Does Yoga Practice Require a Vegetarian Diet?
The food we eat can greatly influence our thoughts and the state of the mind. The thoughts, emotions and the state of mind are the direct consequence of the chemical changes taking place in our body. It is apparent that when we consume certain items that have the presence of alcohol will alter the state of mind and thereby filling the mind with different emotions.
Our body survives as the matter of the constituents of the food we eat. It is obvious that maintaining a healthy body requires an everyday diet plan. Yoga practices place some restrictions in food with a metaphysical approach.
It is recommended to follow those restrictions for a yoga practitioner to bring forth the maximum benefits and to leap into different levels of consciousness. One can also do the yoga practices without abiding by the yoga diet, but it indeed lingers him in the progress of the practices.
When one looks for the advancement in the practices, he might naturally endure to the regulations moderately at the beginning and later if he continued with persistent practice, his mind becomes more powerful, and then his morality and qualities are reflected with the qualities of a yogi. His desires become meaningful and be in a total control.
Let us skim below ‘why the vegetarian diet’ has a high priority in yoga practices.
Yoga Vegetarian Diet – Philosophical view
According to the yoga nutrition, food is classified into three categories with respect to the nature of the food.
Sattvic food: That which induces the sattvic qualities (spiritual purity and knowledge). This food when consumed is responsible for the flexibility of the mind. The mind becomes calm and controllable.
Rajasic food: That which induces the rajasic qualities (action and passion). This food when consumed makes the mind filled with desires.
Tamasic food: That which induces tamasic qualities (ignorance and inertia). Consuming this food creates agitation, anger etc. The mind will not be flexible and it will be in a complete restlessness.
According to the school of philosophy, it is considered that the matters present in the universe are composed of these three metaphysical compositions in different proportions. When we say the food is sattvic, then the sattvic quality of the food is higher than the rajasic and tamasic components.
The Indian ancient medical science Ayurveda upholds this concept with the five compositions of matter in different proportions. Ayurveda is the science which covers the broad spectrum of areas in medical science with the concept of mind, body, and soul. Ayurveda clearly links between the mind and the body, but this link cannot be seen in the modern medical science. The concept of Ayurveda is based on the metaphysical principles so it is considered as the pseudo-science that cannot be studied empirically.
The three physical constituents (doshas) based on Ayurveda are
1. Vata – the impulse working the nervous system,
2. Pitta – bile for digestion, and
3. Kapha – supplying nutrition for the arterial system.
These are considered as the bio-energy of the body and the imbalance in these three constituents results in illness. It is a physiochemical process that cannot be measured scientifically. The imbalance in the physical constituents can be balanced with the mental constituents’ – sattvic, rajasic and tamasic present in the food.
The mental constituents present in the food cannot be determined in the scientific analysis as they are a truly metaphysical concept.
Why no garlic no onions in yogic diet
The ancient Ayurveda science says that the garlic is highly rajasic and the onion is composed of tamasic qualities. Hence, the yogic practitioners partially avoid such food and even some forbid it.
Once the kitchen premises of Ramana ashram was scattered with the onion peels. Ramana Maharishi joked as “Better to clean up this place of onion peels or else the people will consider this is not an ashram”.
Maharishi did not restrict onions and said, “Garlic is good for the body but not for mind”.
Why Yogis don’t Eat Meat
Ahimsa (non-violence) – a true conduct of harmlessness is the uplifted principles in the yogi’s life. Since killing the animals for food is considered as ahimsa, as that the sufferings of the animals is high when compared with the plants. Hence, the higher quantity of tamasic qualities will be inherited in it and this tamasic quality will be transferred to the person when it is consumed.
It is said that for upholding the principles of dharma ‘the path of righteousness’, when it is being obstructed - - then, ‘demolition’ (himsa) is inexorable.
For example, killing the poisonous snake that wound around a child is favorable with no other possible means.
The consciousness has an intertwined connection with everything in the world, thus certain actions such as ‘himsa’ can alter the state of consciousness which prevents the mind from going even further. Hence, it is difficult to attain higher state without following certain principles.
Yogic Food – Scientific Approach
An experiment was conducted on the seekers of spiritual research foundation. The activities of chakras are examined in the seekers before and after the intake of food. As chakras are connected with various activities of the body, the test was done using the electrosomatogram( ESG).
As I mentioned in the book ‘Why Kundalini Meditation is So Special?’ the chakras tend to be more active when they are given the vegetarian food, and when they are given the non-vegetarian food the chakras tend to be less active. The experiment showed that vegetarian food is suitable for spiritual practices and the non-vegetarian food is of tamasic qualities.
Check here for the details of the experiment.
Food and Yoga
It is said that for a non-practitioner who has consumed highly tamasic food has to do the spiritual practices for about 10 years to get rid of the accumulated tamasic qualities. For a kundalini meditation practitioners who has already involved in the moderate practices will take less than 5 years to get rid of the tamasic qualities. (This data is an approximation based on the reference)
Even if the food is sattvic and consumed in large quantity, it will become tamasic according to his body stature. Thus, a moderation in food should be maintained in the spiritual practice which is the highlight of food and yoga.
If a yogi has attained a certain level of consciousness, then the intake of food doesn’t alter or stops his progress. Even if he had a tamasic nonvegetarian food, it doesn’t have much effect on him. (See Siddhis or Mystical Powers)
As Vivekananda said “We have, therefore, to take care what sort of food we eat at the beginning, and when we have got strength enough when our practice is well advanced, we need not be so careful in this respect. While the plant is growing it must be hedged round, lest it is injured; but when it becomes a tree, the hedges are taken away. It is strong enough to withstand all assaults.”
Tips for Choosing Food
As the food for the spiritual practices cannot be explained clearly with the scientific principles, hence the practitioners are obliged to rely on the philosophical ideas.
The basic math doesn’t play any role in analyzing the three constituents and as such the high tamasic qualities in the food can be balanced with the sattvic food, and there the qualities will get neutralized. But it is really not so.
It is also said that when a certain quality dominates the other, the activities will be associated with the dominant quality i.e., when the sattvic qualities dominate the other two qualities rajasic and tamasic, the nature of the person will be sattvic. Hence, the presence of these three qualities is inevitable in the human beings.
Ramana Maharishi said, “Once, attained the higher level, it will make less difference what you eat, as, on great fire, it is immaterial what fuel is added”.
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