One of the quickest ways to incorporate the eight limbs of yoga into your life is through your diet. While you may only get onto the mat a couple of times a week, most of us are eating three times a day (sometimes more, its a pitta dosha thing, you wouldn't understand!).
The three qualities of nature that the yogi seeks to identify and control in themselves – tamasic, rajasic and sattvic can also be found in food, and by eating a sattvic diet, the body is set up to function as optimally as possible.
A quick recap on the three qualities and how they relate to foods. Tamasic foods are ones which have the lowest energy associated with them. The guna of Tamas relates to inertia and depression, darkness and dullness of the mind and eating tamasic foods puts you into a state which promotes this way of being.
Tamasic foods include meat, poultry, fish, eggs, alcohol and other intoxicants including drugs. Foods that are over-processed, no longer fresh, and/or difficult to digest are Tamasic. They are kind of a no-no. Once you start in on a yogic path, you’ll find that you may naturally gravitate away from these food, and tend to seek out food that supports your energetic growth.
As a Rajasic nature is full of passion and reaction, it’s no surprise that rajasic foods are those which stimulate the body and encourage strong emotional qualities. Rajasic foods include spicy hot substances such as chilis, coffee and caffeinated drinks including tea, salt and (sorry chocoholics) chocolate. These foods are often used as fuel as rajasic body types rush around getting a millon things done in a flurry.
Eating on the run and cooking in a rush also can make foods more rajasic, and while a little rajasic energy doesn’t hurt, especially for yogis who are trying to keep a balance of their spiritual life with getting on with working, running after kids, getting in a few yoga classes and spending time with friends and loved ones, sometimes a little stimulation can be necessary. The trick here is to keep the balance, as is often the case when rajasic nature is kicked into gear, its hard to stop.
The optimum diet is a sattvic diet, and as with a sattvic life, these are foods that are full of harmony, and goodness. Sattvic means pure essence, so these are the foods that nourish a good mind, good health and longevity.
A sattvic diet calms the mind, and prepared one for meditation and pranayama. The Sattvic diet consists of light, soothing, easily digested food. Sattvic foods include sprouted whole grains, fresh fruit, land and sea vegetables, pure fruit juices, nut and seed milk and cheese, legumes, nuts, seeds, sprouted seeds, honey, and herb teas. Sattvic foods generally don’t agitate the stomach or the mind.
The journey to bright energetic health is not one that can be achieved overnight (which is a good thing right as that would be a very rajasic approach.) As tamasic and rajasic foods are replaced by sattvic ones, the change to energy levels will shift, and you will start to get your yogi on at a cellular level.
Dr Polly McGee is one part writer, and many parts assorted thinker, do-er, talker, eater, chef, explorer, yogi, kirtaneer and dog wrangler. She has worked in kitchens, bars and restaurants from frantic to fancy, managed multi-million dollar innovation grants programs, advised hundreds of start-ups on how to refine their business ideas and source funding, and championed causes from a variety of soapboxes, lecterns and stages. She is currently the Strategic Marketing Lead for Global Edtech Startup Prosper Education. Her new book, The Good Hustle, is coming out in February 2018