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Inflexible Body vs. Inflexible Mind

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body-pain1-400x232It is a fact, yoga increases your flexibility, I have seen this many times in my classes, someone walks in as stiff as an iron board, but after just a few months of practice there is a marked increase in flexibility. But is it just the yoga asana affecting the physical body or are there more behind this sudden change in the body?

Sure, it will be fruitless to deny the effect of yoga on the physical body, but I also belief that there is the hidden, unseen part of yoga that affects the body. We all have heard about the Mind-Body connection and especially in alternative medicine this plays a big role. The mind – what we think and feel – affects the health and well-being of the body. My classes are designed to include a little talk on a topic before the class starts, yoga for the mind I like to think of it. I repeat many topics over and over – we need to hear something eight times before it sinks in!

My talks can lead the yogi who listens intently to discover themselves, it can open the mind and eyes to an unseen world where they start to realise I am not only what I eat, but also what I think. And as they learn to explore their minds and start to question certain patterns, aspects and ideas they hold, the body starts to follow slowly but surely. My teacher, Sri Durga used to say: “As above so below, as within so without, the body follows the mind.”

Normal Muscle Pain

Muscle pain after exercises is commonly known as DOMS and it said to be brought about by microdamage in our muscle fibres. Years ago it was thought to have been related to lactic acid but we now know that this is most likely not the case. Microdamage is caused when we contract our muscles and the total stress on the muscles is greater than its capacity. In other words, we make a movement and our muscles are not yet strong enough to support the movement fully. With the strain we get microtears in our fibres, causing small amounts of inflammation and other signs of damage. This is one side of the coin.

Feel Good vs. Feel Bad

The other side of the coin is that yoga changes our psychology, physiology as well as our mind. In the 8 years that I am teaching yoga, I have heard it many times from my yogis the week after a particularly challenging asana session: I was very stiff, couldn’t get out of bed, but it is was a good one! Or, I can feel it when I skip a week of yoga. For me this is an indication of a body and mind that has started to interact, work together and react on the input of yoga. As the mind is challenged in the class by the talks, sub-consciously people start to adjust, adapt and accommodate different ideas, views and thoughts, so the body starts to follow in its flexibility.

However, I have also heard it many times when a yogi complains about not feeling well after a yoga class, or they feel that after a period of great progress they suddenly stagnate of feel that their bodies don’t react well to the yoga. They complain about a general feel of soreness and stiffness and as a teacher I immediately look to myself and my teaching for doing something wrong. And in the beginning of teaching I thought I was doing something wrong.

But I soon realise we react to more than just yoga. The death of a parent or friend can affect our mind in such a way that we carry that sadness in our muscles. Or a job loss or change can place undue stress on a body which may cause it to read danger in the situation and react to the stress and the only way is the fight or flight response, which cause the mind to narrow its thinking and the body to tense, getting ready to respond to the “danger” in our lives. Children, marriage, money etc. elicit such emotional reactions from us that they unfortunately do affect the flexibility of the mind and the body. If we refuse to see our part in the problem, or if we feel powerless to change an unhappy union (or don’t want to change it) it all translates eventually to an inflexible body, stiff and inflamed muscles and a body that is less responsive as the mind gets more stuck in a rut.

Flip the Switch

The mind is located in all parts of the body. From the top of our head to tip of our little toe, the brain/mind pretty much runs the show. Science had found there are brain cells located everywhere in the body. So it begs the question: Can a stiff and inflexible body mean a stiff and inflexible mind? I think so. I think our bodies tell us all the time what is going on in the dark, back rooms of our mind. It may not be obvious, but here is an exercise you can do whenever you come up against some physical resistance that may also help you clear mental and emotional “stiffness” as well.

If you practice yoga, start doing some of your poses. If you don’t currently practice yoga, just slowly stretch your body in all directions. Move your limbs, your back, your neck, bend forward, backward and side to side. When you feel resistance, imagine that there is also a thought pattern or mindset that is rigid and unmoving. Breathe into that part of your body and see if some new insights come to your mind, as well. Spend a little time there just breathing and feeling the resistance melt away. Keep moving into other areas and breathing as you encounter resistance. You might even find that some emotions start to surface. Listen to your mind talk and see what it is saying. Are you talking to yourself nicely and in an encouraging way or are you being critical or telling yourself that you can’t do this? Use this as an opportunity to release negative mind chatter as well as your tight muscles.

