Yogic diet and mind balance

By Harsh Thakkar

Do you control your mind when it comes to eating what you want to eat or does the mind tell you what to eat? And how does the food one eats contribute to the state of mind?

Ayurveda is described as the traditional Indian system of medicine (incorporated in Atharva Veda, the last of the four Vedas) which is based on the idea of balance in bodily systems and uses diet, herbal treatment, and yogic breathing. Balance as we know now is also one of strongest pillars of Yoga. Literally translated it would be “Ayur” meaning Life or Age and “Veda” meaning science or knowledge. In most western countries although it is considered as a system of complementary and alternate medicine. Even though I do not have the complete knowledge of Ayurveda and all its practices, whatever I have read so far it tells me that it provides guidelines for diet, seasonal routines and homemade remedies from plants and herbs to remind us that one’s health is a delicate balance between the environment, body, mind and spirit.

According to Ayurveda, food has a prominent role in achieving balanced body-mind-soul consciousness. It is said that the nature of food a person consumes reflects their nature or temperament.

Any food you eat can be categorized as either sattvicrajasic and tamasic according to its character and effect upon the body and the mind.

Sattvic food

Sattva is that which makes us curious, thoughtful, and alert.

Sattvic food is always freshly cooked and simple, juicy, light, unctuous, nourishing, cooling and refreshing to mind and body. It increases the energy of the mind and produces cheerfulness, serenity and mental clarity. Sattvic food is highly conducive to good health.

Foods: Whole grains and legumes like Rice, Whole wheat, Millet, Corn, Lentils, Oats, Beans etc. Freshly picked and organically grown vegetables like Celery, Sweet potatoes, Sprouts, Cauliflower, Zucchini, Lettuce, Green beans, Spinach, Broccoli, Asparagus etc. Fresh fruits such as Apples, Peaches, Oranges, Bananas, Guava, Berries, Papayas, Pomegranate etc.

Rajasic Food

Rajas are invigorating and mentally stimulating and make us active, giving us the desire to work, push, and manifest.

This is food that is fresh but heavy. The rajasic diet is also cooked fresh and is nutritious. It may contain a little more oil and spices compared to sattvic food. Rajasic foods are bitter, sour, salty, pungent, hot and dry. It stimulates aggression, passion, fire, imbalance of the emotion, energy, alters the consciousness, and creates depression.

Foods: Fish and meat such as Salmon, Sole, Trout, Lamb, Chicken, Turkey, Tuna, Eggs etc. Excess of Sharp Spices like Salt, Pepper, Black Pepper, Ginger, Onion, Radish, Garlic etc. Stimulants such as Coffee, Tea, Tobacco, Sugar, Cola Drinks, Chocolates, Alcoholic Drinks etc.

Tamasic Food

Tamas gives us the desire to stop, slow down, and rest.

Tamasic foods cause lethargy, inactivity, mental block, severe anger, darkness, ignorance, and no control of self. These foods are considered to be highly detrimental to the body and mind.

Foods: Fried food, Eggs, White flour, Fast food, excess starch and sugar, chillies, sauce, fermented or stale food, ice creams, chocolates, preserved meats/ fruits and jams, artificially flavoured drinks, alcohol, breads, cakes, Pickles.

We have all the three Gunas / qualities within us in different proportions. All 3 of these qualities (Sattvic, Rajasic, and Tamasic) are necessary for survival and to move in a progressive direction in life. How we respond to the events and circumstances in our life very much depends on the predominant Guna / Quality within us.

Sattva qualities make a person calm and joyful. ‘Small amount’ of Rajas makes the person active and passionate, while Tamas in ‘moderation’ is considered as grounding and promotes stability.

 

 

 

 

Energy ball : a snack full of energy

I got this idea after the day we practised ashtanga primary series. All I needed was a snack full of energy. If you don’t have an oven at home!! No problem, you only need a refrigerator and you can enjoy the pure energy in the form of goodness for those who want something quick and portable.
Here is the recipe!!!

1 cup Dates
1/2 cup Dry oat
1/2 cup Almonds
1/2 cup Cashew nut
1/4 cup Coconut flex
1 tbsp Cacao powder
1 tbsp Chia seed
1/3 cup Almond milk
2 tbsp Peanut butter

Let’s get started!!

