As a true yogi, you have known for a long time: your practice does not only take place on the mat. But also in spirit and in lifestyle in general. An important aspect is nutrition. We will tell you how you can get your body and mind in perfect harmony with yoga and proper yoga nutrition.
After all, food makes you happy, this also applies to the yogic diet. At least if you eat well. Because there are certain foods that are good for your body and others that are more harmful. The big goal: to understand how the right diet, combined with yoga exercises, can lead to less stress and more inner satisfaction.
What is the typical yogic diet like?
The core of yoga nutrition knowledge is based on Yogi Patanjali’s “Yoga Sutra”, in which he describes rules and principles, on the one hand, for himself and, on the other hand, for others. The top priority is not to lose weight and be slim, but to feel balanced and full of energy after eating. This is achieved through the correct “what” as well as the correct “how much”. In yogic nutrition, this is known as sattvic nutrition, from “Sattva”, which means something like “ease” or “harmony”.
Instead, struggling with bloating, fatigue, abdominal pain, or bloating after meals indicates more inappropriate food intake that likely falls into the category of tamas (slowness) or rajas (restlessness). Rajastic food, such as coffee, spicy food or sugar, makes the body and mind restless and should be reduced as much as possible in daily life. Tamasic foods, in turn, drain energy from the body and make it limp and sluggish, physically and mentally. In the yoga diet, these include, for example, meat and alcohol, but also tobacco and of course other drugs. Anyone who eats too much generally also becomes lazy.
In yoga teaching, sattva, tamas, and rajas form the three gunas (guna means something like property), which are considered fundamental characteristics of the self or “forces of nature.” They can be found in all areas of life, including nutrition. The background: each food has a very specific effect on our body and mind, both positive and negative.
|sattwig food||rajasic foods||tasty meals|
|fresh fruits and vegetables and potatoes||onions and garlic||frozen or preserved foods|
|vegetables||hot spices||microwaved food|
|Integral products||wheat flour||eggs|
|nuts and dried fruit||Coffee||meat|
|Cereals and pseudocereals||black tea||Fast food|
How to combine yoga and nutrition and get the best out of yourself and your body is explained by Udo Einem, himself a passionate yogi, cook and health consultant, in his book “Das Yoga Kochbuch” (Christian Verlag, around 30 euros) and we now tell you here:
How does a yogi eat?
What specific nutritional advice is there from and for yogis? We have summarized here the 8 most important for you:
1. Develop more food awareness
Basic rule #1 for yogis: Develop more awareness of your own body. “There is only one form of nutrition that is good for everyone, and that is the form of mindfulness,” Denenkel writes in his book. But THE only non-plus-ultra nutritional strategy in yoga does not exist. In yoga nutrition, there are no strict guidelines on the amount of protein, carbohydrates, etc. that you need every day. Each organism has different individual needs that need to be discovered. Your body already knows what and how much suits it. Recognizing this is the first step and at the same time the biggest challenge in yoga nutrition.
2. Do not heat the food (too much).
Yogis swear to heat as little food as possible, preferring to enjoy it raw instead. The meaning behind it: Many nutrients are lost due to temperatures above 43 degrees Celsius, enzyme activity drops to zero, and protein structure changes.
In short: life in food is extinguished. “However, liveliness is a quality characteristic that distinguishes fresh food,” explains the yoga chef. Your body benefits from this. Pleasure must not fall by the wayside when it comes to yogic nutrition. For example, instead of cooking food, fruits and vegetables are dried at low temperatures, marinated or pickled with oil and spices, and grains are soaked.
3. Eat less meat
Do yogis eat meat? A valid question that often arises when considering the yogic way of life. “Strictly speaking, yogis cut meat out of their diet altogether. The reason for this is ‘Ahimsa,’ which translates to non-violence,” says yoga expert Lassen. It’s about dealing peacefully with others, both with people as with animals. But you don’t necessarily have to reduce your meat intake to zero. Rather, this point of yoga nutrition is about a more mindful approach.