As you open and free your muscles to a greater range of motion, imagine that your mind is also opening to new thoughts and ways of being. Expand your range of motion physically, psychically and mentally and watch your life open to new levels of insight and joy.

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Yoga for Your Dosha

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Yoga is about purification of the physical as well as the emotiona, mental and spiritual bodies and once the transformation starts to happen and take affect, many yogis start to search for alternative ways other than the allopathic medicine to treat their illnesses, dis-eases and disorders. Many look to homoeopathy and soon change from an allopathic doctor to a homoeopathic doctor and soon, in my experience, many of my yogis are looking for more in order to fascilitate their self-healing and so enter Ayurveda as a natural option.

Because Ayurveda is more than just medicines and treatments, you have to take aspects such as diet, lifestyle and exercise into consideration. This article specifically looks at the role of yoga asana as part of the the whole treatment of your body and how you can incorporate yoga in your home practice to treat certain health concerns. As for teachers reading this, I trust that it might give you insight into the issues and concerns of some of your students and open new avenues at looking at your classes and sequences.

As this article is about yoga asana, I will leave it to each reader to familiarise yourself with the doshas before you continue reading further as understanding of this article requires an understanding of the doshas. A good and easily understandable source of information for the beginners to Ayurveda is the first book in my bibliography at the end of the article and you can read here more about this book. Please note that I by no means also claim that what I am giving here is the be all and end all of asanas for the doshas, in fact I am sure many of you will come up with more, this article serves as an introduction to weth the appetite for more information and further reading.

Asanas for Vata

Vata predominant individuals should remember to focus on calming, grounding, stillness, strengthening, and balancing while doing their practice.

 Precautions for vata:

  • Vinyasa or flow styles of yoga tend to move too quickly from one pose to the next and can aggravate the hyper-mobile quality of vata over time. Flow sequences can be made to be more vata pacifying if they are not excessively long, the length of time poses are held is extended, and transitions are done slowly and consciously.
  • Those with lower back problems may find that bending the knees in standing forward bends can prevent discomfort.
  • Back bends should be done slowly, carefully and within one’s own limits.

 Vata Pacifying Asanas (Yoga Poses) According to Ayurveda:

Emphasis should be placed on poses that open or compress or twist the pelvis, and engage the low back and thighs, all areas of vata.

  • Sitting poses: Lotus, Siddhasana, Vajrasana, Lion pose, Virasana.
  • Sun salutation: When done slow and with awareness it helps to calm and relax the mind and generates warmth in the body. 
  • Standing poses: Vrksasana (tree pose), Trikonasana (Triangle pose), Virabhadrasana (Warrior), Standing Forward Bends.
  • Forward bending poses (all types).
  • Fetal postures (all variations). 
  • Yoga mudra (all variations). 
  • Spinal twists (both lying and sitting). 
  • Back bending poses: Cobra, Locust and Bow pose. 
  • Inverted poses: headstands, shoulder stands and Halasana (supported by blankets so as not to put too much pressure on the cervical vertebrae) and Viparitakarani Mudra (a relaxing inversion).
  • Shavasana or Corpse pose: vata types should do a long relaxing corpse pose (15-20 minutes).

A Well Balanced Vata Yoga Sequence:

  • Surya Namaskar (followed by brief Shavasana or child’s pose)
  • Tree pose Utthita TrikonasanaWarrior (any variation)
  • Standing Forward Bending (any variation)
  • Ardha Chandrasana
  • Downward Dog
  • Pashchimottanasana
  • Purvottanasana
  • Elevated Lotus
  • Cobra
  • Locust
  • Cat
  • Extended Child’s Pose
  • Vajrasana
  • Lion Pose
  • Navasana
  • Pavanamuktasana (Wind Release)
  • Crocodile Twist (lying Spinal Twist)
  • Shoulder stand
  • Plow
  • Fish
  • Corpse Pose (20 minutes is ideal).

