Physical fitness and spiritual wellness are both very important aspects of a yoga lifestyle, but often people forget how important nutrition is as well. Nutrition is a high priority in everyone's lifestyle, but especially in a yogi's lifestyle as most yogi’s are very health conscious. There is no particular “yoga diet”, but the diet I have found that most aligns with yoga principles and is widely practiced by yogis is the Ayurvedic diet.
This diet is based on Ayurveda, an ancient holistic practice promoting balance in many ways. According to Ayurveda, food is medicine. The first recordings of this were found in Sanskrit in The Vedas, uncovered in India over 5,000 years ago. It was written that there are 5 elements that come together to make up everything in the universe. These 5 elements are vayu (air), jala (water), akash (space), teja (fire), and prithvi (earth).
From these elements come three doshas, which refer to energy types within each individual's body. The three doshas are Pitta, Vata, and Kapha. Each dosha aligns with a combination of 2 of the 5 elements. These 2 elements that each dosha is made of are said to contributing to some aspects of people's personalities and preferences. The pitta dosha is a combination of fire and water (the energy of digestion and metabolism), the vata dosha is a combination of air and space (the energy of movement), and the kapha dosha is a combination of earth and water (the energy of lubrication).
This is where the diet comes into play. Basically, there are types of food that go best with each dosha type. Similarly, there are foods each dosha type should avoid as well. Below is a list of food types each dosha type should add to their daily diet, and food types each dosha type should remove completely or partially from their diet.
Food you should eat
- Vata - Eat warm foods and spices.
- Kapha - Eat light, dry food.
- Pitta - Eat cool, non-spicy foods.
Food you should avoid
- Vata - Avoid cold, frozen, or raw foods.
- Kapha - Avoid dairy, fatty foods, oily foods, heavy foods, and iced food or drinks.
- Pitta - Avoid excessive oil, limit salt intake.
The main meal focuses of the day should be breakfast and lunch, with lunch being the largest meal of the day. Dinner is to be eaten only if necessary, if one truly feels hungry enough to eat it after such a large lunch. There should be no snacking throughout the day, but herbal tea is encouraged between meals. This promotes mindfulness when eating.
Also, there are types of exercise that go best with each dosha! In general, Ayurvedic practice says that exercise should be at a 50% capacity, barely breaking a sweat on the body. According to Ayurvedic practices, the optimal time to perform any exercise is between 6 am and 10 am, or between 6 pm and 10 pm.
- Vata - Keep a regular routine. Constant movement exercises (running, cycling, etc.) are best for vata’s.
- Kapha - Keep active, get plenty of exercise. Work best with a workout partner. Any type of movement is beneficial, but mostly something that will keep kapha’s interested in the work out.
- Pitta - Exercise during the cooler part of the day. Team sports are recommended as pitta’s are competitive and like to push themselves.
There are a few other principles that people following an Ayurvedic diet are meant to follow including eating slow enough to enjoy your food and encourage mindfulness when eating, while also eating fast enough to ensure your food does not get cold. It is also believed you should only start a new meal once the previous meal has been completely digested, and all 6 flavor profiles (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, astringent, and pungent, each one has a different meaning and different principles) should be incorporated into every meal. The meal should start with sweet, move to salty, and finish with pungent flavors. Consuming whole, fresh foods and enjoying food and exercise mindfully is the main goal here.
If people line up their lives in accordance with their dosha, they should feel more balanced within themselves and the world around them. Have you figured out what dosha you are?! Take a quiz here, and start promoting inner balance in your everyday life.
Sources https://www.verywellfit.com/ayurvedic-diet-for-weight-loss-4154620 https://chopra.com/articles/10-rules-for-an-ayurvedic-diet https://www.banyanbotanicals.com/info/ayurvedic-living/living-ayurveda/health-guides/the-ayurvedic-approach-to-fitness/ https://www.ayurveda.com/resources/articles/ayurveda-a-brief-introduction-and-guide https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/where-ayurveda-come-from. Images Lead image - Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels Picture 2 - Photo by Andonyi Gabor from Pexels Picture 3 - Photo by DapurMelodi from Pexels Picture 5 - Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels.