Yoga philosophy teaches that the body’s life-force energy—its prana—comes from air, water, and food. Eating pure, yogic foods increases our prana and nourishes body, mind, and spirit. The Bhagavad Gita, one of the most influential Hindu texts, includes a holistic philosophy of nutrition based on the nature of food’s vibrational energy, which falls into three gunas, or categories of nature.
Sattvic foods are pure and life-giving, and they promote health, vitality, strength, serenity, and relaxation. These include fresh fruit and juices, vegetables and herbs, whole grains, nuts, and seeds and should be organically grown, unprocessed, and additive and preservative free.
Rajasic foods are overstimulating and promote excess energy, agitation, discontentment, and disease. These include meat, fish, spices, and eggs and are spicy, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, overly hot, and dry.
Tamasic foods are stale, old, spoiled, impure, rotten, overly processed, additive and preservative filled, and addictive. These include old, shriveled fruits and vegetables, and processed, packaged, preserved, and deep-fried foods. They dull your mind and promote overeating, addiction, inactivity, laziness, and lethargy.
The yogic diet is based on the yoga principles of purity (sattva), nonviolence (ahimsa), and balanced living. It consists of foods with sattvic qualities, which promote the body’s life force. Fresh organic fruits and vegetables are believed to possess the highest vibration and life force of all foods. Rajasic and tamasic foods are limited or eliminated whenever possible, as their low vibration or life force and inherent toxins reduce the vitality of the person eating them.
Your food choices should support your unique individuality, including your health, lifestyle, and age. They should come from a conscious, self-reflective look at how your eating habits affect your body, mind, and spirit. By eating consciously, you become aware of how your choices affect you right after the meal or even the next day. If you’ve ever suffered from indigestion or a hangover, you know what I mean.
Just as you bring mindfulness to your yoga practice, you can be mindful at mealtime. Yoga philosophy and all of the world’s healthiest diets recommend a conscious eating practice for optimal health. Mediterranean cultures traditionally regard meals as experiences to be savored and a life pleasure meant to be enjoyed. Asian cultures consider eating an aesthetic experience and reverentially enjoy beautifully prepared and presented foods that nourish the senses—to see, smell, touch, taste, and observe any sounds—while slowly eating the meal.
The Slow Food movement is reviving and sharing the benefits of conscious eating and the enjoyment of wholesome foods. Slow Food USA, part of the international Slow Food movement, is dedicated to supporting local farmers, the production of regional foods, and small producers. The movement promotes a slower lifestyle that cultivates time for conscious food preparation and eating, and opposes the fast life exemplified by corporatized foods and degradation of farmland.
Eat Here Now
How can you incorporate mealtime mindfulness into your own life? Try the following essential components of a conscious-eating practice.
1. Schedule time for meals. Allocate at least twenty minutes each for meals and/or enough time to truly experience the food you eat. Avoid overeating.
2. Eliminate distractions during meals. Eat slowly in a calm, quiet environment without a blaring television, loud music, or your computer as an accompaniment. The experience of the meal should be the focus of your attention and entertainment.
3. Enjoy conscious eating. Practice a state of awareness while you eat. Savor the appearance, smell, and taste of your food, so you can be truly satisfied. Chew each bite twenty times, which will help digestion and keep your attention in the moment. Enjoy the rasa, or “juice” of the food, through our senses.
4. Practice snacking awareness. Avoid mindless snacking, eating while you’re talking, and snacking just because food is present.
5. Use tasteful presentation. Small portions beautifully arranged on an attractive plate nourish the senses and encourage you to savor each bite.
6. Practice cooking meditation. Feed your soul by incorporating mindfulness as you cook. Allow cooking to express your love and be the ultimate gift to others, as the food we eat literally becomes a part of us physically, mentally, and spiritually, in our cells, skin, bones, and thoughts.
7. Count your blessings. Before your meal, experience a moment of thankfulness for having food.