Most of us are well versed in the idea of yoga and meditation as effective interventions for maintaining good health. However, how many of us have actually pondered on the role of diet in yoga and meditation practice? Just as many of us are consumed over perfecting our daily yoga practice, following a yoga diet can help quicken to achieve our health goals. In fact, following a proper diet is crucial to gaining desired results from a yoga practice.
But, there are several myths surrounding a proper yoga diet and the kind of foods that a yoga practitioner should consume. This article delves into such areas and provides diet tips for gaining the most out of one’s meditation and yoga sessions.
Food for thought!
Food is information for the body. What we eat affects our yoga and meditation practice in different ways. However, both yoga and meditation require energy and mental focus. So, by consuming balanced meals, we can optimize our mind and body for gainful yoga and meditation sessions. Furthermore, if you intend to practice rigorous asanas or meditate for longer durations, it’s imperative that your nutrition choices should be such that they keep you active and energized.
Also, it’s important to be satiated by consuming a nutritious meal. Otherwise, hunger pangs will distract you from concentrating your mind on meditation. Furthermore, consuming more tamasic foods or foods such as non-vegetarian foods, and stale and reheated foods can lead to toxin formation in our bodies. This can make us sluggish and tired, therein making yoga and meditation practice all the more difficult.
Now let us discuss yoga diet specifics pertaining to yoga asanas and meditation in some more detail.
Yoga diet in meditation
Its common knowledge that meditation works to lighten our mental load. This mental load can be stress, worry, anxiety, feelings of jealousy, anger, and other negative emotions. There have been many scientific studies and anecdotal shreds of evidence that suggest the role of meditation in curing negative emotive states. But, practicing and acing meditation requires focus. However, to sustain razor-sharp focus over extended periods, one needs to be energized and feel clear, fresh, and light. For instance, if you start your meditation practice after having a heavy meal, your body will use up the energy reserves in digesting the food and leave you with less energy to concentrate on meditation. This can leave you distracted and frustrated. In hindsight, our brains are made up of 60% fats. Hence, including healthy fats in the diet is vital for effective focus during meditative practices.
Your food choices are also largely dependent on the time of the day you choose to meditate. Fasting is important the previous night if you are hoping for a fruitful still morning meditation. As mentioned earlier when we eat, our metabolism gets fired up and expends energy in digesting the food. Moreover, what we eat the night before also affects our meditation practice. If our bowels are irritated it would be difficult to focus on meditation the morning after. Moreover, this can leave us with depleted energy for the actual meditation session. However, when we fast, our mind is in a relaxed state, quiet and still.
However, if you intend to meditate in the evening, then, choose to have meals at least two hours prior to your practice. This will ensure that the food is digested well and your body is in an idle and relaxed state.
Yoga diet for asana practice
Yoga asanas are of various types and kinds. However, every yoga practice requires energy and mental alertness during practice. Moreover, mental focus can prevent injuries during yoga sessions. Also, a light and agile body can allow for more purposeful and deeper asana practice. All these optimum states can be achieved by following a proper yoga diet.
Similar to meditation, a yoga practice should be performed on an empty stomach. Like meditation, meals should be consumed at least two hours prior to yoga. Also, if you intend to perform rigorous asanas, then have meals that are nutritive yet easily digestible so that you have optimum energy levels for your yoga workout.
Foods such as green leafy vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds along with whole grains are good choices and offer sustained energy levels. Plus, drink plenty of fluids like water and coconut water to replenish the electrolyte levels in your body.
Diet rules for effective yogic practice
Ayurveda has divided foods into three categories, namely – Tamasic (lethargic, slow), Rajasic (spicy, hot, fast), and Sattvic (harmony, purity).
Rajasic foods are bitter, hot, dry, or spicy and tend to overstimulate our senses while Tamasic foods, like alcohol and nonvegetarian foods, are heavy toxin-producing foods. They can make us sluggish and tired. Sattvic foods like fresh leafy vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds nourish the body and help us attain a peaceful and calm state of mind. Such a Sattvic diet is suitable for a yoga regimen. There is much more to a Saatvic diet which you can learn in detail by attending yoga teachers’ training courses at various places in India.
Your yoga diet should be from organic sources
As per Ayurveda, your yoga diet should be free of chemicals and stimulants. You must refrain from consuming caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, and artificial sweeteners and additives. Always try to buy organic produce and if possible try and cultivate your own small kitchen garden to source fresh veggies.
Follow a vegetarian diet
Animal protein is high in uric acid and toxins which get deposited in your joints and tissues. This can cause many ailments including cancer. Instead, choose to eat high-quality plant protein such as legumes and pulses.
Eat your meals two hours before yoga and sleep
As already explained above, eating meals two hours before yoga will help you to expend energy on performing the right postures rather than on digestion. The same rule applies when you sleep.
Observe weekly fasting
Give your digestive system a chance to reset by giving it some break. You can achieve this by fasting once a week. Choose to have plenty of water and fruit juices to keep you going. According to Ayurveda, fasting helps purify your body and mind and prepares you well for yoga and meditation practices.
A yoga diet plays an important role in getting the most out of yoga and meditation sessions. However, Ayurveda has a more personalized approach to diet and nutrition which is largely influenced by one’s constitution. Hence, it’s worthwhile to consult a trained Ayurvedic professional to decide on the dos and don’ts pertaining to a yogic diet plan.