Asanas for Pitta

Pitta individuals should maintain a calm, cool, and relaxed intention while doing asanas. Pitta types may benefit from trying to cultivate an attitude of forgiveness, and of surrendering or offering the fruits of their practice to the divine of to those in need of positive healing energy. Because asana practice tends to generate heat in the body, it is best to do yoga at cooling times of the day, such as dawn or dusk. Also, it is useful to place some emphasis on poses that help to release excess heat from the body, such as poses that compress the solar plexus and poses that open the chest.

Pitta Pacifying Asanas (Yoga Poses) According to Ayurveda:

  • Sitting postures (all except Lion pose). 
  • Moon salutation (Chandra Namaskar). 
  • Sun Salutation (done slowly) 
  • Standing posture, the best are the ones that open the hips like Tree pose, Konasana (all variations) and Virabhadrasana (Warrior), Prasarita Padottanasana (expanded leg forward stretch), and Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon).
  • Shoulder stands in all its variations, also Shashangasana (Rabbit) 
  • Back bending and chest opening postures like Cobra, Camel, Bow, Fish, and Bridge pose.
  • Posture that compress Surya Chakra or the solar plexus such as Hidden Lotus, Alligator, and Bow pose.
  • All sitting forward bend, especially Upavistha Konasana, Janushirshasana, Kurmasana (Tortoise), and Paschimottanasana. 
  • Yoga Mudra 
  • All spinal twisting postures 

A Well Balanced Pitta Yoga Sequence:

  • Chandra Namaskar
  • Trikonasana
  • Parivrtta Trikonasana
  • Prasarita Padottanasana
  • Seated Spinal Twist
  • Navasana
  • Locust
  • Bow
  • Camel
  • Extended Child’s Pose
  • Shoulderstand
  • Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Half Bridge)
  • Fish
  • Crocodile Twist
  • Janu Sirsasana
  • Virasana (with “So Ham” Breathing)
  • Corpse Pose. 

Asanas for Kapha

Kapha types tend to be sedentary and often dislike vigorous exercise. For this reason, their practice should be energetic, warming, lightening, and stimulating, providing they are physically capable. Vinyasa or flow style yoga is good for kapha because it is dynamic and moves quickly from one pose to the next, it induces sweating and gets the heart pumping.

Kapha Reducing Asanas (Yoga Poses) According to Ayurveda:

  • Sun salutations (done quickly): stimulate, lighten and heat the body 
  • All standing poses: 
  • Downward dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
  • Upward Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana
  • All standing poses, especially Virabhadrasana (Warrior) and Prasarita Padottanasana (Expanded Spread Foot), and Tadasana (Palm Tree Pose). 
  • Lion Pose 
  • All inverted poses.
  • All back bends and poses that compress the navel like Locust, Bow, Peacock, and Alligator. 
  • Seated twists 
  • Nauli Kriya (Stomach Rolling or Intestinal wash). 
  • Elevated lotus, Mayurasana (Peacock), Vajrasana. 

A Well Balanced Kapha Yoga Sequence:

  • Surya Namaskar (vigorously, or jumping style)
  • Palm TreeWarrior I & II
  • Prasarita Padottanasana
  • Downward Dog
  • Seated Spinal Twist
  • Purvottanasana
  • Gomukasana
  • Bharadvajasana (Seated twist)
  • Lion Pose
  • Jathara Parivartanasana
  • Halasana
  • Shoulderstand
  • Fish Pose
  • Corpse Pose

Ayurvedic Yoga Therapy for Vata Related Disorders

Vata type Asthma (dryness, constriction, and wheezing): Vajrasana, fish, Halasana (Plow), Locust, Bow, Pavana Muktasana (Wind Release), Shoulder stand, Head stand, Cobra, Forward bends (all types), Up and Down Dog and Seated twists.