Where does the meat come from? Under what conditions were the animals kept? Start thinking about it and pay attention to good quality. In this case, less is more. Instead of eating meat several times a week, treat yourself to a nice organic steak once in a while.
4. Regional organic products instead of industrially processed foods
What is decisive for yogis is the added value for their body. And you can look for that for a long time with industrially processed products. During production, the food is often heated, which not only loses nutrients, but also flavor. The industry often tries to solve this with a colorful chemical cocktail of additives, flavor enhancers and sweeteners.
So these foods have nothing to do with “natural” and “fresh”. Regional organics even more: To be allowed to carry the state organic label, foods must meet a wide range of requirements. Pesticides, genetically modified seeds and mineral fertilizers are prohibited. This ensures that no chemicals end up in the food and that the nutrient content is kept as high as possible.
The same applies to the ground. You also benefit from organic cultivation so that you can optimally care for the next seedlings. At the same time, you’re also doing something good for the environment. Long transport routes are no longer necessary for regional products. “In this way, yogic nutrition contributes to promoting sustainable production conditions,” writes Udo Denkel.
Advice: Shop more often at the weekly market, try new types of fruit and vegetables, and find a butcher you trust. And no, the supermarket “fresh food counter” is not one of them.
5. Give the body time to digest
Digesting a meal is a competitive sport for the body. Before you can do anything with it, you have to break it all down into its individual parts. Most of this happens in the intestine. The pancreas produces the necessary digestive juices. They contain enzymes that break down food into its basic components. The pancreas also produces insulin, which regulates blood sugar levels. If she was constantly fed, she would work 24 hours.
“So that the pancreas can breathe deeply between meals, yogis make sure to take a break of about four hours between meals,” says Udo Einemkel.
6. Consciously enjoy every meal
Eating should not be just for nourishment. Take your time and mindfully enjoy your meals. You may start to notice the different flavors much more clearly.
Chew well and don’t stuff yourself. Try to think of food as a break, a time to replenish your energy stores. All this can take a while and has a completely different advantage: the feeling of fullness only sets in after about 20 minutes. Mindful eating will also fill you up with smaller portions. For yogis, frugality is a requirement that also applies to food.
Another book tip for newcomers to yoga nutrition: The Yogi Method – 30-Day Challenge to Conscious Nutrition by Marcel Anders-Hoepgen (published by systemed, about 20 euros).
7. Don’t ban yourself from everything
Tips, good and good. You don’t have to strictly adhere to all of them. Bans are the absolute killer of happiness and that is why yogis get by without them. Rather, they follow guidelines that they know will do their body and soul good. And you can depart from these guidelines if you wish. Eating is a beautiful thing. It is balm for the soul and therefore each meal is a gift for the body. “Enjoy to your heart’s content,” author Udo Einem also suggests. As long as you have a good knowledge of food, you will naturally regain your balance after a long feast.
8. Drink, drink, drink
The most obvious tip at the end: drink plenty of water. Even if it is already ringing in your ears because you are regularly called from all corners, it still cannot be said often enough. Water is the beginning and the end for the body and therefore also for the yogic diet. Especially after a sweaty yoga session, it is important to restore the body’s water balance. But of course you can and should drink as much fluid as possible throughout the day. About 3 liters a day is recommended. If you don’t feel like drinking plain water, you may like various herbal teas which, in addition to a varied taste, also provide a range of antioxidants for an extra boost. But lemon, ginger or mint water also provide nutrients in liquid form.
What is usually done in yoga teaching: You drink the warm water. The body does not have to expend energy to heat water to body temperature. In addition, warm water stimulates metabolism and digestion, and contaminants are more easily dissolved and eliminated due to the increase in temperature.
You see, with these nutritional tips from and for yogis, you’ll always be closer to yourself on the mat. A small smile of satisfaction after a delicious meal is the first step in the right direction.