1) Mix almond, cashew nuts, oat and cacao powder into a food processor or blender and make into fine dry substances.
2) Then add in the dates, Chia seed and peanut butter, continue blending until the mixture start to clump up
3) Add almond milk and blend it until the mixture start forming a nice sticky dough
4) Roll the mixture like a ball shape
5) Place the ball in the fridge about an hour to hardened them. Keep them in an airtight or container
6) Now you are good to go!! Enjoy!

We are what we eat

Most of us will consider the food choices we make as a reflection of our internal state – if we are stressed out, our eating style will be affected by it. Conversely the food we consume affects our bodies as well as the mind. Each and every cellular molecule in our body is created from the food we put into our body, including the water we drink and the air we breathe. Besides nourishing our bodies, food affects the quality of our lives, our moods, energy and our overall physical and mental health.

It is also too easy to lose our connection to the food we eat, and how we eat it. How many times have we felt pressed for time and we eat on the go, consuming what’s convenient and fast, rather than adequately nourishing our body. We have learn to block out signals from the stomach, suppress our cravings, rather than trying to really understand and determine what our body requires.  Often many of us have eaten something simply because “it’s there,” rather than because we’re actually hungry for it.

Yoga teaches us to be mindful of all our lifestyle choices and how they impact us. When your life is balanced and relaxed, your diet routine is set right. When I turned to yoga, I never imagined how it could transform my eating habits. I was going through a difficult phase and started experiencing symptoms like a high heart rate, a racing mind, and complete inability to stop and calm down. These, in turn, affected my eating habits and my body was experiencing a lack of nourishment.

Through consistent meditation and asana practice, I could find myself making small changes to my food choices. My mind was calmer, more focused and aware, I gave more importance and respect to food as it was the source of energy for my body.

Practicing awareness and mindfulness has made me question where my food comes from and it extends beyond going to the supermarket to purchase, say an apple. It helps me gain a deeper understanding of the evolution of the apple from seed, to photosynthesis, to plant, to farmer’s hand, to transportation, and finally to me.

The mindfulness of yoga has taught me to listen to my body, make nutritious choices, and consume enough food to fill my stomach. I had a newfound relationship with food, where I began feeling it was my responsibility to supply my body and mind with the right energy sources.

My Dosha Smoothie

Smoothies are great, who doesn’t love a good smoothie?  You get to put loads of lovely fruits and veggies together, blend them up and there you have it, a tasty chilled drink that fills you up. So with my love of smoothies and learning about the doshas I just had to make a smoothie only using the foods that are related to my dosha, I call it the ultimate smoothie. Firstly by doing this I did research and took a few different quizzes (just to make sure) to know what my Dosha was. Upon this search, I discovered that my body type is predominantly Vata. So know I needed to know what foods were good for my dosha body type, Vata. So again I did lots of research and came up with a long list of foods for Vata dosha bodies. So from this list, I chose out a few things that I could make my smoothie out of.

 

The list of ingredients for my ultimate smoothie:

-Blackberries

-Raspberries

-Blueberries

-Strawberries

-Half a banana

-Avocado

-Cucumber

-Cilantro

-Oats

-Natural yogurt

-Coconut flakes

 -Almonds

-And chia seeds

topped up with coconut water to help blend it all together.

 

In the end, my smoothie was delicious and super healthy. I’m always suggesting my friends who don’t have a blender, to go get one! I rant on firstly about how love smoothies, especially a strawberry and banana smoothie, YUM! I tell them that making smoothies is really easy and can be really yummy and healthy at the same time. For me personally, eating food and trying to gain weight has always been a hassle, and sometimes it really handy to just blend something up quickly to give your body what it needs. You can even buy powdered nutrients and protiens to put in your smoothies to enrich it even more, but that isn’t for everyone. 

Smoothies make mi-so happy

Smoothies make mi-so happy. 

I love smoothies — healthy or unhealthy, I love them all. I always have frozen berries, avocadoes, bananas, mangoes, ice cream, etc. in my freezer waiting to be blended into a delicious smoothie. Sometimes I make healthy choices by making a protein or fruit smoothie or I go to the extreme by making an ice cream milk shake. The healthy choices are usually made in the morning and the unhealthy choices in the evening.

Since we have yoga training in the morning, I’ve been going to classes with an empty stomach because I have no idea if I’ll have to do kapalabhati or asanas. And most of the time when I have cycling classes in the evening, I come home by 9pm devastatingly hungry that I feel like the calories are burning from my bone marrow. I want to eat a meal, but if I eat solid food, I might torture myself the next morning. Therefore, the go-to solution was to have a smoothie.

