“I live in a city. How am I supposed to follow a diet of a yogi?” Well, you do not have to go into the woods and live like a hermit to inculcate his food habits. You can very much live in the busiest, bustling city and have the food that keeps your body healthy and mind peaceful. The most disheartening thing to witness is people doing meditation and following a very unhealthy lifestyle.
Philosophy of Yoga and Food:
Many ardent followers of yoga are under a huge misconception that yoga is just about the asanas [postures] and meditation. Yoga is a philosophy, a way of life. It is an attitude to bring harmony first in your own life and with that enlightened harmony spread peace in the lives of others. Food is an integral part of yoga and has been elaborately covered in several ancient yoga texts. ‘Mitahar’ or food conducive to health for creating balance has been given special emphasis in ‘Hathyoga’ text study. From one food lover to another I will make it easier for you to follow the diet of a yogi.
The key is working gradually and growing firmer each day in your determination.
#1: Chew The Food:
You cannot just denounce the junk food and feel better about yourself. Many people abstain from their favorite food and bounce back badly. Results are they put on more weight than they actually lost. Parents keep telling their children to chew the food and themselves forget to enjoy the bite themselves. A dietician will study your body type and prescribe with an elaborate list of must-have food and must-have-not food. Unfortunately, not many of them address the habit of chewing the food properly. Just like breathing, chewing is self-taught. And just like yoga teaches you to breathe properly for meditation, it does teach you about chewing for better concentration while meditating and perfecting the postures.
Science on chewing:
When I was young, my grandfather used to make me chew my food 32 times. I asked him why he replied, “there’s a reason why God gave us 32 teeth.” Well, I couldn’t depend on God for my facts and had to research. Science says there are 4 types of teeth for cutting, tearing, and crushing the food. But, what we actually do is chew it a few times and simply swallow. What happens later is that your intestines have to do the chewing. This takes up a lot of energy and you end up feeling lethargic.
Even if you are late, chew the food. You will have to make it fast but make it a point that you crush the food thoroughly before swallowing. Almost 30% of the food digestion is triggered because of the saliva. Unless you keep the food in your mouth and chew it properly, the saliva will not get to play its part. The lesser your intestine has to chew; the more energetic you would feel. Feel every bite and crush it until it is almost liquid or semi-liquid. Avoid drinking water or any other beverage during your meals.
#2: Quantity of the Food:
Mastering the technique of chewing doesn’t mean that you are free to overeat. Also, filling your belly with too many fruits, salads or nuts doesn’t make you healthy either. Yoga and diet are about balance. It celebrates each body as it and encourages you to understand your better than anyone else [that includes your physician and even dietician]. Hathayoga Pradipika [an ancient text on the Hathayoga practices] suggests that your stomach should be filled half with food, a quarter with water and other quarter with air. This is an ideal quantity to eat food.
Science on Quantity:
If you think that you should be eating till the point when your body sends you a signal by burping, then you are wrong. According to several sages who practiced Yoga their whole life say that belching or burping is not a good sign. It simply means you have overeaten and your body cannot take it anymore. So, even if you claim to have chewed your food properly, overeating will push you into your lethargy zone. Also, if you have truly chewed your food, you will NEVER overeat.
You will have to do away with your attitude that you live to eat. Yoga and food say that you eat to live. This simply means that every morsel you hold to eat has to be seen with great divinity. You have to be first thankful that you get to eat the food which is a luxury for some. Secondly, you will have to develop an attitude that each bite you take is for the higher spirit that rests within you. The body which is simply a tool to reaching it has to be fed well with good food.
Let’s settle with these 2 techniques first. Only when you absorb them, only when they become an integral nature just like breathing, you can proceed further. There is no need to be harsh on yourself anymore. No more crash diets or painful abstinence from unhealthy food right away. Let us take baby steps together and accomplish smaller goals first to hit the bigger ones!