maintain a peaceful attitude during meals. Genial conversation can create the balanced, loving environ that enhances digestion and amplifies the body’s ability to assimilate food’s nourishment.
Do not eat when you are angry. Rest for a while until your mind becomes calm and then take some food. Poisons are secreted by the glands and thrown into the bloodstream when you are angry and upset.
Yoga also stresses that food should be as fresh as possible. This means we should rely more on fresh fruits and vegetables than on frozen or canned foods. Frozen food is not so bad, since the enzymes are preserved, but canned food has been preheated, which destroys a lot of the vitamins and minerals and the enzymes.
Food that is fresh and pure by nature is full of prana. When it is prepared with love, that prana is enhanced. But if the cook is upset or not healthy while cooking, the prana is drained from the food and would not satisfy the needs for a healthy diet. Hence , in those days, people used to always eat in their homes rather than restaurants which would bring down their energy level and induce more thoughts.
Food should neither be too hot nor too cold. Very hot or very cold food or drinks can cause harm to the tissue of the throat. Modern science also agrees with this and considers that food and beverages which are too hot or cold may irritate the throat sufficiently to predispose it to cancer.
Do not force yourself to eat anything you do not like. But also do not eat only the foods you like most.
Abandon too many mixtures or combination of foods. They are difficult for the system to digest. A simple diet is best.
Eat atleast one raw dish in each meal to keep your blood alkaline.
Try to refrain from drinking during a meal as this will dilute the gastric juice causing indigestion and other stomach complaints.
Eat slowly and savor your food. Chew it thoroughly, remembering that digestion of food begins in the mouth.
Eat moderately. The secret of being healthy and happy is always to be a little hungry. Do not overload the stomach. Overeating hinders elimination, assimilation and growth, making the organs overwork, stressed and vulnerable to disease.
Whoever regulates their diet can become a yogi. Take half stomach full of food, quarter full of water and keep remaining quarter free for expansion of gas.
Eat at fixed times. Try to refrain from eating between meals. Eat only when you are really hungry.
Try to eat as little processed food as possible. Overcooking of food robs them of nutritional value and flavor.
Do Moolabhandha 12 times before you eat.
Do Vajrasana 5 to 10 minutes after you eat.
Do fasting one day, once a week or a month and 5 days in a year.
Take one meal a day in the month of December 15th to Jan 15th (considered as a spiritual month) .