Since we’ve learnt about the three gunas (sattvic, rajasic, and tamasic). I’ve tried making a delicious smoothie with a sattvic effect that also satisfies my evening sugar cravings. Recipe below!

 

The Mi-So Sattvic Smoothie

INGREDIENTS:

  • Coconut Milk – one and a half (1 1/2) cup
  • Water – half (1/2) cup
  • Avocado – half (1/2)
  • Banana – half (1/2)
  • Baby Spinach – one (1) handful
  • Dates – two (2) pitted
  • Turmeric Powder – two (2) pinches
  • Cinnamon Powder – one (1) pinch

INSTRUCTIONS:

  • Just put them altogether in a blender and blend till smooth.

 

Namaste & Enjoy

– – Miso

Recipe: Sivananda Cookies

If you are looking for a delicious, healthy post yoga snack then look no further! This recipe comes from the Sivananda centre in London, where they have cookies freshly baked for students to tuck in to after class. They make multiple batches of these cookies in a day for all of the hungry mouths awaiting them!

This recipe is refined sugar, dairy, and egg free – so perfect for those working towards a sattvic diet.

I have tried a few alterations in the past (adding desiccated coconut to your cookies is a particularly good one!) so feel free to let your imagination run with any additional ingredients. Enjoy!

 

Sivananda Cookies

 

3 cups of oats/oatmeal

2 cups of whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ a cup of raisins

½ a cup of almonds

½ a cup of walnuts or hazelnuts

¾ a cup of coconut oil

1 cup honey

¼ teaspoon salt

¾ a cup of almond or soy milk

 

  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees
  • Add all dry ingredients (oats, flour, spices, raisins, baking powder) to a large bowl and mix gently together
  • In a food processor, grind walnuts/hazelnuts and almonds until they are in small pieces and add to the dry mix
  • In another bowl, combine honey, milk, oil (all non dry ingredients) and mix together.
  • Combine the wet and dry mixes and use your hands to ensure thoroughly mixed. Take a spoonful of the mixture and roll into a ball. Place on an oiled baking sheet and flatten it so it is about 10 centimetres in diameter. Repeat with the rest of the mix.
  • Bake for 20 minutes until golden! Leave to cool slightly on a wire rack, and then dig in!
  • Not suitable for those with nut allergies.

Diet and lifestyle

I want to talk about how I manage my diet based in my daily life, my believes and my mental health.

Ayurveda (complete knowledge about life) is balanced in 5 elements that can or can´t be in our body, they are: earth, fire, water, air, space/ether.  A different and unique combination of those five elements determines our body, mind and spirit type, some of them cannot be changed prakriti because we were born with it, but doshas can be change depending in your life and behavior. Based on a quiz we did in class I learn that there are 3 types of doshas: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. This types of doshas are conformed by physical appearance, physiological processes (diet, climate, activities, country, etc.) and behavior, depending on your dosha you can have a specific diet who can keep you balanced, concentrated and active the way your body needs it.

 

I´m Pitta in an 80%, what means my characteristics are:

 

Area Characteristics
BODY TYPE medium size, warmer, reddish skin tone, metabolic medium and built muscle faster than the other doshas.
PERSONALITY tense, control freak and leaders.
IF ITS NOT IN BLANCE inflammation, workaholic, dehydration and hypertension.
ELEMENT Fire.

 

Yoga diet is divided in 3 categories (3 gunas):

Sattvic, Rajasic and Tamasic.Sattvic foods is pure, what they do is increase your energy and prana. satvik diet is that it’s light in nature, easy to digest, mildly cooling, refreshing and not disturbing to the mind. According to Ayurveda, this is the best diet for physical strength, good mind, good health and longevity. Rajasic The type of food is very natured spicy, bitter, sour, pungent, dry and excessively and exit the passions, making mind restless and uncontrollable. Rajasic food stimulates speed, sensual pleasure and physical activity.  On the other hand, Tamasic foods make one feel dull, sluggish and perhaps even lazy. Unfortunately, this is the kind of food the large majority of the population consumes in this day and age, this type of food I´m not able to eat.

According to Ayurveda and yoga, food is responsible for the individual’s physical, mental and spiritual development. Since food is the source of vitality, errors in diet will cause disorders. This is why we should be aware of the properties of the food we eat. When “aware” I mean we need to listen to our body and our mind, be careful with how we feed our body. Even though some type of food may belong to the sattvic group we might not being feeling pure and refreshing, in this type of situation we can choose not to take it and change it, there is a big variety we don’t need to force ourselves just because its in the sattvic group.

