The animal world, for the most part, is a round of slaughter - the stronger or more cunning killing the weaker in order to survive, until they are devoured by an even mightier opponent. The difference with human beings is that we are endowed with intellect and free will and so possess the ability to side-step a portion of this cycle and live in harmony with other life forms rather than in contest with them. The law of karma, which may be summarized as for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, is inexorable, unrelenting and immutable. The pain that you inflict on others will rebound upon you, and the happiness you radiate to another will come back to you, adding to your own happiness. Annamaya kosha (the physical body) is made of food. Our whole life can be seen as the effect of the interaction of food and life, of matter and energy, which are respectively food and the eater of food. Food is converted into energy, and the energy is used from food. Food is the door to a healthier life. It helps keep us free of bodily problems so that the mind can concentrate and the spirit can grow.
In yoga philosophy, the mind is formed from the subtlest portion or essence of food. If the food taken is pure, the mind has the proper building materials for the development of a strong and subtle intellect and a good memory. A yogic diet is one that brings inner peace to the body and mind and encourages spiritual progress. All of nature, including our diet, is categorized into three qualities, or gunas: sattva (pure), rajas (over-stimulating) and tamas (putrefied). A person's mental make-up may be judged from the type of food he/she prefers to eat. Yogis believe not only that 'you are what you eat' but also that you eat those foods which reflect your own level of mental and spiritual purity. As your life changes in a positive way, you will also see your food preferences improving. The yogic diet is based on sattvic foods.
The foods which increase life, purity, strength, health, joy and cheerfulness, which are savoury and oleaginous, substantial and agreeable, are dear to the sattvic people.
Bhagavad G/fa, XVII, 8
Pure foods that increase vitality, energy, vigour, health and joy, that are delicious, wholesome, substantial and agreeable are sattvic. These foods render the mind pure and calm and generate equanimity, poise and peaceful tendencies. Sattvic foods supply maximum energy, increase strength and endurance, and help to eliminate fatigue even for those who do strenuous work. They promote a peaceful attitude and are conducive to the practice of meditation.
Foods should be as fresh and natural as possible, preferably organically grown, not genetically modified, and kept without preservatives or artificial flavourings. They should also be eaten in as natural a state as possible neither raw, steamed nor lightly cooked.
Grains such as corn, barley, wheat, unpolished rice, oats, millet and quinoa. Make sure you include in your diet coarse foods such as porridge and wholegrain breads. These are good for the teeth and jaws, and they stimulate the processes of digestion and elimination. Grains supply the necessary carbohydrates, the main source of energy for the body, and they also contain about half the amino acids that are needed to form protein.
Protein foods such as pulses, nuts and seeds. Proteins are the 'building blocks' of the body. The key to a healthy vegetarian diet is to eat a good mixture of foods to ensure that it includes all the amino acids essential for making proteins.
Fruits, both fresh and dried, as well as pure fruit juices. Among the many different foods, fruits have foremost in importance in the yoga diet. The curative effects of fresh, juicy fruits are astonishing. They fill the body with vitalizing, life-giving minerals, vitamins and fiber. They contain alkaline matter that helps to keep the blood pure. Vegetables, these are important in the diet because they contain a host of minerals, vitamins and fiber. The diet should include seeded vegetables (such as cucumbers and squashes), all leafy vegetables, and roots or tubers. These are best eaten raw or cooked a lightly as possible.
Herbs for seasoning and herbal teas.
Natural sweeteners, such as honey and molasses, maple syrup and apple juice concentrate. These are much better for you than processes sugar. Raw cane sugar is a traditional part of the yoga diet in India, where, known as jaggery, it comes directly from the cane and is not processed. White sugar is best avoided.
Dairy products such as milk, butter, cheese and yoghurt. Traditionally these are an essential part of the yoga diet. However, modern dairy practice abuses animals, filling their milk with hormones and antibiotics. Even if you choose to use dairy products, we recommend that you do so in moderation. They tend to intensify the production of mucus, which interferes with the natural flow of breath.