  • Backache: All standing poses, Plow, Chakrasana, Cobra, Vajrasana (with deep three part breathing), Twists (gently), Locust, Bow, Jathara Parivartanasana.
  • Constipation: All standing postures, Shoulder stand, Head stand, Wind Release, Yoga Mudra, Forward bending (standing and sitting), Leg lifting (Uttana Padasana, Uddiyana Bandha.
  • Depression (fear, anxiety, and restlessness): Yoga Mudra, Plow, Palm Tree, Lotus, Fetal position, Corpse pose.
  • Sciatica: Wind Release, Swastikasana (Cross legged forward bend), Yoga Mudra, Vajrasana, Plow, Chakrasana, Shoulder and Head stands, Cobra, Jathara- Parvatasana, Supta Padangusthasana, Forward bends, Up and down dog, Hanumanasana.
  • Sexual Debility: All poses that lift the body up to rest on the hands like Elevated Lotus and Bakasana, Vajrasana, Plow, Shoulder stand.
  • Varicose veins: Leg lifting, Shoulder stand, Head stand, Vajrasana, Virasana, Supta Virasana, Bhekasana, Corpse pose.
  • Insomnia: Corpse, Downward dog, Cobra, Vajrasana.
  • Menstrual Disorders (scanty and absence of flow): Plow, cobra, Chakrasana, Yoga Mudra.
  • Flatulence: Head stand, Shoulder stand, Hand stand, Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Half Bridge), Standing forward bends especially Padangusthasana and Uttanasana, Janu-Sirsasana, Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana, Locust, Bow, Peacock Pose Navasana (Boat Pose), Jathara Parivartanasana.

 Ayurvedic Yoga Therapy for Pitta Related Disorders

  • Peptic ulcer: Hidden lotus, Sheetali or Sitkari pranayama. (See also poses for Acidity and the Liver).
  • Hyperthyroidism: Shoulder stand (No Head stand), Karna Pidasana (Ear to knee pose) with deep breathing.
  • Malabsorption-Sprue syndrome (pitta grihini): Parivritta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle, Leg lifting, Wind release, Fish, Locust, Nauli Kriya, Nadi Shodhana pranayama.
  • Hypertension: Corpse pose, Plow, Forward bends, Shoulder stand, Cobra, Boat, Lotus, Siddhasana (practice quite breathing during asanas). Nadi Shodhana pranayama (without retention).
  • Anger-Hate: Bow, Hidden lotus, Shoulder stand, corpse, fetal pose, Sheetali or Shitkari pranayama.
  • Migraine headache: Sheetali or sitkari pranayama, Shoulder stand, Fish pose with calm quite breathing, Shoulder stand (no Head stand).
  • Colitis: Fish, Wind release, Leg lifting, Boat, Bow, Cobra.
  • Liver disorders: Fish, Shoulder stand, Wind Release, Hidden Lotus, Foreward bends, locust, Knee to ear pose, all Twists, Half Alligator.
  • Acidity: Sheetali or Sitkari, Standing postures, Boat, Bow, Locust, Seated twists, Cobra
  •  Most pitta related conditions could benefit from the practice of Chandra Namaskar (Moon Salutation) taught at some of our workshops or in private sessions.

  Ayurvedic Yoga Therapy for Kapha Related Disorders

  • Asthma, sinus congestion and bronchitis: All Standing poses, Head Stand, Shoulder stand, Plow, Forward bends, Downward dog, Viparita Karani Mudra, Vajrasana (Forward bending variation), Chakrasana, Fish, Boat, Bow, all Forward bends, Locust, Peacock, Cobra (with deep breathing), Palm Tree, Bhastrika pranayama.
  •  Diabetes: Peacock, Boat, Chakrasana, Fish, Vajrasana (forward bending variation), Head stand, Shoulder stand, Forward bends, Half Spinal Twists, Jathara Parivartanasana, Nauli, Uddiyana, Sahita Kumbhaka pranayama.
  •  Chronic gastrointestinal disorders and sluggish digestion: Peacock, Fish, locust, Leg lifting, Boat, Corpse.
  •  Sore throat: Lion pose, Shoulderstand, locust, Fish.
  •  Sinus headache: Lion, Head to knee, Fish, Camel, Peacock, (Also see postures for Asthma, sinus congestion and bronchitis).
  •  Obesity: All Standing poses, Sun Salutation (done quickly and also with Ujjayi pranayama), Up and Down dog, Half Spinal Twist, Purvottanasana, Gomukhasana (Cow’s Face- with arm only if its hard to cross legs), Lion, Jathara Parivartanasana, Plow, Fish, Corpse. 

