Ancient Yogic Teaching on Right Food and Eating Habits
“The less you eat, the longer you live”
- Yoga saying -
“If you eat too much, you will get sick. Gluttony has been the death of many people; avoid it and live longer.” - Bible Old Testament, Sirach 37:32-34 -
“Food kills more people than famine”
- Modern saying -
“You can dig your grave with chopsticks”
- Japanese saying -
“Two kinds of people: Those who eat to live and those who live to eat.” - Popular saying -
“During the day you should eat only food that can be held in the two palms” - Buddhist saying -
“A person who eats once a day is a ‘Yogi’ (a healthy person) A person who eats twice a day is a ‘Bhogi’ (one who seeks enjoyment) A person who eats three times a day is a ‘Rogi’ (a patient) A person who eats four times a day is a “Drohi” (a criminal)” - Ancient Tamil saying -
“Stop eating while still enjoying food.”
- A mother’s advice to her VIP son -
All these sayings convey one message: Eat moderately.
What is food for?
The main role of food is to satisfy hunger and to provide essential nutrients for growth and maintenance of health and to provide the energy necessary for activities of the body. Appetite
Appetite is the natural desire for food to satisfy hunger. What we choose to eat is influenced by many other factors such as taste of food, individual likings, what we are conditioned to eat from young, social factors, emotional state, and also expectations of those around us. It is a combination of physical needs and other factors. When to Eat?
Eat only when you are hungry. For this you should follow the habits of animals and birds i.e. eating tit-bits (small quantities of food) throughout the day. This is not possible for most of us who are working people; so follow the usual breakfast, lunch and dinner schedule at fixed times, with a minimum of four hours in between. No eating between meals; drinks are fine, preferably plenty of water. Where to Eat?
A clean, ventilated, pleasant and peaceful place, if possible, in the company of friendly people. Avoid over-crowded, noisy and smoky places. How to Eat?
Yoga recommends eating slowly – each mouthful should be chewed thirty times, i.e. you’re your food well. It is not necessary to count the number of times you chew. Keep the lips closed while eating. Avoid talking and laughing while chewing. Before starting to eat, take six long, slow, deep breaths; with each breath visualise the condition of the body being slim. Some communities say a prayer before meals, a good practice. How Much to Eat?
Yogic instruction prescribes that the stomach be only half filled with food each time we eat, leaving one remaining quarter for water and the other quarter for air. This means that when one has finished eating, one should still feel slightly hungry. To be able to do this requires discipline. The yogic practices of Prathyahara and Meditation give us the necessary strength of will to say “no” to over-eating. What to Eat?
The Sanskrit word for the right kind of food is “Sattwic”, which in scientific terms is defined as alkaline foods. Vegetarian food is Sattwic and therefore considered the best; but yoga does not prescribe strict vegetarianism for ordinary people. For most, a predominantly vegetarian diet, with small quantities of meat, fish, eggs and milk products, are fine. Eat raw (uncooked) vegetables as much as possible. At the very least, include one item of raw vegetable (lettuce, carrot, onion, spinach, cabbage, mengkuang, etc.) in each meal. A list of common alkaline (sattwic) food is attached. Plain Yoghurt is an ideal sattwic health food. It is the ingredient of the legendary “Soma” – the food of gods which gave them immortality (eternal life). If the tart taste of plain yoghurt is disagreeable, flavour it to suit your liking with salt, sugar, jam, honey, fruits, cordials etc. Yoghurt mixed with minced raw vegetables is best – and in accordance with the yogic advice to eat raw foods. Cucumber, cabbage,...
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