The main point I wanted to make clear by creating the hathametta website and blog is of course, that yoga is much more than just exercises; yoga is a complete life science, yoga is a guide to living a happy and healthy life, yoga is a lifestyle.
The yoga lifestyle can cure disease, the yoga lifestyle maintains perfect physical and mental health.
Swami Sivananda taught about the yoga lifestyle by breaking it down into 5 main areas to perfect, also known as the 5 points of yoga. These are;
- right diet
- right exercise
- right breathing
- right relaxation
- right meditation
The ultimate goal of yoga is self-realisation, which occurs through meditation. Each of the other four points of yoga (right diet, exercise, breathing, relaxation) when done well create the optimal conditions for meditation. Each one of the four is of equal importance, eating a yogic diet will yield as much benefit as performing hours of asana every day - and it requires as much effort!
What is the right diet for the sadhaka (yoga practitioner?
We all know on an intellectual level that we are what we eat. The human body is made of billions of cells that are constantly regenerating, and the food we eat is broken down by the intestine into the building blocks, the molecules, used to rebuild the cells. The atoms of the food are assimilated into the atoms of the body.
The other important fact which will help us understand the importance of eating well is that all matter is composed of nothing more than vibrations. For example, the potato is made of starch. The starch molecule is made of carbon and hydrogen atoms. The atoms are constructs of electrons, negatively charged entities, orbitting positively charged protons with empty space inbetween. So the potato, like all things, is given a structure by the movement of negative forces in relation to positive forces - it is nothing but vibrations!
Everything that exists is made up of the three essential frequencies of vibrations, or the three gunas; these are sattva, rajas, and tamas. Sattvic vibrations are balanced, conferring the properties of harmony, calm and purity. Rajistic vibrations are unbalanced towards over-activity, conferring too much movement, too much vibrancy, too much heat that is unsustainable. Tamastic vibrations are unbalanced towards under-activity, conferring intertia, dullness, too much cold.
The yogic lifestyle is designed to balance the three gunas, creating a sattvic dominant vibration of body and mind. When the body and mind is full of sattvic energy, we will achieve success in meditation.
The Sattvic Diet
The Sattvic diet consists of avoiding foods that are full of rajistic or tamastic dominant vibrations and eating foods full of sattvic energy.
How can we work out the dominant nature of a food?
Consider two things about the food: how did it get to your plate? (the before), what effects will it have of the body if you eat it? (the after).
The Before Effects: What has happened to the food before we ate it?
The vibrations the food carries depend on what has happened to it on its journey to our plate. As I explained in my previous blog post, ahimsa (non-harming) is the essence of yoga. If the food has been obtained through casuing harm to other beings it carries a negative energy. For example, meat which is obtained by killing animals, dairy products from animals which have been treated cruely, plant crops cultivated by exlpoited workers, or involving the use of harmful pesticides carry a negative vibration.
Foods conferring a sattvic dominant energy are foods grown in direct sunlight, food that has been cultivated naturally and simply and without causing harm to other living beings, prepared with love and eaten fresh.
The After Effects: what will happen to the body and mind if you eat this food?
Cravings develop - for successful meditation we need a concentrated mind which is free from cravings and addictions. Alcohol, caffiene, sugary and fatty foods, salty and very flavoursome foods like spices, onions and garlic, generate intense pleasure in the brain, which leads to cravings and addictions which imprison the mind. These foods should be avoided.
Hyperactivity - stimulants like caffiene and sugar make us aggitated and hyperactive, preventing focus and consistency, leading to burnout eg. 'sugar crash', 'carb coma', 'caffiene withdrawal'. These foods are rajistic doninant, inbalanced towards overactivity.
Sluggishness - foods which are tamastic dominant make us feel sluggish, sleepy, heavy, slow down our digestive transit and the elimination of toxins. Such foods are solid proteins like meat and hard cheeses, large carby meals, food that has been cooked left to cool then reheated, stale food. For example, bread, cakes and buiscuits. Long-life food like pickled, canned or frozen things, reheated left overs.
Why is meat especially detrimental to our wellbeing?
There are several reasons.
1. Meat (including fish) is obtained through killing, extreme harm, which fills the food with negative vibrations and can carry bad karma onto you.
2. Meat is tamastic. It slows our digestion. Protein takes much longer to break down than vegetables. It sits in the intestine, delaying the elimination if toxins which can result in bowel cancer and many other physical diseases.
3. The meat industry is the number one emitter of green house gases. It is incredibly harmful to the environment.
4. It causes emotional distress. The meat is filled with the vibations of the animal. As the animal was killed, the flesh becomes filled with fear and pain. Also, animals, as lower incarnations, do not understand the world as we do. They are more full of fear and have a lower level of awareness compared to humans. This is the energy you bring unto yourself by eating meat. I know many people suffering with anxiety and depressive disorders who have greatly improved their mental health by stopping meat eating.
What about eggs?
In yogic terms, egg is meat because it may contain a chicken life. Even if the egg doesnt contain a chicken life, it still contains the vibrations of the chicken. Chickens are silly creatures - they are afraid all the time. If you approach a chicken in a coop it clucks with fear! This fear is stored in the egg. I used to eat egg, but I found I could not meditate well afterwards! My mind was fickle and distracted like a chicken.
This seems complicated! How can I transform my diet into a more sattvic diet?
Unfortunately, the western diet has grown furthur and furthur from the sattvic ideal since intensive farming and an agressive processed food industry grew in dominance since the second world war.
The western diet is highly detrimental to our progress. High in intensively, inorganically grown crops which are then industrially processed, packaged, frozen, transported, reheated. Many people eat alot of meat and dairy products, even every day, that has been produced through the industrual exploitation of miserable animals and polluted land. We drink alcohol to relax us, and coffee to perk us back up. Many people are addicted to fatty sugary junk foods. Often, little love care and attention goes into the food we eat as we purchase factory made ready meals and take aways. People rarely know the journey the food has taken before it arrives on their plate. How can we know the 'before effects?'.
So switching to the sattvic diet is not easy!
Some suggestions for making a start...
1. Cut out or cut down on one thing at a time. Meat, processed foods (including bread, chocolate, ready meals etc), alcohol will have a hugely positive effect straight away. Try cutting it out, just for a week, with no expectation to continue, and see how you feel.
2. Choose organic. A simple way to make sure the food is filled with a better vibration - less harm to the environment guaranteed, better treated animals guaranteed.
3. Prepare more food yourself. Food doesnt have to be fancy. You don't need to be a chef. If you can boil rice and steam veg you can handle this.
4. Practice asana, meditation, right breathing and relaxation.
Each of the five points of yoga support progress in the others. By practicing, cravings for unhealthy things and lack of motivation to change will be overcome and a sattvic life comes automatically. Remember - yoga is 1% theory and 99% practice. Practice and all is coming.
Just like setting ourselves any challenge, we should be gentle with ourselves. We are all full of cravings and habits. They cannot be removed over night. If you decide to become a vegetarian or quit ready meals and one night find yourself in mac donalds with a cheese burger 😂 its OK! Just forget it ever happened and keep on trying.
Feel free to comment or write to me with any questions about the Sattvic diet or correct any errors from your point of view.
With metta ❤️❤️