The Yogic Diet

The yogic diet  is primarily a sattvic diet that recommends eating whole, unprocessed foods, like fresh fruits and vegetables. Such a diet  promotes calm, clear, receptive, and a peaceful mind.  

 
 
An Alkaline start
Yogic diet includes a ritual of drinking lemon water on an empty stomach, which eliminates the toxic diet and acids. Moreover, the lemon water is extremely alkaline, detoxifies and wakes ups all organs. It is suggested that adding salt enhances its power.  
 
 
Plant-based
Yogic diet include food that is related to prana (life force). Food which has prana gives us physical and emotional strength. Raw food, as intended by nature, gives us all vitamins and minerals . On the other hand, heat from cooked food destroys its fibre, nutrients and enzymes. So are canned, frozen, microwaved, or highly processed foods.  
 

Fasting
Yogic diet include a regular practice of fasting and cleansing to maintain lightness and clarity. Yoga believes that accumulation of toxins breeds disease. This includes bad eating habits, exposure to chemicals, build-up of negative emotions leading to an imbalance of mind and body. Fasting helps to counter this by giving our digestive system a break. There are various ways of fasting: water fast, fruit fast, giving up one or two meals in a day.
 
 
Good fats

Yogic nutrition is incomplete without ghee, coconut oil and soaked nuts/seeds. The presence of fats in the body improves memory, neural conductivity and mental well-being.

 

 
Herbs Teas or herbs like turmeric, ginger, coriander, pepper, cinnamon, and cardamom are included in the yogic diet. They are anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and detoxifying in nature. 
 
 
That said, part of the yogic diet practice is also developing awareness on what you eat. It is good to spend time learning the origins and properties of the food you buy. Most importantly, it is essential to listen to how your body reacts to the food you eat so that you will know if that food might serve you best in each moment.   

Om and the Vagus Nerve

Om is frequently heard in many yoga classes or in meditation classes. When chanted, Om vibrates at the frequency of 432 Hz, which is the same vibrational frequency found in all things throughout nature. Hence, Om is known as the basic sound of the universe. 

 
Om is made up of three syllables: ‘A’, ‘U’, ’M’ and represents several sacred trinities:
  • the continuity of past, present and future. 
  • the masculine, feminine and neutral principles. 
  • speech (‘vak’), mind (‘manas’) and breath (‘prana’) 
  • the creator (Brahma), the maintainer (Vishnu) and the destroyer (Shiva).  
  • conditions of consciousness of the waking state, the dreaming state, and the deep sleep state.  
 
Hence, by chanting Om (AUM), we acknowledge our connection to nature and all other living beings. It represents the union of the mind, body, and the spirit.
 
Vagus Nerve
The vagus nerve is the tenth cranial nerve, extending from its origin in the brainstem through the neck and the thorax down to the abdomen. 
 
The vagus nerve innervates:
  1. Larynx and pharynx – responsible for the initiation of swallowing and phonation
  2. Heart – Vagus nerve ensures a resting heart rate of 60 – 80 beats per minute. If the vagus nerve was lesioned, the resting heart rate would be around 100 beats per minute
  3. Gastro-intestinal tract –  the vagus nerve stimulates smooth muscle contraction and glandular secretions in these organs. For example, in the stomach, the vagus nerve increases the rate of gastric emptying, and stimulates acid production
Function
The vagus nerve is responsible for the regulation of internal organ functions, such as digestion, heart rate, and respiratory rate, by bringing these information of the inner organs, such as gut, liver, heart, and lungs to the brain. It is the main contributor of the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps to inhibit the body from overworking and restores the body to a calm and composed state.  

It is shown that the chanting of “Om” can help to stimulate the vagus nerve which provides benefits for those with depression, anxiety and even those with high inflammatory markers which can be stress induced.

So the next time “Om” is chanted, think of the effects it can have in our whole body.. literally!

 

References:

Kalyani BG, Venkatasubramanian G, Arasappa R, et al. Neurohemodynamic correlates of ‘OM’ chanting: A pilot functional magnetic resonance imaging study. Int J Yoga. 2011;4(1):3-6. doi:10.4103/0973-6131.78171

Breit S, Kupferberg A, Rogler G, Hasler G. Vagus Nerve as Modulator of the Brain-Gut Axis in Psychiatric and Inflammatory Disorders. Front Psychiatry. 2018;9:44. Published 2018 Mar 13. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00044

Padmasana

“yogas chitta vritti nirodhah”, (Yoga Sutras: I, 2)
The above is Patanjali’s famous definition of yoga: Yoga is the removal of the fluctuations of the mind.
 
