Annanam Brahman", - the ancient yogis equated food with God. Our physical and mental health is directly linked with the food we eat. In Bhagwad Gita Lord says Satvik food increases longevity, brings purity, gives strength and good health (all physical attributes) but at the same time it also gives happiness and love.
While eating one should attend to the way food is being chewed, the subtle tastes of the different food items, the way it goes down the oesophagus. When food is eaten this way, with full attention and in a very pleasant mood, the assimilation and absorption of food is at its best.
How much to eat
Yoga recommends Mitahara- in moderation. Bhagwad Gita recommends Yuktahara- neither too much nor too less.
Too much eating makes the body material and heavy, eating too little makes it weak and nervous- one has to find the true harmony and balance between the body’s need and the food taken says Sri Aurobindo.
What is necessary is to take enough food and think no more about it, taking it as a means for the maintenance of the physical instrument only. Looking from Within- p. 166.
Most physical ailments are caused due to unhealthy food habits.
What to eat
All cereals, milk and milk products, fruits and vegetables particularly seasonal ones, moong dal with chilka, sprouted cereals, pulses, ginger, turmeric, coriander powder, cumin seeds, honey, jaggery, crystal sugar, raw sugar, ghee, oils made of seeds (groundnut, mustard, sesame, olive etc.). This is Satvik food which brings relaxation in the system and a feeling of peace.
What not to eat
All processed, packaged, fried, refrigerated, fermented and fast food should be avoided as far as possible. But the problem is we like rajasic food- tasty, spicy, greasy that is mostly outside food. It leaves one in a agitated, restless state of mind. All non- vegetarian foods, hot spices, onions, garlic, unseasonable vegetables come under this category.
Tamasic food- all refined, processed, artificially coloured, flavoured, preserved, packaged, refrigerated food are Tamasic in nature. Tea, cocoa, wine, liquor, bakery products, aerated drinks all are Tamasic food. A person who eats Tamasic food feels dull, lazy, lethargic throughout the day.
For adults two meals have been recommended. In addition, one can take milk, fruits etc. Every morsel should be chewed 32 times and food should be taken with proper attention. It is good not to take water in between. Food taken when you are angry , without hunger, excess of hunger and spicy are not good for health.
Food should also not be taken when you are in hurry , sick , there is pain in stomach or there is urge to defecate.
Don’t take food at impure and dirty place, at dusk or dawn and in a broken plate.
The one who prepares food and also one who serves should not be immoral, adulterer, back biter and suffering from communicable diseases.
While taking food , don’t argue, speak harsh words and be angry.
Don’t find fault in food, cry and shout while eating.
Half cooked, tasteless, left out food are tamasic food.
No physical or mental activity should be done immediately after eating- SNY - p30
There should be four types of purity in food
A) Kshetra Suddhi ( purity of place)
The place where food is prepared and taken should be pure. A place where there is dust and dirt, mosquitos and flies, bacterias germinate and mixing with food they produce diseases.
B) Dravya Suddhi- ( purity of money)
Food prepared or bought by money earned with unethical, illegal, immoral means affects our body and mind and cannot make us pure and satvik.
C) Kala Suddhi ( purity of time)
Those who don’t take their food on time suffer from various stomach related diseases. Taking food when you are hungry is the best time .
D) Bhava Suddhi ( purity of thoughts)
Take food in good mood. Don’t take food when angry, irritated, disturbed, distressed, depressed.
“Balance of alkaline and acidic food
In human body 80% is alkali and 20% is acid. Maintaining this ratio is the primary basis of health. That is why our food must be 80% alkaline and 20% acidic.
Alkaline food products
All types of fruits except plum and berries, lemon and orange, leafy vegetables and remaining vegetables, coconut, fresh milk, sprouted food grains, dates, figs, soaked dry fruits.
Acidic food products
Meat, egg, cheese, butter, cooked food, chapati and dry fruits, sweets, sugar, grains, coffee, tea, chocolate, sugary syrup, boiled milk, maida, salt, intoxicating drinks, soda water, vegetable ghee, fried and deep fried foods, baked products etc.
