Food is not just fuel. What you put into your body affects how you feel, your overall health, energy, and longevity. The yogic diet has a holistic approach. Rather than separating components of food by calories and nutrients, the yogic perspective is of the diet as a whole. In general, you want to put the food that is closest to it’s natural state in your body. The yogic diet separates foods into 3 categories; sattvic, rajasic, and tamasic. A large majority if not all of the food you eat should come from the sattvic category.
Sattvic: Sattva is defined as the quality of purity and goodness. Sattvic food is that which is pure, clean, and wholesome. A sattvic diet is food that supports life, energy, and prana. Food is thought to be a factor in building and stabilizing energy and life force. Therefore, eating foods that create balance in the body and mind is important. The goal of yoga is described as chitta vritti nirodha, the effort towards steadying the mind (YS 1:2). Sattvic foods are foods that encourage evenness and steadiness. These foods include fresh fruits, vegetables, and grains. All these foods grew in the ground are are filled with sunlight and earth energy. Traditionally milk and dairy products have also been included in the sattvic category. This is because, in India, cows were revered and treated as sacred. In our culture, milk products do not come from animals that have been well-treated or are healthy, physically and mentally. Also, the treatment of dairy cows violates the very first of the yamas; ahimsa. (Please see this link for more on this— http://www.hsus.org/farm/news/ournews
/treatment_of_dairy_cows_020108.html) Therefore, dairy is considered tamasic.
Rajasic: Rajasic foods agitate the body and the mind. These foods tend to over-stimulate and make it hard to settle down and concentrate. These foods can also cause one to burn off too much prana, sometimes called “leaking” prana. When it comes to rajasic foods, the key is moderation. Most rajasic foods can be eaten without ill-effect but will cause imbalance when overdone. Rajasic foods include intense spices, caffeine, alcohol, and garlic and onions.
Tamasic: these foods are too be avoided. Tamasic foods promote heaviness and lethargy. These foods also drain prana. Tamasic foods include all animal flesh, eggs, alcohol, and all highly processed and/or deep-fried foods. Overeating and overcooking food also causes it to become tamasic.
We all could give some thought to what we put in our mouths.Think about how you would like to feel then help it along by paying attention to what you eat. Spring is an excellent time of year to make changes, clean up our diet, and to eat more plants. Live well, eat well, and have a wonderful month of yoga and food!
The Yoga Cookbook
Sivananda Yoga Center and Sivananda Vendata Center
The Yoga Kitchen
Recipes from the Shoshoni Yoga center
by Faith Stone, and Rachael Guidrey