The yogic viewpoint on health, food and diet includes all the elements of our eating life such as the art of cooking, the occasion of eating, the process of digestion, lifestyle factors such as exercise and work, as well as extending into the environmental sphere of where the food has come from and where that food is going after it leaves the body.
To yogis, eating is not just seen as a one-issue argument about the substance of the food itself, but rather it is seen within the context of the whole life structure. For instance, eating nice, fresh, organic food is very good, but over-eating organic food at inappropriate times, is just as ignorant as over-eating junk food at the right times! Conversely, low grade food which has been prepared with love and devotion and is eaten in an environment of intimate conviviality, may well taste better and be better for the spirits of the consumers, than so-called "high grade" food which has been made in an angry rush and is eaten in front of a war movie on TV!
When we talk of food in yoga, we see food as fuel for the body and the body as a vehicle for that food. But not just the body - the mind is also re-fuelled through our mouth (our eyes and ears as well)! The venerable yogis and sages who studied the body and learned the secrets of its subtle elements over thousands of years, discovered the natural laws for eating which apply to all human bodies, all human digestive systems, and ` human minds, because of the very nature of those body systems and the nature of human consciousness. They saw the human condition from a much broader perspective than just flesh and blood. They knew it to be an evolving spiritual entity which serves not just itself but the whole of life, and one which needs the
best possible holistic management.
The yogic understanding of our body and its relationship with food is based upon the laws of nature. It presents a holistic perspective on the human body and all its functions - physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Far from being outdated or more suited to renunciates in Himalayan caves, the guidelines of yogic eating are extremely relevant and practical for modern Western people. With the worldwide increase in common digestive disorders today, it is plainly evident that a re-assessment of popular eating habits should be made.
The main themes which I find requiring repeated emphasis to people regarding food and diet are of balance and integration. One should always strive for balance and integration between:
· the quantity and quality of food
· necessary nutrition and desired pleasure
· an ideal diet for the spirit mixed with the necessary pragmatism for modern daily living.
If the inspiration for a change in one's eating habits is applied alongside the practical methods of yoga, it is certain that great changes will be made, and positive results will flow forth into every aspect of your life.
To yogis, "good eating" is not defined by professional gastronomes writing in international food and travel books or found only in expensive French restaurants which specialise in rare and subtle flavours mixed with vintage wines from the hillsides of the aristocracy! Rather, good eating is seen as intelligent and appropriate discrimination based on when, how, what and why we eat, along with how we assimilate that food and then express that newfound energy into the world. To write pages and pages on the pros and cons of the many different foods would serve no real purpose in true education about our bodies and our inner systems.
To really know about food, one needs to understand the whole food cycle, starting with the earth and ending as that food slides deliciously into your mouth. To learn more about food, start to spend some time involved with its production (such as making a small vegie garden) so that you can follow its journey from seed to mouth.