Remember people who eat more of raw food like fruits and salads do not have the problem of alkali or acid. This problem is faced by people consuming cooked food”.- SYN-pp43
1. Ahara is what we eat daily- bread, rice, vegetables fruits, milk, curd ad other things in the form of carbohydrate, protein, fats, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. Ayurveda says that food, water and air are three main sources of prana and they come under ahara.
2. Ahara could be satvik, rajasik and tamasik.
3. Satvik ahara brings cheerfulness and santosh ( contentment). Rajasik ahara brings ego and anger. Tamasik ahara brings laziness and depression.
4. It says food should not be gulped fast, one should restrain from speaking while taking food and consumption should be according to one’s constitution.-It includes- 1) Nature ( Prakriti of the consumer) 2) Taste of food articles 3) Doshas of ingredients of food 4) Method of preparation 5) Combination of food articles 6) Emotional effects 7) Environmental considerations 8) Time 9) Quantity.
Rules governing intake - 1) Take fresh food 2) Take warm food 3) Take unctuous food 4) Take in proper quantity 5) Take only when earlier food has been digested 6) Take food not having contradictory properties* 7) Take food in proper place 8) Take food in relaxed condition 9) Not eat too slowly 10) Avoid talking 11) Take food in proper manner.
Food having contradictory properties ( wrong combination)
“Banana with milk or curd , radish with milk or curd, milk with curd, honey with hot water or any other hot product, honey and radish, khichadi with sweet pudding, milk with melon, water melon or cucumber, urad daal with radish, curd and jamun, curd and melon, curd and cheese, fruits with vegetables, at night radish or curd, heated up curd, ten days old ghee in a metal pot, pulses with sweet potato or potato, any other food with melon or water melon, cereals with rice or cereals with chapati, chapati with milk or curd, chapati and tamarind”.- SYN-p.44-45.
Other important aspects about food
* The first thing is about vegetable meals and fruit meals. About 60 percent of our food should be vegetables, fruits, and nuts. Moreover, vegetables in their raw form have immense benefits for our health. The necessary vitamin, minerals, proteins all are okay with certain amounts required for our body, almost all are available in vegetables and fruits.
The second aspect of food is how alive the food is. This means how long the vegetables or any food is becoming dead. The more time it is dead the more nutritional values will go away from the food.
The third aspect , is how our body reacts to certain food. The better our body responds it means the food is giving us more amount of life within us. if you eat food and your body feels very agile and alive that means it's good food and your body is liking it. If you feel dull this means the food is not suiting your body.
The fourth is about the quantity. Two meals a day is absolutely perfect for all of us. Even I had experimented with this, it works amazingly for me. Only two meals, nothing else.
The fifth is about timing when we should have the food. With timing in day time morning at 10 o’clock and evening at 7 o’clock is the best time for having meals.
The sixth aspect is the amount of gratitude and reverence we must give for our food while we have the food. Because when we eat the food we must treat the food as part of our body. We can understand it by way of an example as, any individual who not had food for 4 to 5 days, even if God appears in front of that person, the person will ask for food only from Him. He also mentioned as with proper consciousness and thankful we are towards the food, it works in a totally different way.
Sleep is a relaxation of tension. After days work body needs rest and rest in adequate quantity. Body uses this time to repair the worn out parts and prepares us for the next days work. If work is essential to grow and prosper, sleep is equally essential to enable us to keep working. Both are complimentary. The nature teaches us the same principle. If sun rises, it sets too. Inhalation is there then exhalation is also there. If heart pumps at one moment, relaxes another. While explaining the importance of Asan Maharshi patanjali also talks about both - Prayatna( effort) and saithilya ( relaxation).
Excess of everything is bad as the saying goes. So excess sleep brings tamas and this leads to more laziness instead of making you refreshed and rejuvenated. Again sleeping for long hours and sleeping beyond the night disturbs the sleep. Keeping yourself awake by say tea or coffee is equally harmful. Lack of sleep causes dullness, headache , burning sensation in eyes, body ache and disturbance in bowel movement .
The problem with today’s life is excessive importance to work and effort but no importance to sleep and relaxation. That is precisely the cause of increase in life style diseases.
When mind is affected by tamogun in the night, it increases kapha dosha and naturally sleep is induced. Kapha is related to growth and development and increases immunity. In the presence of anxiety, tension, anger, sensuality sleep is not possible because it increases vata dosha.
