‘You are what you eat’ is a sentence you may have heard a thousand times before. Have you ever realized how true that is? Everything you eat or drink will be broken down by the body and used to build every cell in your body. Every cell in your body is made out of what you ingest! Wow…
In yoga, we recognize the interconnectedness of body, mind and spirit. Because of the interconnectedness of these aspects, what you eat and drink doesn’t only affect and build your body, but also influences your mind and spirit. To attain ‘yoga’, or union, and to live your highest potential, it helps to have a healthy body, mind and spirit – so, it’s of vital importance to be mindful of what (and how!) you eat and drink.
The yogi(ni)s of old times were very aware of this, which is why the guidelines about food were described elaborately in the ancient texts. The Gheranda Samitha states that eating a yogic diet is as important as all other yogic practices (asana, pranayama, dhyana…). A yogic diet as described in most ancient texts consists of fresh, pure, satisfying and vegetarian food.
We are connected
There are several reasons why a strict vegetarian diet is considered best for a yogi(ni). The most important reason to not eat animals, is the fact that they have to be killed to be eaten. That fact alone already goes against the first of the yamas, or restraints, mentioned in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra’s – which can be seen as a yogic manual. That first yama is ‘ahimsa’, or ‘nonharming’. Ahimsa does not only mean that you shouldn’t go and hit your boyfriend if you disagree with him, but also that you don’t gossip about your colleagues, that you don’t overstretch in hanumanasana and that you don’t kill (or let someone else kill) animals because you like their taste or fur.
We are here to recognize God in everything and everyone, in all human beings, but in animals as well. We are all the same, we are connected. When you feel that connection, it makes sense to avoid harming all beings. This is what ahimsa is all about. It’s also why it’s recommended to not only give up eating meat, but also to stop using dairy and eggs. Just like meat and fish, dairy and eggs are harmful in several ways – animals are kept against their will on farms, mostly in very painful and harmful circumstances, living only to produce and to be killed after a short life, but also, all of these products are harmful for your own health and the health of the earth as well.
Some research seems to shows that eating a vegetarian (vegan) diet is a good thing we can do to avoid harming the earth. According to the United Nations, raising animals for food creates more greenhouse gas emissions than all the transportation (cars, trains, planes, etc.) in the world. Raising animals for food causes more water pollution than any other industry, it uses up more than half of the corn, oats and soybeans grown in the world and more than half the water consumed is used to raise animals for food. Also, the oceans are being emptied shockingly fast. Most of the fish and other sea creatures caught annually are not even eaten by humans, but fed to livestock. Considering this it might help if people would lessen their meat intake (not every day).
Besides eating a fresh, pure vegetarian or vegan diet, it’s also recommended to avoid alcohol, coffee, drugs, smoking, using microwave ovens, overeating, eating in a hurry, eating while you’re in a bad mood or arguing while eating, as much as possible. These are all things that are considered to disturb the mind.
But don’t stress or feel guilty if you eat or drink something ‘un-yogic’. Do the best you can. Even one day a week of eating plant-based meals is awesome! And remember the most important guideline: your food should be satisfying. You should eat things you enjoy, just as you are ought to enjoy every aspect in your life.
Next time you’re about to prepare or eat a meal, consider a few things:
- Be mindful about WHAT you’re about to eat. Is it fresh? Is it supporting your health and happiness? Is it supporting the health and happiness of other humans, animals and the earth as well?
- While cooking your meal, do this with love and joy. Maybe sing a mantra while cooking. Cook with complete concentration, being aware of every step in the process.
- When your meal is ready, offer a prayer or take a moment to be grateful for your meal.
- Eat your meal with love and attention, enjoying every bite and every flavor. Take your time to finish your meal, don’t rush, don’t stress.
- If you can, share your meal with a loved one.
Need some inspiration? There are zillions of great vegan cookbooks and blogs, but here’s an easy and delicious yogic recipe to start with:
Heat a tablespoon olive oil in a large soup pot. Add two washed and chopped carrots, one chopped zucchini and one and a half cup of broccoli. Sauté for about five minutes. Add one teaspoon freshly grated ginger, a tablespoon curry powder and half a teaspoon cinnamon and sauté for another minute. Add eleven cups of vegetarian bouillon, five diced tomatoes, two cups of chopped fresh spinach, a can of kidney beans and a cup of quinoa. Bring to a boil and then simmer gently for about 20 - 35 minutes, or until the quinoa is soft and all veggies are tender as well. Add salt and pepper to taste, serve with some fresh herbs on top (basil, coriander and/or parsley).
You can also find more recipes on my website