He who practices yoga without moderation of diet, incurs various diseases, and obtains no success.” (Gheranda Samhita 5/16)
A branch cannot survive on its own. It must connect to the tree trunk and roots in order to absorb the elements and thrive in nature.
Neither yoga nor Ayurveda are singular practices. They are more like branches on the tree of Vedic wisdom.
In order to maintain balance, there must be a constant exchange between the individual and the universe. The way we eat, breathe, drink, and live must be harmonious. When it is not, we are in a state of dis-ease.
This is the main philosophy of yoga: Mind, body, and spirit are one and cannot be separated. Yogic philosophies recognize food as being responsible for the growth of the body. This is why it is often called Brahman, or God.
Food is sacred.
In addition to yoga and meditation, food plays an important role in balancing the body from within. If you are looking to achieve physical strength, sound mind, good health, and longevity, you’ll want to shift your focus to sattvic foods. These are the purest types of food you can consume, according to Ayurvedic principles.
Sattvic foods can help enhance your practice and promote a calm mind and fit body with a balanced flow of energy between the two. The soul depends on the body and the body depends on food.
The basic principles of the sattvic diet consist of light and easily digestible food. Many are sun foods, meaning they grow above ground, and have a fast effect on the body’s nervous and digestive systems.
Include the following foods in your daily diet to promote holistic wellness and to help bring your mind, body, and soul into alignment.
Ghee, sometimes called clarified butter, is sweet tasting, cold, and heavy. This is one of the most talked about sattvic foods because its importance has been reflected upon in the ancient Vedas. Rice mixed with ghee and soma juice is considered the diet of God. Because there are different Ayurvedic elements in different types of milk, the properties of ghee will depend on its source. The most common, and most often recommended, is ghee from cow’s milk. Milk is unique because it contains the best nutrients a mother can provide. And ghee is considered the essence of milk. Incorporating ghee in Ayurvedic treatment is as easy as making it at home, a process that can be completed in about 30 minutes.
- Sprouted Whole Grains
According to sattvic tradition, grains should be a vital part of every meal. Yogis may sometimes fast from grains, but they are included as an important part of a sattvic diet. Whole sprouted grains provide nourishment and are symbolic of health, happiness, and prosperity. Consider adding sprouted rice, spelt, oatmeal, and barley to your meals. There’s a great deal of variety, so you can easily include a grain with every meal. Just be sure to avoid leavened breads.
- Fresh Organic Fruit
For the most part, any fresh organic fruit can be included in the sattvic diet, but there are some exceptions. Avocados and tomatoes are considered rajasic and should never be consumed in excess. But you’re safe to eat most fruits, including apples, bananas, berries, grapes, melons, oranges, peaches, and plums. These are considered especially sattvic. Yogis may also fast from fruits, but otherwise, they are an important part of the sattvic diet. They are considered symbols of generosity and spirituality. Eating fruits and vegetables is believed to increase one’s magnetism.
Honey is on the short list of sweeteners that is acceptable to use in moderation in a sattvic diet. Brown rice syrup, fruit juice concentrates, maple syrup, sucanat, and sugar cane juice are also acceptable in moderation. Avoid processed white sugar if at all possible.
- Organic Land and Sea Vegetables
You’d be safe eating almost any vegetable on a sattvic diet, but you may run into trouble if you’re in the habit of cooking with garlic and onions. These vegetables, along with hot peppers, mushrooms, and potatoes are not considered sattvic. Stick with mild, organic veggies, such as beets, carrots, celery, cucumbers, green leafies, sweet potatoes, and squash. Juicing vegetables is a fast and easy way to access their prana (life-giving force).
- Nuts, Seeds, and Oils
Soaking nuts and seeds overnight will remove their natural enzyme inhibitors and make them easier for your body to digest. Choose fresh, pure nuts or seeds. If they have been overly roasted or salted, they lose their sattvic properties. Almonds, hemp seeds, pine nuts, sesame seeds, walnuts, and flax seeds are all great choices. Most oils should be consumed raw, but some can be used in cooking. These include ghee, sesame oil, and coconut oil.
Legumes are another important part of a sattvic diet, and the smaller the better. Smaller beans, such as mung beans, split peas, and lentils, are easier to digest. You may also enjoy chickpeas, aduki beans, and organic tofu. For a complete protein source, combine legumes with whole grain.
Herbs directly support the mind and are often used in conjunction with meditation. Common sattvic herbs include:
- Ashwagandha – Used to combat stress, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating.
- Bacopa – Used to reduce anxiety and improve memory formation.
- Calamus – Used as a sedative and muscle relaxant.
- Gotu kola – Commonly used to enhance meditation.
- Gingko – This popular herb is used to balance many symptoms of dis-ease within the body, including issues with the heart, lungs, and kidneys.
- Saffron – Saffron is believed to pacify all three doshas, and it is often used in cooking.
- Tulsi – Also known as holy basil, this herb is used in medicinal teas to help balance the body.
Just as yoga and Ayurveda aren’t singular practices, neither is nutrition. These sattvic foods consumed on their own may have nutritional benefits, but do not expect to receive the full benefits of a sattvic diet unless you are taking a more holistic approach. In order to be in harmony with the way we eat, drink, breathe, and live, we must approach wellness from a higher perspective. Together, yoga, meditation, nutrition, and herbal supplements can help ground the body and enlighten the mind.
Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Lindsay Olsen. Lindsay is a freelance content writer for prAna, an avid fitness and yoga enthusiast, and new mom to be!