Several scientists, psychologists, and researchers are working to establish Yoga as a science for holistic well-being. It is needless to say that food has a direct impact on a person’s physical health. In concurrence with the nature of empirical sciences, tests are being conducted to establish the connection between food and mental health. While the adventurists can continue to explore in this area, there have been Rishis (sages) and Maharishis (great sages) who lived and proved the connect. One such Hath Yoga Practitioner Swami Swatmarama has organized and elucidated just on food.
Which Food is the Right Food?
Several ancient yoga texts emphasize on having the right food in right proportion. Now the question is which food is right and which one is wrong? Well, the answer is simple. Be your own Guru! You can be guided by your physicians and dieticians or some Instagram celebrity who vouches for a diet. But, if you carefully listen to your body it will give you the chart. In the meantime, you can refer to what Swami Muktibodhananda has explained in her book Hath Yoga Pradipika (as guided by Swami Swatmarama):
1) Accept Your Uniqueness:
First thing, you need to keep in mind is that each human possesses distinct body type and mental disposition. You need to be patient and accept your body. It is with acceptance you show your willingness to grow. What turns out to be an excellent fat burner recipe for your neighbor might be toxic for you. Hence, you need to first IDENTIFY and then ACCEPT as you are.
2) Welcome the Change:
Don’t just stop at acceptance and be proud of who you are. You need to be soft and analytical about yourself. Take measures to eliminate the toxins that you have been hoarding in your body without any rent. Identify the habits which are easier to let go and begin with them. It sends ‘feel good’ signals to your brain and you automatically gear up for more such changes.
3) Vegetarian or Non – Vegetarian?
The topic whether to consume vegetarian or not to give up on the non-vegetarianism will always be debatable. There have been Indian Maharishis and even Western Philosophers who insisted on VEGETARIANISM. But, there have been rationalist philosophers and great Yoga Practitioners who would consume meat when offered. To reiterate, it will always be a personal choice and it should be that way always.
A significant factor that controls what you eat is the geography. The Yoga texts like ‘Hatha Yoga Pradipika’ by Swami Muktibodhananda might more or less prescribe you with an elaborate list of foods that are allowed and disallowed. But, you need to be practical and incorporate fresh and local produce has also been mentioned. One cannot possibly think of sustaining the body without nourishing it in the right way.
On the same lines of geography goes the climate. You should learn about the seasonal vegetables and fruits that are available at your place. This will help you to pick food that will actually nourish your body and keep you healthy. The times we are living in currently, makes it tougher to get hold of organic food. Invest some time in finding the bio markets. If possible, plant herbs and try to cook food at home.
6) Mitahara [Conducive Food]:
Hatha Yoga Pradipika has enumerated with great clarity about the food items that are conducive and prohibited for the yoga practitioners. ‘MITAHARA’ helps in eliminating the toxins and reinstate the balance in the body. The primary reason food is discussed in detail is to gain good control over not just the body but also the mind. In order to be capable of attaining the asanas [postures] and dhyana [concentration], one needs to have rock solid determination. And, this mental state can be achieved with the right food.
7) Cheat Codes:
It is very HUMAN to give into the TEMPTATION. And honestly, there is nothing to feel guilty about it. In fact, one should take it as a lesson and move ahead. You can give in to your temptations or else the body my throw certain reactions like the same of an addict. However, stay focused and cheat only in limited amounts. Compensate by doing something that will make you happy [certainly not eating more]! As you discipline your mind, you can overcome the habit of deviating from your healthy lifestyle.
Things that have been listed in the ancient texts might be practically impossible to follow in this century. It also depends on the availability and accessibility of such food items. The key here is to work gradually and grow firmly each day with your determination. You will have to make amends in the list as per the availability of vegetables and fruits in your neighborhood. So, stay strong and start making a list of the fruits and veggies that are organic and available to you easily.