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Importance of Sattvic Diet for Yoga
By Vaishali Shah
The word Sattvic is derived from the Sanskrit word Sattva which means
pure, essence, nature, vital, energy, clean, conscious, strong, courage, true,
honest, wise, rudiment of life." Sattvic diet emphasizes food and eating
habits which promote, maintain or restore a sattvic state of living. It is
pertinent to remember that the food we consume falls under any one of the
three categories namely Sattvic, Tamasic and Rajasic. Food and drinks that
have a destructive influence on the mind and body are classified as Tamasic
while those foods that neither lead to better health nor prove to be
destructive fall under Rajasic.
References in Historic Literature
Yoga literature that can be traced back to the medieval era raises the concept
of moderation in eating. The best diet is one which is tasty, satisfying,
nutritious and adequate to meet the needs of the body. Hatha Yoga
Pradipika suggests that one must “eat only when one feels hungry” and
“neither overeat nor eat to completely fill the capacity of one’s stomach;
rather leave a quarter portion empty and fill three quarters with quality food
and fresh water”. Further one interested in yogic practices should avoid
foods with excessive amounts of sourness, salt, bitterness, oil, spices, unripe
vegetables, fermented foods or alcohol. The old literatures also stresses that
those in Satttva state prefer foods that are life giving, nourishing, and
purifying one’s existence at the same time conferring strength, happiness
and health. The goal of Yoga is controlling the mind and calming the senses.
A sattvic diet aids in achieving this goal easily. “By the purity of food one
becomes purified in his inner nature; by the purification of his inner nature
he verily gets memory of the Self; and by the attainment of the memory of
the Self, all ties and attachments are severed."
A Sattvic diet
Hence a Sattvic diet is also known as Yogic diet. This includes seasonal
foods, fruits, dairy products, nuts, seeds, oils, ripe vegetables, legumes, whole
grains, and non-meat based proteins. Seasonal foods, fresh and naturally
sourced, well prepared and freshly cooked are recommended. Moderation is
the key in Yoga. Vegetarian food procured without harming other living
creatures is hence recommended. All the six flavors are important and are
preferably present in the Sattvic diet as each is vital for sustenance. Today
doctors and dieticians recommend that the food pyramid be followed with a
wholesome diet that can provide nutrition from all quarters, carbohydrates,
proteins, minerals and vitamins. They also advise that a diet that is
vegetarian certainly helps in reducing many lifestyle diseases which was
advocated by our ancient seers.
It is not what we eat alone that matters but how we eat too contributes to
our well being. Eating should not be a rushed, matter of fact chore to be over
and done with. The act of eating itself is an offering to the divinity that is
there within each one. Sattvic diet is light, easy on the stomach, refreshing
and does not contribute to mental agitations. When prepared and served
with love, it creates harmony and balance in the human body.
Swami Sivananda sums up beautifully when he says, “Evolution is better than
revolution. You should not make sudden changes in anything, particularly so
in matters pertaining to food and drink. Let the change be slow and gradual.
The system should accommodate it without any trouble.”