Yoga has a host of health benefits when practiced regularly, but when accompanied with healthy food habits, it can do wonders. In fact, eating the right food is an essential part of living a yogic life. I often get asked about what diet yogis should follow. While basic nutrients and healthy food work for most, when we talk about food from a yogic perspective, there's a lot more at play. They say we are what we eat, because our diet not only influences our physical well-being but also our emotions and thoughts. Let me elaborate more here.
The 3 Types Of Foods As Per Ayurveda
When it comes to yoga-related diet, it does not dissect food the way other forms do - into proteins, carbohydrates, calories, fats, etc. Instead, it takes a deeper approach. It classifies them based on the way the food affects our minds. It's divided into three types or qualities - Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. All these three qualities are present in everything that we eat, but in different quantities. Thus, making one particular quality dominant and making that food fall under that category.
It is the kind that makes you feel light, energetic, and enthusiastic. It also plays a part in purifying your blood and calming your mind. You can find sattvic qualities in fresh fruits, green leafy veggies, nuts, grains, and fresh milk.
Foods that are dominated by the rajasic qualities stimulate the body and mind into action. However, when taken in excess, these foods can cause hyperactivity, restlessness, anger, irritability, and sleeplessness. Foods that fall under the rajasic category include spicy food, onion, garlic, tea, coffee, and fried food.
Foods of the tamasic kind are considered to make us feel lethargic, ignorant, lazy, and sluggish. Stale or reheated food, food that contains artificial preservatives, overripe or underripe fruits and vegetables, alcohol, and meat are considered to have the tamasic nature.
An ideal yogic diet is dominated with sattvic food as it gives you all the required nutrients and nourishment. Try and limit the intake of rajasic food, and avoid stale food, alcohol, etc.
The yogic diet also speaks of fasting at least twice a month to cleanse the body. You could opt for either of the two options. The first being, fasting the whole day while eating small portions of fruits and drinking milk at regular intervals. And the second involves fasting without eating anything until sunset (or until a specific time). It is not compulsory, but it has shown benefits. If you are just getting started, try fasting for a few hours initially and increase the duration gradually instead of jumping right into it. If you are diabetic or have any other underlying health condition, consult your doctor before opting to fast.
Following The Yogic Diet
Eating the right kind of food, in the right quantity and at the right time are all equally important. As over-eating may lead to lethargy while under-eating will deprive one of adequate nourishment. Ideally, yoga must be practiced early in the morning and on an empty stomach, but if that's not possible, keep a check on what you eat before and after your practice.
If you practice yoga a couple of hours after waking up or after work, it is important to give your body some energy. Eat easy to digest foods like oatmeal, yogurt, fruit smoothies, berries, dry fruits, and fresh fruits. Make sure that you have 1-2 hours gap between the meal and your session.
You may feel hungry after your practice but never eat immediately after yoga. Give your body about 30 minutes to re-acclimate itself. After that, you can opt for healthy food options like vegetable salad, steamed veggies, home-cooked soup, green tea, fresh fruit juice, etc. Also, remember to hydrate yourself before you eat anything.
Avoiding food two hours before you begin your exercise and two hours before you go to sleep helps the body function at its best capacity. This helps your body take its time to digest the food well and provides you with the energy you need to practice your asanas. This scheduling of meals also helps keep your mind clear before you sleep and ensures that the hormones produced at night are utilised to repair tissue damage instead of digestion.
You might be conscious of the quality and quantity of the food you eat, but if you are irregular with the timings, then all your efforts go to waste and the natural rhythm of the body is hampered. Therefore, it is of prime importance that you eat your meals at the same time every day and at regular intervals.
About The Author: Ms. Honey Thaker is the head nutritionist in Fitness Science & Nutrition, Purenutrition.me.
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