Sattvic Diet and Yoga

This article was written on the occasion of Inernational Yoga Day. IT was published in one of the newspaper in Kenya.

The word Sattvic is derived from the Sanskrit word Sattva which means pure, essence, nature, vital, energy, clean, conscious, strong, courage, true, honest, wise, rudiment of life.” Sattvic diet emphasizes food and eating habits which promote, maintain or restore a sattvic state of living. It is pertinent to remember that the food we consume falls under any one of the three categories namely Sattvic, Tamasic and Rajasic. Food and drinks that have a destructive influence on the mind and body are classified as Tamasic while those foods that neither lead to better health nor prove to be destructive fall under Rajasic.

References in Scriptures

seated pose

Yoga literature that can be traced back to the medieval era raises the concept of mitahara or moderation in eating. The best diet is one which is tasty, satisfying, nutritious and adequate to meet the needs of the body. Hatha Yoga Pradipika suggests that one must “eat only when one feels hungry” and “neither overeat nor eat to completely fill the capacity of one’s stomach; rather leave a quarter portion empty and fill three quarters with quality food and fresh water”. Further one interested in yogic practices should avoid foods with excessive amounts of sourness, salt, bitterness, oil, spices, unripe vegetables, fermented foods or alcohol. The Bhagavad Gita also stresses that those in Satttva state prefer foods that are life giving, nourishing, and purifying one’s existence at the same time conferring strength, happiness and health. The goal of Yoga is Chitta vruthi nirodaha that is controlling the mind and calming the senses. A sattvic diet aids in achieving this goal easily. The Chhandogya Upanishad says, “By the purity of food one becomes purified in his inner nature; by the purification of his inner nature he verily gets memory of the Self; and by the attainment of the memory of the Self, all ties and attachments are severed.”

A Sattvic diet

images (9)

Hence a Sattvic diet is also known as Yogic diet. This includes seasonal foods, fruits, dairy products, nuts, seeds, oils, ripe vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and non-meat based proteins. Seasonal foods, fresh and naturally sourced, well prepared and freshly cooked are recommended. Moderation is the key in Yoga. Vegetarian food procured without harming other living creatures is hence recommended. All the six flavors are important and are preferably present in the Sattvic diet as each is vital for sustenance. Today doctors and dieticians recommend that the food pyramid be followed with a wholesome diet that can provide nutrition from all quarters, carbohydrates, proteins, minerals and vitamins. They also advise that a diet that is vegetarian certainly helps in reducing many lifestyle diseases which was advocated by our ancient seers.

It is not what we eat alone that matters but how we eat too contributes to our well being. Eating should not be a rushed, matter of fact chore to be over and done with. The act of eating itself is an offering to the Vaishwanara or the divinity that is there within each one, hence it is considered to be akin to a yagna. Sattvic diet is light, easy on the stomach, refreshing and does not contribute to mental agitations. When prepared and served with love, it creates harmony and balance in the human body.

Swami Sivananda sums up beautifully when he says, “Evolution is better than revolution. You should not make sudden changes in anything, particularly so in matters pertaining to food and drink. Let the change be slow and gradual. The system should accommodate it without any trouble.”