In yoga philosophy, our mind is established from the food we consume every day. “You are what you eat”, means that if the food we consume originates from pure sources, our mind will be able to develop strong intellectuality and good memory, as it is otherwise. A person’s mental tendency can be seen from the type of food he/she chooses. It is not only you are what you eat, but our interest to a kind of food can also show the level of our mental and spiritual purity. When we feel that we begin to change towards a more positive way, we also start to realize that our choice of food becomes better and healthy.
It is said that the whole universe is categorized into 3 qualities, in Sanskrit called the trigunas, consisting of Sattvic (pure), Rajasic (over-stimulating), and Tamasik (damaged). Everything in the world has these three aspects, including daily eating style. Yoga eating pattern is an eating pattern based on the consumption of sattvic (pure) food, which is an alternative that may bring goodness to the body, comfort and peace of mind, as well as promote spiritual development.
A. Sattvic Food
Sattvic is food which can enhance vitality, energy, strength, pleasure, give a sense of ‘ease’ to the body, and is highly nutritious. This kind of food will make our mind pure, calm, and peaceful.
In principle, all kinds of food must be presented as fresh and natural as possible, and should come from organic materials that genetically do not go through modification, contain no preservatives nor flavoring. These kinds of food must be consumed in their natural condition (raw), steamed or rare-cooked.
Some examples of sattvic food are:
- Grains: corn, wheat, rice without bleaching process
- Legumes rich with protein
- Fresh or dried fruit, and fruit juice (without sugar)
- Vegetables: leaves, roots, and stems
- Herbal drinks
- Natural sweetener: honey, molasses syrup, maple syrup, and apple juice concentrate
- Dairy products: fresh milk, cheese and yogurt; not to be over-consumed as they potentially increase mucus in the stomach.
B. Rajasic Food
This is a kind of food that over-stimulates body and mind. This kind of food causes insomnia and damages the balance of body and mind. Rajasic food intensifies emotion, anger, jealousy, greed, selfishness and other feelings which will keep us away from the awareness towards God. Yoga eating pattern limits and even avoids the consumption of this food.
Examples of rajasic food are:
- Onion and garlic
- Coffee and tea
- Soft drinks
- Food that is too spicy
- Food that is too hot, bitter, sour, acerbic, and salty
- Sattvic food that is consumed hastily
C. Tamasic Food
This is the kind of food that is ‘damaged‘ and of which chemical structure has changed. Tamasik food makes a person lazy, dull, difficult to concentrate, lose consciousness, and increases the transfer of chronic illness, depression, and creates negative thoughts.
Examples of tamasic food are:
- Food of which chemical structure has changed, such as through fermentation (fermented cassava, vinegar, etc.)
- Meat, fish fillet, poultry fillet, egg
- Overripe (decayed) or uncooked meals
- Fried food
- Food that is heated many times
- Preserved food, such as canned food
- Sattvic food that is consumed too much
The above explanation can be compared to our daily eating pattern. However, the classification of food according to the triguna philosophy is a comparative matter and not something absolute. This aims to help us get an understanding to start arranging a better daily eating pattern.
Balanced Acid and Alkali
The acids and alkali balance of human body and blood must be between pH 7.3–7.5 in order to stay healthy and have optimum functions. Therefore, our body needs more alkaline forming food than acid forming food.
Every processed food will leave some residue or mineral ashes containing metal and non metal elements inside the body. Mineral ashes from plant system, animal body, or human body that are burned or perfectly decayed after death can be left over. Mineral comes from the earth and according to its natural cycle it will return to the earth.
Mineral contents in food are highly potential in affecting or establishing acid or alkali condition in the body. Acid forming food contains higher level of non metal mineral such as sulfur (S), phosphor (P) and chloride (Cl). While acid reducing food or alkali forming food contains more metal mineral such as potassium (K), sodium (Na), magnesium (Mg), Ferro (Fe) and calcium (Ca).
Acid forming food usually contains a high level of protein and some water. Almost all kinds of protein food from grains (rice, corn, wheat, and others) including processed products, give acid chemical to the body, except unprocessed milk, yogurt, almond, and millet. On the contrary, alkali forming food tends to have high level of water and contains a little protein. All kinds of fruit and vegetables (including lettuce, tubers, and spreading vegetables) are base forming food, except tomato (especially cooked).
Food processing methods can also change the acids and alkali of food. The effect of food that is cooked specifically may be equal to that before it is cooked. For example steamed potato, which will change into acid when it is processed into fried spicy potato.
The Guide to Healthy and Good Food According to Yoga
- Respect your food. Always begin a meal with a prayer.
- Stay calm during meal. Do not eat in anger. Emotional ‘toxin’ will be released by body glands and return to the body through blood vessels when we are angry.
- Do not eat food that is too hot, or too cold, as it will disturb the digestion process.
- Do not push yourself to eat food you don’t like and do not eat only food you like.
- Avoid combining too many kinds of food in one time. Too many kinds of food are difficult to digest at the same time.
- Eat at least one base forming menu at one time to maintain the base level of blood.
- Do not drink during meal as it will weaken the function of gastric juice, creating digestion problems.
- Keep your mouth clean. It is the gate to the proper digestion process.
- Eat slowly and chew food until it is perfectly smooth in order to ease the digestion process in the stomach.
- Eat before hungry and stop eating before full. Being too full will disturb digestion process, causing digestion organs to work harder to process the food, and this makes them stressed out and vulnerable to diseases. Fill half of the stomach with food, quarter with water, and the other quarter for gas.
- Eat processed food as little as possible.
- Eat only at certain times; do not snack between meal times. Fast from one meal time to another meal time.
- Cook food rarely (for vegetables) to preserve its nutrition and taste.
- Eat to live, not live to eat. Be humble in eating and choosing food.
- Drink warm water containing lemon extract and honey in the morning, to improve digestion health, give energy and clean up blood.
- Do not exercise asanas right after meals.
- Try to fast once a week. Fasting releases toxins, repairs organ mechanism in the body and gives the digestion organs time to rest.
- Always think of God, the provider of food and keeper of life. Think of God during meal times and be grateful for the food blessing, before and after meal.
( Pujiastuti Sindhu. 2008 )