The Yoga Diet - You are What you Eat

Posted by Charlene Rountree on

The Yoga Diet

Part III

You are What You Eat

Yoga develops our pure inner nature, and diet plays an important part in this process. The Yogic scriptures divide food into three types: sattvic, or pure; rajasic, or stimulating; and tamasic, or impure and rotten. Thus, the Yoga diet is based on pure, sattvic foods.

Overactivity – Rajas

The Yogic diet avoids substances that are overstimulating, or rajasic. Onions, garlic, coffee, tea, and tobacco are rajasic, as are heavily spiced and salted items, and many fast foods and snacks. Refined sugar, soft drinks, and chocolate are also rajasic. Rajasic foods arouse animal passions, bring a restless state of mind, and make the person overactive. They destroy the mind/body balance that is essential for happiness.

Rajasic Behavior – Rajasic foods overstimulate the body and mind, cause physical and mental stress, and encourage circulatory and nervous disorders.

Rajasic Foods – “The foods that are bitter, sour, saline, excessively hot, pungent, dry, and burning, are liked by the rajasic and are productive of pain, grief, and disease.” Bhagavad Gita, 17-9

Inertia – Tamas

Tamasic substances are avoided in the Yogic diet because they produce feelings of heaviness and lethargy. Meta, fish, eggs, drugs, and alcohol are tamasic, as are overcooked and packaged foods. Other tamasic items include those that have been fermented, burned, fried, barbecued, or reheated many times, as well as stale products or those containing preservatives. Mushrooms are considered tamasic, since they grow in darkness.

Tamasic Behavior – A tamasic diet benefits neither body nor mind. It makes a person dull and lazy, lacking in high ideals, purpose, and motivation. Such individuals tend to suffer from chronic ailments and from depression. Overeating is tamasic.

Tamasic Foods – “That food which is stale, tasteless, putrid, rotten, and impure refuse, is the food liked by the tamasic.” Bhagavad Gita, 17-10

The Rules of Eating

“Purity of mind depends on purity of food.” – Swami Sivananda

• Try to keep your meals on a regular schedule, but if you do not feel hunbry at mealtime, fast until the next meal.
• Eat slowly, and savor your food. Chew it thoroughly, remembering that digestion begins in the mouth.
• Eat only four or five different foods at one meal. Complex mixtures are difficult to digest. Do not snack between meals.
• Do not overload your system. Fill half the stomach with food, one quarter with liquid, and leave the rest empty.
• Maintain a peaceful attitude during the meal. Try to eat in silence.
• Change your diet gradually.
• Before you eat, remember God, who dwells in all foods and who bestows all bounties.
• Try to fast for one day a week.
• Eat at least one raw salad every day.
• Eat to live – don’t live to eat.

Purity – Sattva

The Yogic diet consists of sattvic foods that calm the mind and sharpen the intellect. These are pure, wholesome, and naturally delicious, without preservatives of artificial flavorings. They include fresh and dried fruits and berries, pure fruit juices, raw or lightly cooked vegetables, salads, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole-grain breads, honey, fresh herbs, herbal teas, and dairy products such as milk and butter. A sattvic diet is easily digested and supplies maximum energy, increasing vitality, strength, and endurance.

It will help eliminate fatigue, even for those who undertake strenuous and difficult work. Yogis believe that people’s food preferences reflect their level of mental purity and that these preferences alter as they develop spirtually.

Sattvic Behavior – A sattvic diet brings purity and calmness to the mind, and is both soothiing and nourishing to the body. It promotes cheerfulness, serenity, and mental clarity, and helps maintain mental poise and nervous equilibrium throughout the day.

Sattvic Foods – “The foods which increase life, purity, strength, health, joy, and cheerfulness, which are savory and oleaginous, substantial, and agreeable, are dear the sattvic people.” Bhagavad Gita, 17-8


As you can see, in the Yoga Diet, focusing on eating mostly plants and being moderate about consuming the more stimulating foods, while avoiding unhealthy processed foods altogether promotes serenity, balance, and health in your life.

Want to learn more about Yoga as a lifestyle, check out our section on Yoga.

Tell us, what are your thoughts on this way of eating? Do you incorporate the Yoga Diet into your life?

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