Yoga and diet.
“Let the yogi eat moderately and abstemiously; otherwise, however clever, he cannot gain success.” Siva Samhita
Food – energy for life.
The human body needs food for two reasons: as fuel to produce the energy it needs and as a raw material to regenerate the body and continuously renew the tissues. A pure and natural diet is the best way to support our body’s two basic needs.
The sun – energy source of all life.
All energy comes from the sun. So the closer our food is to this source, the more energy it has. Human beings can only draw vitamin D and life energy (prana) directly from the sun, whereas plants use photosynthesis to convert sun energy into matter. Therefore, a vegetarian diet delivers nutrients directly ‘from the source’. Meat or fish, by contrast, contains only ‘second hand’ nutrients – the natural energy of the plants has already been metabolised in the body of the animal.
We are what we eat.
We are what we eat. This is true in more ways than one. As mentioned above, we need food to maintain the functioning of our body. But food also has more subtle effects: it forms the substance of our mind and can thus influence the mind in a very subtle way. This is another reason why we should eat natural foods. Fresh, light and nutritious food keeps the body trim and flexible, the mind clear and sharp and makes both body and mind receptive for the yoga practice.
A healthy diet? No problem!
If we ignore the basic principles of healthy eating, we will eventually pay the price – in the form of physical ailments. A balanced vegetarian diet should therefore consist of the following elements: protein, carbohydrates, fat, minerals, vitamins and water. Carbohydrates and fat are the main sources of energy for the smooth functioning of the organs. Proteins, minerals and water are needed for the continual regeneration of the cells. Vitamins and minerals are necessary to regulate bodily processes and to maintain hormonal and enzymatic functioning. Experts recommend that our diet should consist to 55% of carbohydrates, 30% of fat and 15% of proteins.
The menu of a yogi is made up of grains, pulses, plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds and a small amount of dairy products. This diet is wholesome, well-balanced, easy to digest and supplies the body with a maximum of nutrients and energy.
But that’s not enough …
In order to prevent diseases, it is not enough to eat natural foods. Day in, day out, we are exposed to an overload of toxins and unhealthy environmental factors, such as polluted air and water, pesticides in our food, electromagnetic pollution and so on. Effective prevention of diseases is therefore only possible when the five points of yoga are observed:
(1) Proper exercise of postures that stimulate blood circulation
(2) Proper breathing exercises to maximise the uptake of oxygen
(3) Perfect relaxation of body and mind
(4) A natural, wholesome and balanced diet
(5) Positive thinking and mental concentration
Feeling healthy and vital – without meat.
There is plenty of medical evidence indicating that a balanced vegetarian diet is extremely healthy. It supplies the body with the proteins, minerals and vitamins it needs. Statistically speaking, the rate of heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure and cancer is lower among vegetarians. Their immune system is stronger and they are less likely to become obese than meat eaters.
Yoga recommends a lacto-vegetarian diet. Consuming small amounts of dairy products covers the body’s requirements of vitamin D, vitamin B12 and calcium.
Besides health considerations, there are also ethical, economic and spiritual reasons for becoming a vegetarian.
Health reasons for a vegetarian diet.
Modern medicine has recognised that the consumption of meat can lead to a variety of diseases. The high levels of cholesterol and uric acid as well as food additives and preservatives found in meat all take their toll on the human body. A meat-based diet is the main cause of high blood pressure, heart attacks, arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), arthritis and gout. Other illnesses that have also been linked to meat consumption are strokes, cancer, osteoporosis, gall stones and kidney stones, allergies, asthma, migraines and trichinosis – just to name a few.
The residues of pesticides and pharmaceuticals present in the flesh of animals increase the health risks associated with meat consumption. Moreover, when humans eat meat they also take up the hormones that the fearful and panicking animals secrete just before slaughter.
Ethical and spiritual principles.
The innocent animals that are being killed are intelligent and often quite social beings capable of real suffering. Under intensive animal farming practices, animals are often kept and slaughtered under the cruellest conditions. Ahimsa (non-violence) is one of the highest principles of yoga philosophy. For the yogi, all life is sacred. Every creature is a living, breathing entity with thoughts and feelings.
Economic and ecological considerations.
We are living in a world in which a child dies of malnutrition every two seconds. It is almost grotesque to produce meat for a few rich nations when the cultivation of grains or pulses could feed many, many more people. For the amount of land needed to feed just one person on a meat-based diet, you could grow enough wheat to feed 12 people and enough soy beans to feed 30! And let’s not forget that the meat industry is a major consumer and polluter of water and is one of the driving forces behind the clearing of rainforests.
Why yogis don’t eat meat?
Meat contains a high percentage of toxins.
It lacks vital minerals and vitamins.
Meat contains more proteins than we need.
Animal protein contains too much uric acid. When consumed in high quantities, the uric acid cannot be eliminated properly and is deposited in the joints. The result: stiffening of the joints, gout, rheumatism, headaches, cramps and nervousness.
Meat can be infested with dangerous pathogens such as trichinae and intestinal worms.
Ahimsa, or non-violence, is one of the highest tenets of yoga philosophy. For the yogi all life is sacred. Every creature is a living, breathing entity with thoughts and feelings.
A yogi knows that when a person consumes meat, they are also absorbing the fear and pain of the slaughtered animal. Hence they will have a more difficult time gaining control over their emotions.