September 14, 2013

What is a Yogi Diet?

What exactly is the ideal Yogi Diet that we ought to follow?

This is the question I get repeatedly from students. So I decided to share the principles of cooking and eating, as well as the Yogic values that guide my own path.

I feel each and everyone has the responsibility to gradually decide what is the Yogi Diet that suits best for oneself.

From an Ayurvedic cooking perspective, good health = good digestion/elimination,  and this pretty much symbolizes the very personal/private story that eating habits are. Hence, a one-to-one negotiation with our body, mind and soul.

In Ayurveda (the millenary science of life based from the Indian Vedas), the human being is studied through a psycho-somatic approach (psychologically, physically, biologically, environmentally, socially….) relating to a holistic approach of one’s quality of life.

So basically, this translate to a uniqueness in eating habits, and this is an essential point in understanding what is the ideal Yogi Diet. It is only each of us that can determine what feels good, better and best to eat. What feels lighter and more energized, what brings more happiness, peace and clarity, and pumps up the best spirit in our lives.

After living in a Bhakti Yoga Ashram in New York City under the guidance of Divya Alter, my Ayurvedic cooking Teacher, I discovered the purity of veganism and all the tips that make cooking easier. As I transitioned to Paris, I was able to have my own Yogi Diet toolbox with all the practical ways to incorporate pure Saatvic (discussed further down) cooking and eating principles in my life.

First and foremost, it is key to understand that food is a great source for our bodies’ Prana (vital energy). Basically in everything that we eat there is a certain level of energies, be it Pranic or :

Saatvic: Intelligent foods. The purest of all, fully Pranic and includes foods in its most natural state. They could be raw (cooked thermally at temperatures below 42 degrees C) or cooked in a way that does not make them loose their Saatvic qualities.

Rajasic: Dumb foods. Foods that were saatvic but have been frozen or improperly cooked and have lost all of its Prana.

Tamasic: Dead foods. Processed or frozen foods that have lost all of its Prana; these usually include all fast foods, canned, or just anything industrially processed. Dead foods are charged with carbohydrates, sugars, salts and/or chemical substances that we would never eat if they weren’t mixed within that food. So basically is like putting poison to our bodies. For instance, a person can be overfed having no Prana or nutrients and eventually developing biological dysfunctions.

Secondly, as we continue experimenting and finding our own Yogic Diet, it is important to be educated on issues about where our food is coming from. What does food labeling relate to?  What social, environmental and ethical impact do our food choices have in our planet and our society?

Here is were controversial labeling like “organic” comes into play. What does organic food really means? Organic food is defined differently around the world, but the overall definition relates foods that are free of chemicals (fertilizers and pesticides) and that have not been genetically modified. Eating organically-labeled food does not assure that we are eating Saatvic food, or environmentally and socially ethical foods. What if we are eating frozen organic kiwis in Paris brought from New Zealand?

In this scenario we are able to decide the degree of integrity of our Yogi Diet. What are the list of priorities we have? Is it eating organic foods that have been flown over the globe, or rather a locally grown fresh vegetables bought from the farmer’s market if available? The choices are limitless, so finding the most suitable Diet is as big a commitment as our daily Yoga practice.

The powerful food corporations have been able to manipulate the media, while shaping our food culture, and unfortunately, in a negative way. An average Yoga practitioner has a notion of healthy eating that might go in the direction of “Ahimsa”—the first Yama of Patanjali’s Eight Fold Path referring to non violence, to eating foods that are not violent with our planet—applicable between humans, plants, animals and especially to ourselves: the way we eat, the way we come to know ourselves, to observe our actions and reflect our personality to others, the way we live, the way we educate our senses, the way we evolve as the needs of our planet change.

Unfortunately, an average person conceives healthy eating, for example, as a processed ready-to-eat food that is labelled organic. These are clear examples of today’s healthy eating confusions.

Thirdly, if we don’t cook for ourselves, we are distancing ourselves away from our food processes, which means that someone else is manipulating what we are putting in our sacred bodies. So a “must do” task is to cook. To cook consciously, naturally and happily delicious with tons of love, to the degree were we are able to maintain the balance of our day to day lives.

Fourthly, explore the spice world. There are dozens of amazing spices that are able to balance our digestive system, function for detox, anti-inflammatory and generallt aid the health of our internal organs. Some of these include turmeric, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, kalonji seeds,  cinnamon, cumin, cardamom, cloves…just to mention a few.They are Saatvic in nature, especially as they balance our bodily composition.

Fifth, we should try to add a splash of fresh lime to all of our meals and end with fresh herbs (coriander, mint, dill, parsley….) to revitalize all the nutrients.

Finally, of course, be creative and have fun in the kitchen! The fruit and vegetable world has an unlimited universe of colors, flavors, aromas, tastes and textures to discover, especially as it evolves with seasonal changes and truly organically grown produce.

As I evolve in my Yogic path and continue to gradually define my own Yogi Diet, I feel that healthy cooking is essential to any yoga practitioner’s holistic wellbeing. Eating healthfully and cooking naturally inspires a conscious connection between all food processes and one’s own body, mind and soul. It is indeed a lifetime practice…

Personally, as I continue to shape my Yogic Diet, my body feels happier and healthier, with a greater vitality and comfort. I am able to wake up naturally very early in the morning feeling Saatvic qualities to begin my morning yoga practice. I sleep deeply and maintain a balanced process of elimination. Life feels fresher as the my mind becomes clearer and my heart embraces love.

Through my years of conscious cooking and healthfully eating my mind is able to identify what the body really needs. And this has gradually evolved over the past ten years to a balanced vegetarian diet.

I don’t want to touch upon the Ahimsa or any moral values, as again, I feel it is something very personal that guides the integrity of our own lives. I have nothing against animal protein based diets, but through my personal Ayurvedic journey I have explored, discovered and experimented cooking with a exquisite world of fresh produce; I have intuitively defined a Saatvic Yogic diet that fully suits my bodily constitution, mind and soul.

As Yoga inspires finding the balance in our lives, I feel that our Yogic Diet should never ought to become extremist or dogmatic, but rather to bring more freedom to our lives.


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Ed: Sara Crolick

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