The principle says day is for work and night is for sleep. Day time sleep increases kapha dosha and make the body unctuous and heavy. Staying awake at night increases vata dosha and makes sleep difficult. But both vata and kapha are vital for sleep. Pitta increases heat and reduces sleep.
Night pollution generally occurs in the fourth quarter. Those who are in the habit of getting up between third and fourth quarter and do japa and dhyana never fall victim to nocturnal pollution.
Sound sleep- things to be observed
Secrets of Naturopathy and Yoga by Dr Brij Bhushan Goyal pp 73 has suggested following for deep sleep.
1. “Eat three hours before sleeping
2. Before sleeping clean the mouth, teeth, tongue and throat.
3. Do not wear tight clothes
Don’t let television interfere with the timing of sleeping.
Before going to sleep, never let the mind wander instead read good books or practise concentration on any of the following.
breathing ( inspiration and expiration)
Reverse counting from 100 to 1
4. Before sleeping, practise self review and decide upon the ways of improvement. Just before sleeping these thoughts can be easily accepted by the subconscious mind and then it will start working accordingly.
5. Sedative pills should not be taken. Although one may sleep well with the help of medicines but over a period of time they are harmful”.
Sleep on a coarse bed, on left side, inhale through right nostril and your head should be either in east or south direction.
In yoga, nidra or sleep has special significance and the technique used is Yoga Nidra.
It is believed that one hour of Yoga Nidra is equivalent to four hours of deep sleep. In today’s times it is used more as a body mind relaxation technique particularly to relieve stress from the system, but the technique’s original idea was to attain higher levels of consciousness.
This is one of the greatest of all yogic practices for succeeding in life- Yoga Nidra - Swami Satyananda Saraswati p. 190
Benefits of yoga Nidra
By using this psychosomatic balance is restored.
Efficient and effective system of psychic and physiological rest and rejuvenation.
The energy is redirected for healing and rejuvenation .
Body and mind feels much relaxed.
Memory and will power gets strengthened.
Develops emotional control by forming new circuits in the brain.
Don’t go to bed immediately after food. Sleeping place should be airy, pure and clean. One should read holy books or scriptures before sleeping. Keeping ones head in east or south direction one should sleep on clean bed. Remembering God lie down on your left side. It is good to sleep for 7/8 hours. Switch your TV, phones half an hour before going to bed. Don’t cover your face and don’t sleep with socks on . It is good to go to bed early and rise early.
Sourced from Dincharya Unk of Gita press Gorakhpur
Few facts about rest and relaxation
1. The real rest is in the inner life founded in peace and silence and absence of desires. There is no other rest- for without that the machine goes on whether one is interested in it or not.
2. The recreational activities like music, dance, painting, gardening triggers production of happy hormones. These hormones are hormones of wellbeing.
3. Relaxation is the cornerstone of a well-balanced personality yet modern men pays scant attention to it. Relaxation is an art which has to be cultivated. Good sleep is a part of relaxation. It is important for our brain, nervous system, body and emotions. If day is there for work, night is there for sleep and relaxation. What we have foolishly believed that work, work and more work is the way to progress. And therefore, sleep, rest and relaxation are considered as impediments, disruptions to growth. This endless pursuit of work has given rise to tension, stress and depression leading to lifestyle diseases. Tension has become accepted part of life. It creates unpleasant symptoms at the physical level. Thought process becomes fuzzy, emotions and feelings take over and one loses one's balance. Often people seek relaxation in external things - watching TV, movies, going to restaurant, unnecessary socialising, smoking, drinking, alcoholism etc. But they are mere escapism. It means coming down to a lower level, whereas in true relaxation one must rise one degree higher , one must rise above oneself. Each time one goes down , one increases the load of subconscient and this huge load of subconscient must be cleaned again and again if one wants to mount says the Mother. Bodily comforts provide a little bit of pleasure not relaxation. Pleasure is at body level; relaxation is a deeper thing.
4. The rest must be an ascent into light, into perfect peace , total silence., a rest which rises up out of the darkness.
5. True rest and repose comes from the widening, the universalisation of consciousness. Become as vast as the world and you will always be at rest.