Bibliography:

Fromsdorf, L. The Ayur Veda Handbook. 2009. Oshun Books.

Lad, V. Ayurveda – The Science of Self-Healing. 2005. Motilal Banarsidass.

Swami Sada Shiva Tirtha. The Ayurvedic Encyclopedia. 2006. B. Jain Publishers.

Tomlinson, C. Ayurveda Wisdom. 2002. Castle Books.

Yoga and Your Journey into Food

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“If I start doing yoga, must I become a vegetarian?” I am now in my fifth year as a yoga teacher and this question always feature somewhere during the conversation with most potential students who want to do yoga with me. The short answer is no, you don’t have to, but if it is a natural development and outflow of your yoga with me, then it is your choice to allow it and to follow how the inner world wants to manifest Itself in the outer world. This article will map my own personal journey from meat eater to vegetarian and back to meat eating again and in that I trust it might give some answers and consolation to those out there who need more than just vegetarianism is the ultimate choice or the preferred one if you want to do yoga.

Map of my own Vegetarian Journey

My own teacher Sri Durga is a vegetarian and a very avid one and she used to advocate vegetarianism strongly in her classes, to the point where I decided soon after I started yoga in 1999 with her to also make the transition to being a vegetarian. And please don’t get me wrong, I adore her and I respect her for her strong stance on this issue. Around me all those other vegetarians and fellow yogis looked so healthy and as I always had a problem with maintaining my weight, I really pinned all my hopes on vegetarianism to be the next big weight loss programme for me combined with a yoga practice.

By May 2000 I ate my last piece of kingklip and so started my vegetarian food journey. Initially I felt great, didn’t lose any weight, in fact I started to pack more kilograms around my waist and developed the most terrible heartburn, but being a Taurus, the stubbornness in me prevailed and I stuck to my newly found vegetarian diet. By 2003 the most terrible muscle aches in my legs started to appear. Initially I thought it was just sore muscles from the yoga and the 10+kg I have gained since starting on my vegetarian journey, ignoring the messages my body was sending me so desperately at night. Eventually I spoke to my teacher and fellow yogis about my aches, and my teacher recommend that I add more magnesium to my diet and that I take a Vitamin B12 plus B-Comp injection at least once every three months. Unfortunately, it didn’t make the aches and pains better, in fact it got worse.

By 2005 I have picked up 15kg since my vegetarian journey started. I also become very depressed and the doubt about my diet and yoga started to creep into my consciousness. In October of 2005 I went to India for the first time and I was shocked by many aspects of India, but the one thing that shocked me the most was the realization that India is not the great vegetarian loving nation as portrayed in Western media and articles. In fact my experience was that most Indians actually eat meat at least twice a week if they are not a swami, pundit or some religious leader. And that was the turning point for on my vegetarian journey.

Back home in South Africa, I decided to still stick to my vegetarian diet, but to research more. I started to look at my family history. Both my father and eldest sister was diagnosed with pernicious anaemia and my father especially had huge issues with this disease. He died in 2006 of a massive heart attack after suffering a serious and very low iron deficiency due to the fact that his body couldn’t absorb vitamin B. And as it is a genetic disease, I had to consider this for myself as well. At this point I started to look like Batman’s seriously overweight sidekick, Robin, huge black circles around my eyes, loss of energy, always tired and an increase in muscles aches throughout my whole body now, made it nearly impossible for me to function. I then saw an Ayurveda doctor who prescribed more eggs and a greater combination of plant based legumes, nuts and cheese for me, which to my great dismay didn’t make a difference at all except to my weight! The higher carbohydrate diet just pushed me faster towards the edge of diabetes and when I was test a in 2007 for diabetes I was classified as being pre-diabetic. This was where I decided enough is enough and started to introduce fish and chicken back into my diet. Within months my weight started to stabilise and the severe muscles aches and cramps disappeared. My energy levels returned to normal and the constant tiredness start to dissipate.

