Yoga is not just an exercise, but a way of life. This includes a focus on compassion and harmony both toward the world around you and toward yourself. We already experience a hint of this by practicing yoga, and along with it the concentration required for many asanas. However, surrounding yoga is a whole philosophy about how to treat ourselves and the beings we share the planet with. There are practices associated with how we treat others, how we breathe, and even how we eat.
Nutrition is almost like mixing a magical potion that makes us healthy. The spiritual seekers of the Yogic traditions understood that food had a function, but that some foods were actually detrimental to our overall health and well-being. The key to eating healthy in a Yogic diet is to eat the right combinations of foods to maximize nutritional value, digestive ease, and energy production. They separated food into three categories:
- Satva - purer foods that energize the body naturally
- Raja - stimulating foods that have spices or caffeine
- Tama - fatty or stale foods, and more recently artificial foods such as sweeteners, white flour, and processed sugar
Sattvic foods are obviously preferable, causing followers of a Sattvic diet to be more mindful of what they eat. This leads to mindfulness while eating, a quality that is desirable in Yogic tradition. Eating slowly helps food digest more efficiently, and mindful eating also gives us more enjoyment from the food we eat by really engaging us in eating it. Even the preparation of the food becomes more mindful, as it is done with love and compassion toward everyone eating it, including the person making it.
Mindful eating also causes practitioners to be more mindful about where their food comes from. When food is heavily packaged or processed, it creates a lot of waste. Even organic food can contribute a carbon footprint when it has to be transported over long distances to reach a point of sale. Buying locally grown food significantly reduces the carbon footprint we leave by consuming it. All of that is about plant-based foods - meats require even more processing, because the livestock needs to be fed and creates waste of its own, leaving an even bigger carbon footprint!
There is still one more benefit from mindful eating and a Sattvic diet: the weight loss benefits. By eating mindfully, we become aware of how food affects our bodies and our day to day lives. We can become more aware of food cravings and as a result have more control over what foods we consume. This applies to how food affects us in different climates, as well - some foods make us feel sluggish in summertime heat but hits the spot in the chill of winter, and vice versa.
The following infographic is loaded with information on how to eat like a yogi, including what foods to avoid, what foods can be indulged in, and what eating habits are most beneficial. Yogis have been following these techniques for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Enjoy your own successes based on their knowledge by following the tips presented here!