 

But, I´m not a 100% pitta because I got hyperthyroidism (physical alteration) who makes me gain weight, being cold all the time, be dull, tired, distracted, etc. So I have a different diet to help my body feel better and healthier. Besides the pitta diet I need to take away soy products, dairy products, gluten products & certain chemicals that are processed.

 

Since Pitta is associated with the fire element, Pitta-pacifying foods consist of those that are cooling, hydrating and subtle. These help to balance moisture, achieve optimum temperature and neutralize any excess acidity in the body. As such, Pitta should increase intake of sweet, astringent and bitter foods and decrease that of salty, sour or pungent. As a general guideline, hot, spicy and fried food should be avoided, as well as fermented foods such as sour cream or alcohol. A more comprehensive recommendation of foods that Pitta should consume is shown in the table below:

 

New diet with 3 Gunas

First week of Yoga Teacher Training, we learned about the food categories based on 3 Gunas, which is Sattvic, Rajasic & Tamasic. This is interesting!!!

After the class, I ask myself what is the percentage of food between this 3 gunas that I consumed all the while? My answer is ” I ate coffee, tea, milo, milk, hawker food, Japanese food, Korean food, Chinese food, western food, fruit juice, soy milk… fruits and salad too… emmm…Roughly 5% (Sattvic), 15% (Rajasic) & 80% (Tamasic)…”
OH OOoo….almost all is under Tamasic & Rajasic…
Looking into the food range, sound difficult to have full Sattvic now a day, unless today we have own farm, own cow to supply fresh milk, own land to plant organic vegetables…etc, otherwise there is no way to have full Sattvic diet. In fact, Tamasic & Rajasic food are not all unhealthy food. There are still a lot of healthy food with rich of vitamin, protein, mineral and so on…that human body require daily. We don’t have to eat Sattvic food to become healthy right? The most important to reduce unhealthy food and take balance diet everyday.

So, I do some analysis and finally I split Tamasic food into 3 types which is suit to me.
1. Tamasic Healthier – Whole meal, low fat, low sugar, non-processing and non-preserve.
Exp:Whole meal bread, Chicken breast, fish, mushroom, low fat milk, beef…etc
2. Tamasic Average – Normal hawker centre food, Bread, Rice, biscuit, taufu, chocolate, frozen vegetable…etc
3. Tamasic Unhealthy – Fast Food, fried food, snack, preserve food, processing food..etc

Next, I’ve adjusting my daily meal percentage to roughly 35%(Sattvic), 8-10% (Tamasic), 50-55% (Tamasic type 1&2), and 2-0% (Tamasic type 3) and my new diet begin…
Instead of eating fried “you tiao”, economy beehun..etc plus coffee, now my breakfast changed to cereal, whole meal bread, milk and banana. Not much changes for lunch, I’m taking normal meal in coffee shop, just try to avoid taking Tamasic type 3. For dinner, I took only fruits, nuts (almond, cashew, raisin…) and vegetables.

Results after 2 weeks:
Not really seen any obvious changes physically yet, my weight maintain… but I can feel not that sleepy even without coffee in morning. Also One thing can be sure, I became “more willing” to get up from bed in morning, compared to last time I keep snoozing my alarm clock many times, then late to work…haha!!! Furthermore, I seem like not very rely on coffee to make me awake anymore. Sound good!!!

Looking forward to see what is the changes along the way, will keep this diet for a period of time and observe…
Cheer!!!

