The Yogis of the past had done great research to figure out what is the best kind of food one should consume which will help in reaching the ultimate goal of liberation — all this has been documented in the Yoga Shastras.
According to the Yogis the human body is the most important instrument that one has on this earth. Yogic science looks upon the human body as a microcosmos, comparing it to the vastness of the universe which is the macrocosm. Hence, by understanding our own bodies and minds and using them in a proper manner we can bring about great changes in the psyche.
The Yoga Shastras describe the path of Yoga as the ‘middle path’. This path can be adopted by all human beings by observing all the rules and regulations prescribed therein. Therefore, Yoga is a path of moderation wherein anything done in excess is detrimental to both the mind and the body. Our aim should be to consume nutrient rich and nourishing food, get enough rest, proper exercise, the right quantum of water and clean air to breathe, good thoughts and company and some quality time for introspection and meditation in silence.
At the physical level it is said that we are what we eat. Our bodies are nothing but the food we eat. This body is called the ‘Annamayakosha’, which means the food sheath. Our thoughts too are governed by the food we eat. In Yoga and Ayurveda, food has three categories — Tamasic, Rajasic and Sattvic according to its effect on individuals.
All reheated, old, stale, deep fried, greasy food and processed food falls into the Tamasic category. It makes the body lethargic, the mind clouded, depressed and dull. It consumes more energy from one’s system as compared to the energy and nutrition it provides.
Spicy, hot, pungent, sour, dry and bitter food types along with beverages and non-veg food falls in the Rajasic category. These food types act as stimulants to the nervous system, increase passion, ambition, brain activity and could also lead one to restlessness and agitation.
Sattva is made of goodness — food that is good on life force is considered Sattvic. This food type promotes sharpness and tranquillity of the mind, helps build high quality body tissues, purifies and calms the mind. After eating such food, one feels light after the meal. Fresh fruits and vegetables, buts and beans, milk, ghee, unhusked and unprocessed foo and naturally sweet tasting food are all Sattvic in nature.
The essence of one’s diet 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 (sattva).
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.