According to traditional yogic texts, the yogic diet is vegetarian, balanced, light, easily digestible, and conducive to the practice of yoga and spiritual progress. By consuming pure food, one’s inner nature is also purified. This purification of inner nature allows one to achieve memory of the Self, and through this memory, all ties and attachments are severed. The quality of our diet influences not only our physical well-being, but also our spiritual well being. Our attitudes can change with the type of food we eat. As the old axioms say, “You are what you eat,” and “We don’t live to eat, but eat to live.”
In traditional yogic texts, the diet is divided into three categories:
• Sattva, which means purity, harmony, and lucidity.
• Rajas, which means passion and activity.
• Tamas, which means darkness and inertia.
A sattvic diet is completely vegetarian, nourishing, and easily digestible, leading to composure and clarity of mind. These effects are beneficial for our bodies, as well as our spiritual progress. It carries the most vital life force (prana).
Sattvic foods include fresh fruits and vegetables, whole meal bread, cereals, grains, legumes, herbs, nuts, seeds, sprouts, honey, fresh milk, and fresh milk derivatives. Sattvic food should be cooked with love and eaten with awareness.
Eat moderately and occasionally
Rajasic foods are overly hot, spicy, or salty. Eaten in excess, they damage the equilibrium between mind and body. They are irritants and stimulants, making the mind restless, agitated, moody, aggressive, demanding, and susceptible to temptation. The individual is unable to be still and live in the moment.
Rajasic foods include overly hot, spicy, or salty foods, fish, eggs, garlic, onions, tea, coffee, and chocolate. Sattvic food eaten in haste or anger becomes rajasic.
Avoid or eat very occasionally
Tamasic food is impure, heavy, rotten, and dead. It produces sensations of heaviness, dullness, and lethargy. It causes a lack of motivation and feelings of anger, jealousy, and greed. It draws prana from the body and weakens the body’s resistance to disease. A tamasic diet can lead to obesity, diabetes, and heart and liver disease.
Tamasic foods include heavy meals, processed foods, foods with chemicals and additives, take away fast food, reheated foods, deep fried foods, old or overripe foods, canned foods, frozen foods, salted foods, meat, alcohol, and tobacco.
Diet, Yoga and Hypnotherapy
Regularly practicing yoga asanas, pranayamas, and meditation heightens the individual’s level of self awareness, and this inner wisdom and knowledge guides the individual to the right food. The individual becomes more aware and sensitive to what he or she eats.
Sometimes, certain behaviors or patterns of eating become deeply rooted or programmed into the subconscious mind. For example, some people mention that they plan a healthy diet routine and follow that routine for a little while, only to fall back into the same old unhealthy eating habits. It always happens in a cyclic pattern: when stress or unexpected situations arise, they compensate by overeating tamasic and rajasic foods.
In these cases, practicing asanas, pranayamas, and meditation helps, but is not sufficient to deprogram these deeply rooted habits in the subconscious mind. Here, self hypnosis and hypnotherapy should be combined with asanas, pranayamas, and meditation.
Autosuggestion (self hypnosis), sankalpa, positive visualization, and contemplation are all yogic techniques that help to deprogram these unwanted, deeply rooted habits.
Autosuggestions such as “I always eat only those foods which are good for my health,” and “I eat only the amount of food required by my body,” will gradually deprogram unhealthy habits, and the individual will be able to follow the healthy diet they had planned without difficulty.
Note that it is best not to make sudden changes in food and drink. Let the changes be slow and gradual. The system should accommodate the change without any trouble. However, if you have a medical condition, please consult your physician before changing any of your diet patterns.
About the author
Dr. Sohail Ebady, M.D. has been a yoga teacher and a hypnotherapist for over 20 years. He continually emphasizes the need for these seemingly separate sciences to be intertwined and practiced in combination. He created the Patanjali Institute to impart Yoga Teacher Training in combination with Hypnotherapy training in Thailand and Bali to students who wish to become effective and wholesome healers.