Wei Veen

5 swaps I’ve made in a quest to achieve a Yogic diet

In yoga, energy can classify itself in three Gunas – Sattvic, Rajasic and Tamasic. These three qualities are within ourselves and and motivate/demotivate different actions and attitudes that we take. When it comes to food and drink, the three Gunas can translate as follows:
Sattvic – foods that are pure, fresh, natural, unprocessed and will nourish the body in a balanced way. Whole grains, proteins like nuts, and pulses. Foods low in salt, sugar, spice.
Rajasic – stimulating or altering foods with excessive flavour – spicy, sweet, saline. Alert the senses and thus over stimulate the mind.
Tamasic – food that intoxicates a person or make them feel dull, lazy. Alcohol is included in this category, as is food that has been burned, fried, preserved.
The yogic diet encourages a sattvic approach to food and drink – which in modern society can be a challenge! Not only because we are surrounded by rajasic, tamasic eateries and products that are well marketed, but also because we use food as a social bonding activity.
Here are some simple swaps I have made in the past three weeks to (slowly) help shift myself to a more sattvic approach to food and drink.
1. Processed Sugar < Fruit Sugar 
I have a real ‘sweet tooth’. I often use sugar as a reward/treat, or an energy boost if I’m physically or mentally tired/stressed. It tends to help initially but I always slump a few hours afterwards and hunt out more sugar! Over the past few weeks I have swapped biscuits, sweets, for fresh fruit.
2. Sweet Drinks < Herbal Tea 
Historically I am not someone that has been hooked on sweet drinks/fruit juices/fizzy drinks, however as soon as I moved to Singapore I found myself drawn to the array of choices on offer when it comes to drinks! We are told through advertising that these are the most ‘thirst quenching, energising’ drinks but in actual fact they offer empty calories, damage teeth and make us produce more gas!!
I have swapped these drinks for herbal teas (with ice) or cold water. I have found this to be an easy switch and it has actually helped my energy levels and appetite to become more stable!
3. Plain Carbohydrates < Whole Grains
Back in the UK we LOVE to bake!! This means that many people consume a lot of bread, cakes, rolls, biscuits, pizza. Carbohydrates are important for a balanced diet but in aiming to move to a sattvic frame we should avoid foods that are over processed or too much food that will make us feel sluggish and have a tamasic effect.
I have reduced my bread intake (I’ve found there to be less temptation which is good!) and lean towards whole grain rice, pasta, carbs when possible. It makes such a difference to energy levels!
4. Dairy < Alternatives 
Traditionally dairy would be incorporated as part of a sattvic diet. However in recent years with mass production of milk, butter, cheese, yoghurt we have been exposed to the mass methods of production and treatments of animals which do not align with a sattvic existence.
I have reduced my dairy intake and have found some great alternatives – coconut yoghurt, almond milk, adding bananas and chia seeds when baking rather than butter. I will consciously aim to make these swaps in future!
5. Eating ‘on the go’ < Mindful Eating
This swap has been a big one for me! Working in a busy job in London, despite my healthy approach I often find that I cram time to eat in. Most days I would eat at my desk or en route to a meeting, and meal times were never planned! I have learned that even pure, sattvic foods become rajasic when eaten on the go as the action promotes a restless state of mind.
I am now taking time to appreciate my food in all stages: buying – preparing – serving – chewing – swallowing – digesting.
I have found this super helpful and has solved a problem I often face which is that I over eat and bloat (probably from shovelling food rather than appreciating it!).
I still have a way to go but am happy with the difference I have noticed thus far when incorporating some of these simple swaps.
Give them a try!
Abby

Yoga for a Happier Digestive System

Since six years old (or maybe even further back), I’ve suffered from constipation. It’s been common for me to empty my bowels once to twice every week. My family and friends who know about my constipation, used to say it may be because I don’t drink enough water or eat enough fibre, but that’s wrong. I drink at least 2 litres of water per day and eat a well balanced meal with enough fibre.

To ease my constipation I’ve tried incorporating yoghurt in my diet (which helped a bit) but stopped due to frequent skin break outs and a stomach bloat. As well as taking probiotic supplements, which didn’t seem to make a difference.

As time passed, I’ve ignored my digestive problems, telling myself that maybe my body takes a longer time to move the waste out of my bowels. But then as I commenced the 4 week yoga teacher training course, I’ve been going to the toilet to empty my bowels every single day. EVERY SINGLE DAY! AND SOMETIMES EVEN TWICE A DAY! It’s been an amazing feeling, where my stomach feels empty and at ease.

I haven’t changed my life style, diet, sleeping patterns, etc. The only new thing that was incorporated into my lifestyle this past week has been yoga practice (asanas and pranayama).  Five days of yoga in a row, practicing the asanas along with pranayama for minimum two (2) hours in the morning before lunch.

One might suggest it’s because I’ve been “exercising”, but the answer is no. I’m a freelance spinning instructor, teaching minimum of five 45 minutes classes a week. I “exercise” enough, thank you very much. Sure you can get an “exercise” out of yoga, but I’d say I’ve been moving my body a lot more in different angles and planes, twisting my body along with proper conscious breathing which probably massaged my colon internally, thus stimulating elimination.

Yoga really does purify your body, especially your colons. I look forward to continuing this regular practice (partly) for a happier digestive system. You know what they say, happy tummy equals happy me.

 

— Miso