When we think of yoga, we generally envision a room full of multicolored yoga mats and people inverted in downward facing dog pose, but we rarely think of what yogis eat.Â
Yoga from the ancient Vedas, is translated as "union." It is derived from the Sanskrit root "yuj" (pronounced "yug"). It means "to join" and also "to control."
And yoga has a sister component to it . . . one that goes beyond the way the body bends and discusses the way the body is nourished. The yoga based diet is Ayurveda. Ayurveda is the Vedic healing science and is regarded as the medicinal knowledge of ancient times. It is translated as life science or knowledge from Sanskrit. Yoga and Ayurveda are not separate by any means, but actually related healing disciplines. While each has its unique place and function, they both overlap immensely.
You see, to be a true yogi, it would be critical to treat your body, the one that allows you to perform your physical practice and allow the mind to center, with an in-tune Ayurvedic diet.
And to allow your body to perform at it's peak, even with an Ayurvedic diet, practicing the spiritual and physical practice of yoga can make you feel whole. According to Ayurveda, these are helpful ways you can achieve optimal health when it comes to your diet:
1. Choose foods according to your body type or imbalances Ayurvedic practitioners recommend tailoring your diet year-round to your constitution and your imbalances. This is particularly true during cleansing to help regulate your digestive fire (called agni). The Ayurvedic constitutions, or doshas, are vata, pitta, and kapha.
2. What to favor when choosing what to eat:
- Favor vegetarian foods that are light, warm, cooked and easily digestible. Cooked leafy greens are great! organic vegetables cooked with spices such as turmeric, cumin or digestive aids like ginger are ideal.
- Freshly-made flatbreads and freshly-made grains such as quinoa are great.
- Freshly-made light soups and dhals (lentils) such as mung dhal is said to pacify all three doshas and is super nutritious and easy to digest.
- Drink plenty of hot/warm water through the day since it helps flush toxins out of the body when you urinate.
Dr. Trupti Gokani, board certified neurologist and Ayurvedic practitioner teaches us to remember to include all 6 tastes. Taste is the sensation the tongue experiences when you eat. Dr. Gokani goes on to say, Having diverse tastes in your meals helps to satisfy cravings and prevents overeating. Although we spend a lot of time evaluating the carbohydrate, fat and protein content of our food, we rarely think about the variety of taste of the foods we eat. Ayurveda recognizes six tastes sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent.
3. Avoid Ama-producing foods In Ayurveda, ama is the byproduct of incomplete digestion. Ama represents sticky toxic matter that can clog the channels of your body. These channels are what carry nutrients to the cells and eliminate waste out of the body. Since cleansing is done to clear ama out of the body, you'll want to stay away from foods that build more ama in the body.
Here's what Ayurveda suggests to avoid:
- Don't eat leftovers. From the Ayurvedic perspective, leftovers, "dead" foods such as processed, packaged, canned and frozen foods all create ama because they are much harder for your body to digest.
- Non-organic foods genetically modified foods and foods grown with chemicals, pesticides and chemical fertilizers or foods with chemical additives tend to introduce toxins into your body and are said to be confusing for your digestive system's inner intelligence, so therefore, should be avoided.
- Heavy dairy products create ama so avoid aged hard cheese, foods that are deep-fried or oily, too many raw foods, heavy desserts, and foods that contain refined sugar, yeasted breads, dry breads and fermented foods.