Urdva Yoga

5 CLASSICAL DIET RULES

We all have heard “You are what you eat” and have experienced some truth of it. Our food habits are a reflection of our culture, habits, and our state of mind. As much as our mental state reflects in our food habits, our food also reflects back into our physical and mental health.

Food feeds our mind through our senses, the sight, the flavors, the aroma, the textures, and the juices salivate and satiate the sensory apparatus. Our physical body made up of food is called annamaya kosha, the food sheath. Likewise, our personality is made up of five sheaths of annamaya kosha (the physical body made up of food), pranamaya kosha (energy body), manomaya kosha (the mental sheath), vijnanmaya kosha (the knowledge sheath) and anandamaya kosha (bliss sheath).

The yogic texts declare aaharanti-iti-aahara; meaning whatever we intake is considered aahara or food. This intake is through all the channels of senses – sight, smell, taste, touch, and sound.

Often we indulge in food as a means of escape for the mind. When we are tensed or, anxious we seek comfort in food. As we learn to cultivate greater awareness of our emotions and our behavior we can alter this uncontrolled eating habit.

We picked five rules from five classical texts of Yoga and Ayurveda and examined what they say about food, its relationship, and its effect on the mind.

RULE #1: MODERATION

By moderation in eating and recreation, balance in work, and regulation in sleep one can overcome all sorrows by practicing Yoga.
yuktāhāra-vihārasya yukta-cheṣhṭasya karmasu yukta-svapnāvabodhasya yogo bhavati duḥkha-hā
Bhagawad Gita verse 6.17
Yoga here is mindfulness in all activities in waking hours and in sleep. Yog is the state of harmony and joy whereas overindulgence is bhog which is the root of illness and unhappiness of the mind. Overeating makes one a rogi, moderation makes one a yogi.

RULE #2: SWEET & AGREEABLE

Mitahar is food that is fresh, pleasant, and agreeable taken to fill one-half of the stomach and eaten as an offering to Shiva.

Susnighdhamadhurāharśchaturthāśavivarjitah Bhujyate śivasamprītyai mitāhārah sa uchyate
Yogi Svatmarama in Hatha Yoga Pradipika 1.58
Food that is not suitable for one’s metabolism, is disagreeable. The stomach should be half filled with food, one-quarter with water, and one-quarter left empty for air movement. Eating food with the sentiment of offering it to Shiva, the inner consciousness. Food becomes prasada when consumed with the attitude of nourishing the body for its maintenance of life and progress in developing a higher consciousness.

Often we indulge in food as a means of escape for the mind. When we are tensed or, anxious we seek comfort in food. As we learn to cultivate greater awareness of our emotions and our behavior we can alter this uncontrolled eating habit.

We picked five rules from five classical texts of Yoga and Ayurveda and examined what they say about food, its relationship, and its effect on the mind.

RULE #3: TAKE FOOD AS MEDICINE

Daily take the medicine of food treating hunger and disease, get treated, and beg not for delicious food.
Kṣudvyādhiśca cikitsyatāṁ pratidinaṁ bhikṣauṣadhaṁ bhujyataṁ
– Sadhana Panchakam of Adi Shankaracharya, verse 4
If we notice how a doctor prescribes medicine – with precise frequency and dosage and for a specific purpose of treatment, the same way we can cultivate our attitude to food. This can cure us of cravings, overeating, and eating unagreeable foods.

RULE #4: EAT HALF STOMACH

Divide the stomach into four parts and fill the stomach with two parts of solid foods, one part with liquid, and the remaining part should be kept vacant for the movement of vata, etc.

Annena kukśedvārvanshau pānenaikaṁ prapuryet āshyaṁ pavanādināṁ chaturthamvaṣyet
– Ashtanga Hridayam, Sutra Sthana 8.46

RULE #5: EAT IN A PLEASANT STATE OF MIND

One should eat with a stable and pleasant state of mind. Even nutritious food, taken in the right quantity, does not get digested properly, if the mental state of the person is riddled with anxiety, grief, fear, anger, restlessness, and irritability due to lack of sleep.

Mātryā’pyabhyavahrtaṃ pathyaṃ cānnaṃ na jiryati Cintā śoka bhaya krodha duhkha śayyā prajāgaraih
– Charaka Samhita, Vimana Sthana 2/9.
In all traditions of the world we find prayers are said before a meal. This is not merely a religious act but allows the mind to be calmed and gathered so the digestive juices may flow, chewing is relaxed and efficient thus aiding the digestive process. On the contrary, disengaging from the act of eating and watching intense dramas and violent content on media has the reverse effect on food.

Food is what we consume from all senses, We feel the texture and emperature of the food, the aroma of the food, the colors and form of the food, and the richness of various tastes and thereby fill the mind with food even before the stomach is filled.

May the food we eat nourish our body and satiate our mind.