In the modern practice of yoga today, a lot of attention has been given to the fanciful asanas. However if we were to return to Patajali’s definition of yoga, it seems that Patanjali’s work has no other asana instruction other than the necessity of finding a posture in which to engage in the practices of pranayama and meditation. The practice begins by sitting and calming the fluctuations of the body, breath, and senses. A yogic sage named Maharishi Vyasa referenced the Padmasana, or the lotus pose, as one of the 11 important poses in yoga for meditation.  
 
What is Padamsana
Padmasana - Ayurwiki 

Padmasana is a seated pose where both of your legs are crossed and your feet are on the opposite thighs while you place your hands on your knees. Your hands are placed in the mudra position. Hold this position with slow and long breaths inwards and then outwards.

Padmasana Benefits

Practicing Padmasana regularly has been shown to produce benefits such as:

  • Reduces anxiety by calming the mind
  • Increases awareness and attentiveness
  • Reduce menstrual discomfort and sciatic
  • Reduce insomnia
  • Keeps the spine straight
  • Helps develop good posture
  • Helps keeps joints and ligaments flexible
  • Stimulates the spine, pelvis, abdomen, and bladder
 
Padmasana, which seems like a simple pose on the outside; in truth, requires flexibility of the body and strength of the mind in order to sustain the pose. This could be an important asana mentioned by Pantajali which encapsulates the essence of yoga.  

 

 

 

The 8 Limbs of Yoga

In the contemporary world today, Yoga has been increasingly popular and practiced worldwide. 

As I start my journey to deepen my understanding of yoga during the YTT 200, I have come to learn that Asanas is just the tip of the iceberg of the Yoga Sutras. Pantajali was the first to summarize the ‘big picture’ of yoga philosophy into 8 limbs; which form the basis of Ashtanga Yoga and is a guidance on how to live a balanced and ethical life, on and off the mat. 
 

1. Yama 

Yama is the first limb which covers restraints that focus on our behaviors and how we conduct ourselves in life. They are:

a) Ahimsa: Non-violence or practice of benevolence.

b) Satya: principle of practicing truthfulness and authenticity with our thoughts, words, and actions. 

c) Asteya: practice of non-stealing and maintaining a balance of give and take

d) Brahmacharya: Celibacy or practice of self-control by not overindulging in the senses

e) Aparigraha: principle of non-possession and detachment

 

2. Niyama 

Niyama is the second limb which focuses on self discipline and inward practices to improve the self. They are:

a) Saucha: purification of the mind and body

b) Samtosa: contentment of where we are and what we have

c) Tapas: practice of self discipline and structure

d) Svadhyaya: principle of self study

e) Isvara pranidhana: principle of surrendering and dedication to something that is much greater than ourselves.

 

3. Asana
Asana is the third limb where through the practice of poses, we develop the habit of discipline and the ability to concentrate for deeper meditation.  
 
4. Pranayama
‘Prana’ refers to life force. Pranayama is the practice of regulation of breath (through inhalation and exhalation) to connect the mind and emotions.
 
5.Pratyahara
Pratyahara, the fifth limb of yoga is about withdrawing the senses from the outer world, so that we can take a step back and look inward.
  
6. Dharana 
Once we have learned to withdraw from our senses, we can move onto Dharna, the sixth luimb. Dharna is the practice of one-point focus and sustained concentration.

7. Dhyana
With Dharana, it gradually leads to the seventh limb – Dhyana. This is a meditative state where the mind becomes so still and aware that there are few or no thoughts at all.   

8. Samadhi 
Samadhi can be defined as the union of the true self and transcendence of the lower self and personality. It is finding that connection with universal consciousness which leads to true spiritual freedom. 
 
As you can see, Yoga is so much more than just Asanas. It is a state of life, a state of being. Understanding the other 7 limbs, we will be able to use these teachings and integrate in our daily living. This does not happen only through our outward actions but also through our thoughts inwardly. Yoga is lifetime practice where the result will only unravel itself with practice and time.