In hindsight I can say this: Vegetarianism is great and I am a great supporter of this diet and lifestyle choice, but before you plunge yourself into it, research your family history, check your parents for diseases and syndromes that will affect your journey into vegetarianism as it could have serious consequences.

What about Ahimsa – the practice of non-harming and non-violence

Being a vegetarian is not the ultimate way of honouring this yogic value. It is clear from my own account above that what I thought was a non-violent and non-harming lifestyle choice perpetrated so much violence and harm against my own body, that I have to ask questions about the violence I allowed against my body and how it resonated with this first yama of yoga.

I also think there are much bigger issues currently to consider in our strife for ahimsa than just becoming a vegetarian. The other day I visited one of my very good yogi friends and as she prepared a lovely vegetarian meal for us, I couldn’t help to notice that the beans she prepared was from Zambia (we are in South Africa), the carrots from Zimbabwe, and the petit pois from Uganda and the couscous from Tunisia. Our whole meal was imported! The violence against Mother Earth to get all those foods to South Africa is huge in terms of carbon from the fossil fuels burned to get those foods here. It is also more difficult to get information about ethical treatment, usage of pesticides and gm seeds from those countries, than from your own country. And let’s not get started on the violence against so many farmers and families in South Africa due to the lack of income, loss of jobs and farm land, because of imported food.  Eating closer to the source of your food is not just serving you better, but the whole world in a very authentic way.

Ahimsa in terms of my food journey, is to know where it came from, how it was produced and as a fish and poultry eater, I like to know how these animals were treated, were they happy and living in good conditions, cared for with love? There are farmers who dearly love their animals and who rear their animals with respect and compassion, and my choice is to eat those animals from those farmers. I look towards local producers, where my food only had to travel a few kilometres by road instead of thousands of kilometres by air and road from some strange country where I don’t even know how my vegetables were cultivated.

Ahimsa for me is also to support initiatives such as Meat Free Mondays and to encourage people who eat meat everyday to consider eating meat every second day. As a chef I have to work with meat, I can’t avoid it and as such I always treat the meat I am working with, with great respect, honouring in that way the animal that died in order for me to prepare some great meal as nourishment for someone else and not seeing it as just another piece of dead animal on my chopping board.

Patanjali, The Yoga Sutras and Your Diet

For most yogis it is a problem that Patanjali nowhere in The Yoga Sutras makes special mention about diet and what foods you should or shouldn’t eat. Even the Bhagavad Gita doesn’t list any specific foods for following a “yogic diet.”  And I suspect that if they did, the list would be very problematic for us as Westerners and also what was appropriate then, might not be appropriate today.

Despite that fact that there are no clear guidelines, I think as yogis we can look to Ayurveda and what it can offer us in terms of a great basis on which we can base our future food explorations and choices. Ayurveda tradition differentiates between the three Gunas where foods that are considered sattvic, include most vegetables, ghee, fruits, legumes, and whole grains. Rajasic foods such as coffee, eggs, cheese, peppers, salt and fish increase energy levels and Tamasic foods, such as onions, meat, and garlic slows the metabolism. However, in the West we know the many health benefits of garlic for example and for me it doesn’t make sense to exclude it from my diet or to even list it as Tamasic. Maintaining a balance between all three Gunas is more important in maintaining a healthy and light body and this doesn’t mean to eat just Sattvic foods. Consider also your constitution or Dosha, there are three Doshas, Vata, Pita and Kapha and how they are in balance with each other.

In Conclusion

The vegetarian diet made me sick, but I am still attracted to the non-violence of the first yama of yoga and as such I had to discover the truth for me. And my truth is that I still need animal protein to function appropriately. For me an omnivorous diet, one that consists of moderate amounts of animal protein and enough fruits and vegetables makes more sense and is more appropriate for where I am than a strictly vegetarian or even vegan diet. Since I do eat animal protein, I always honour the duck, the chicken, and turkey or prawn or trout by not wasting its life force or mine, but to use that force to heal myself and others, and to teach, inspire, and help people evolve. My ethics about what to eat came down to my personal truth and that is that an omnivorous diet works physiologically far better for me.

