(AS EXPLAINED BY SWAMI SIVANANDA)
THE YOGA DIET
We are constantly bombarded with stimuli, and these make up the diet of our lifestyle. From the food we eat, the air we breathe, the things we see, feel, hear and touch, our environment is formed and this in turn profoundly influences and shapes our internal environment. We are what we eat literally, for the mind is constructed out of the subtlest parts of our diet and the body from the rest. To achieve the goal of life, to find contentment and perfection requires a peaceful and focused mind. To control the mind is difficult since it is in reality very much under the control of our physical body. It is therefore suggested that we first discipline and control the physical body and the mind bay be easily controlled. Diet plays an important part in this process." Swami Sivananda.
The 'proper' yoga diet is traditionally a lacto-vegetarian one, consisting of grains, pulses, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and dairy products. As well as being simple, natural and wholesome, this diet takes into account the subtle effect of food has on the mind and the prana. There are a number of reasons to follow a vegetarian diet: physical, spiritual, psychological, moral and macro-economic.
PHYSICAL REASONS FOR A VEGETARIAN DIET
Modern medical science has acknowledged that the high cholesterol, uric acid, additives and preservatives contained in meat all contribute to a multitude of diseases. A mainly meat diet has been found to be a major contributor to such problems as high blood pressure, heart attacks, hardening of the arteries, arthritis and gout. Excess uric acid lodged in the joints contributes to arthritis, while arteries clogged with cholesterol and other fatty acid deposits decreases the flow of blood to the brain, contributing to senility and raised blood pressure. An article in The American Medical Journal states that "a vegetarian diet can prevent 90% of our thromboembolic disease and 97% of or coronary occlusions". Other diseases associated with consumption of meat are: strokes, constipation, cancer, arthritis, high blood pressure, allergies, migraine, headaches, ulcers, bad body odour, intestinal gases, kidney stones, hiatus hernia, gallstones, hypoglycaemia, diverticulosis, osteoporosis, kidney diseases, asthma and thrichinosis.
These health risks are compounded by the meat business being run like a factory, with cattle seen only as so much saleable poundage. While on the hoof, animals are filled with mega-doses of antibiotics to prevent illness (and loss of profits) and are fed food high in pesticides. Tranquillizers are administered to prevent the animals from moving about excessively thereby developing their muscles. Much of the residue of these substances are left in the cells of the animals and consequently enter the system of those who eat the animal. Some physicians worry that humans who eat meat will develop an immunity to drugs contained within the meat and consequently may not be able to be treated effectively with antibiotics if they develop a severe illness. Similarly, those who eat meat absorb the hormones of fear and panic that are secreted by the animal just before it is slaughtered. The animals eaten in the West are all vegetarian animals. They eat plants which have absorbed the energy of the sun and nutrients from the earth to produce foods that contain the amino-acids necessary to create protein. Meat eaters therefore take in second-hand protein, while vegetarians directly eat the foods (plants) that create protein and avoid the undesirable elements of meat. Perhaps the realization that all energy originates from the sun is instinctive and there is an understanding that the closer our food is to the source the more potent the energy it contains. This may be why even the most dedicated meat-eaters in the West will shy away from eating a carnivorous animal, such as a cat or a dog. Animal protein is not necessary for good health; there are many other sources of protein, such as pulses, nuts and seeds, as well as vegetable sources of carbohydrates, fats, fiber, vitamins and minerals and of all the nutrients that we strive to access in our food.