Balance in all things.
As I get more into my yoga training, I have become interested in yogic nutrition. Anyone who has gone to a yoga class with a full stomach will know (hint: very uncomfortable) your relationship with food is important to your yoga practice
As I began exploring yogic nutrition, I was inundated with myths surrounding food. Similar to the prevalence of information on nutrition and fad diets on the internet, the yoga community is full of food folklore. ‘don't use ice in your water’ ‘eat sattvic foods’ ‘only Himalayan salt’ ‘no caffeine’ ‘no alcohol’?!?!?! To compound the issues, there is no specific yogic diet mentioned in the classical texts like the Bhagavad Gita or Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra……..all this conflicting information just left me hungry and confused?
As I studied the history of yogic nutrition, I discovered the ancient Indian holistic mind-body health system called Ayurveda. Ayurveda is a ‘sister practice’ of yoga and developed at the same time during the Vedic period. Ayurveda is one of the four Upavedas or secondary Vedic teachings. Yoga, the Vedic system of spiritual practice, was meant to be used in conjunction with Ayurveda, the Vedic system of healing: Ayurveda provides the appropriate life-style recommendations for Yoga practice, Yoga provides the spiritual and psychological basis for Ayurveda.
In Ayurveda there is no one-fits-all diet and it purposes eating in accordance with your Dosha (Vata, Pitta, Kapha). In general Ayurveda is in line with the yogic principle of Ahimsa (non-harming or non-violence) and is generally vegetarian based yet it acknowledges exceptions for individual constitutions (if you feel you need meat in your diet or have a condition such as low iron then it purposes eating ethically sourced grass-fed meat or poultry). It also is based on seasonal and intuitive eating. Essentially there are no steadfast rules but rather guidelines such as eat fresh and locally sourced, eat all six tastes at every meal (sweet, sour, bitter, pungent, astringent), eat without distractions (no TV or computer while eating), lots of veggies and fruit (60% of daily intake), eliminate processed foods and high fructose and unhealthy oils, drink water, and most importantly, avoid extremes.
Essentially, it believes in balance in all things. In a world where there is processed food around every corner, where sugar is injected in to everything, where we live in a culture that socializes over a coffee or a pint, it can be hard to know how to make healthy nutritional choices while living a balanced life that is happy and fulfilled. The idea of a ‘balanced diet’ is nothing new, we hear the importance of it all the time in relation to nutrition. But, maybe what we need is not a balanced diet but a balancing diet. A diet that balances us in a holistic sense. A diet that will fill us socially as we enjoy a glass of wine with friends but that will also sustain us with vitamins, nutrients, and the energy to continue our yoga practice.
I don’t know what the right answer is. But as I sit here, drinking my coffee and eating my porridge, I can’t help but feel that there may just be something in the Ayurvedic nutritional principle of balance in all things.