Clearly, with such varied perspectives on what feeds the body and spirit, developing a diet that reflects your ethics and honours your physical needs can be challenging. In the end most yogis would agree that part of the practice is to develop awareness about what you eat. It’s worth spending time educating yourself not just about the possible diets you could follow but also about the origins and properties of the food you buy. To begin forming your yogic diet, think about which teachings best resonate with you and how you might put those teachings into action.

The Three Gunas

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TAMAS GUNA

In the philosophy of Yoga, all matter in the universe arises from the fundamental substrate called Prakriti. From this ethereal Prakriti the three primary gunas (qualities) emerge creating the essential aspects of all nature—energy, matter and consciousness. These three gunas are tamas (darkness), rajas (activity), and sattva (beingness).

 

Tamas is a state of darkness, inertia, inactivity and materiality. Tamas manifests from ignorance and deludes all beings from their spiritual truths. To reduce tamas avoid tamasic foods, over sleeping, over eating, inactivity, passivity and fearful situations. Tamasic foods include heavy meats, and foods that are spoiled, chemically treated, processed or refined.

 

Tamas – accounts for restraint and inertia. Experienced psychologically as delusion, depression and dullness. Classical Yoga: – when tamas (obscurity, heaviness) predominates, consciousness is sthiti – inert, punged into a state of repose and torporTamasic Food is meat, alcohol, tobacco, garlic, onions, other fermented foods (pickles and vinegar for example), and either over-ripe or stale foods. These foodstuffs are seen not to benefit either the body or mind and energy, Prana, is reduced producing inertia and dark moods.

 

The body’s resistance to disease is weakened and consequently the whole being becomes inert, greedy and prevents one from seeing the spiritual truths.The mind’s psychological qualities are highly unstable and can quickly fluxuate between the different gunas. The predominate guna of the mind acts as a lens that effects our perceptions and perspective of the world around us. Thus, if the mind is in rajas it will experience world events as chaotic, confusing and demanding and it will react to these events in a rajasic way.

 

RAJAS GUNA

Rajas is a state of energy, action, change and movement. The nature of rajas is of attraction, longing and attachment and rajas strongly binds us to the fruits of our work. To reduce rajas avoid rajasic foods, over exercising, over work, loud music, excessive thinking and consuming excessive material goods.

 

Rajasic foods include fried foods, spicy foods, and stimulants.Rajas – accounts for motion, energy and activity. Experienced psychologically as suffering, craving and attachment. Classical Yoga: – when rajas (energy) predominates, consciousness is pravritti – active and energetic, tense and willful.

 

Rajasic Food is usually hot food, both in terms of temperature and spiciness; they include fried food, coffee, tea, spices, fish, eggs, salt, peppers, chocolate and other stimulants. These foodstuffs are seen by some as a block to the body-mind equilibrium, feeding the body at the expense of the mind and stimulating artificial processes in the brain making it restless and wandering.

 

SATTWA GUNA

Sattva is a state of harmony, balance, joy and intelligence. Sattva is the guna that yogi/nis achive towards as it reduces rajas and tamas and thus makes liberation possible. To increase sattva reduce both rajas and tamas, eat sattvic foods and enjoy activities and environments that produce joy and positive thoughts.

 

Sattvic foods include whole grains and legumes and fresh fruits and vegetables that grow above the ground. All of the yogic practices were developed to create sattva in the mind and body. Thus, practicing yoga and leading a yogic lifestyle strongly cultivates sattva.

 

Sattwa – Samkhya: accounts for thought and intelligibility, experienced psychologically as pleasure, thinking, clarity, understanding and detachment. Classical Yoga: – when sattwa (purity, illumination through comprehension) predominates, consciousness manifests itself as prakhya – vivacity, illumination, mental clarity and serenity.

 

The Sattvic Diet is a pure diet comprised of cereals, nuts, fruits, vegetables, seeds, spouting seeds, some dairy products, honey and herbs – including herbal teas of course. These foodstuffs will nourish the body, calm and purify the mind creating a balanced flow of energy between the body and the mind.