What Should Yogis Eat?

When my aunt found out that I was practicing yoga, she asked me if I was a vegetarian. When I answered “No”, she was mortified – “How can you do yoga if you’re not a vegetarian?” I didn’t know how to answer that because I didn’t understand why this was a pre-requisite. My body can still do all the poses even though I ate meat, so what’s the big deal?


If you’ve been doing yoga for a while, you would have noticed that ‘diet’ becomes a big topic among yogis. This idea of an “ideal diet” for the “ideal yogi” often causes a divide in the yoga community – the vegetarians versus the non-vegetarians. Some yogis would pass judgment and discredit you as a yoga practitioner if you’re not vegetarian, and others take a rebellious stance on the other extreme, calling vegetarian yogis unrealistic and old-fashioned.


I didn’t have a strong opinion either way, so throughout my years practicing yoga, I’ve always stayed away from this topic and continued eating what I usually do. 


Although I’ve done pranayama prior to the YTTC, it wasn’t part of my daily ritual, unlike my asana practice. As part of the YTTC, I’ve decided to give the daily morning pranayama practice a go. After a few weeks, I’ve started noticing differences. Some were predictable – “prana” means energy, so rightfully so it gave me energy.  I used to NEED a cup of coffee in the morning to function. And now, I am no longer a slave to my morning coffee. At the end of my morning pranayama practice, I get a boost of natural energy from within, which tends to last the entire day.  And I soon realised I didn’t need an external stimulant to get me through the day. I still drink coffee because I do like the taste, but the point is that I didn’t NEED it as a source of energy.


Besides that, there was another significant shift that I did not expect. I started being more aware of what my body needed, and thus being more conscious of what I consumed. For example, I didn’t feel the need to eat big meals just because it was the time of the day – like lunchtime or dinnertime. I ate when I was hungry. And instead of eating based on cravings, I felt I was more in tune with what my body needed at that present time. When I was feeling a little dehydrated, I felt more drawn to water based fruits, even though my mind preferred chocolates. I was eating less based on cravings, and more based on what my body truly needed.


As the weeks passed by, my relationship with food changed. The shift wasn’t so much in what I “should” eat and what I “should not” eat. It was in the direction of that relationship. It was no longer outward to inward – i.e. external stimulus dictating what I felt I should eat. But instead it was inward to outward – a voice or feeling within me projected out what I needed.


Don’t get my wrong; I didn’t turn into a vegetarian overnight. But there were days when I didn’t feel the need to have meat. And on days that I did have meat, as much as I could, I consciously looked for meat that was ethically farmed.


We live in a society where a lot of our actions are based on rules – whether they are part of the written law in a country, or other soft rules dictated by the society or community that we live in. Obviously some of these rules help to keep society functioning without friction – like the law not to kill another human being. But with yoga, in my view, the point of the practice isn’t to live by rules. Yoga, through the practice of asana, pranayama and meditation, allows us to tune in and practice awareness from within. From this daily practice of cultivating awareness, our actions would gradually and naturally be guided by the awakening of our senses, mind and intelligence. So, no one can tell you, a yogi, what you should or should not eat. But be prepared to feel the change from within.


Sunitha Prasobhan (@miss_sunitha), 200hr Yoga TTC Sept 2017


Self awareness – Who are you in yoga

I was told by Master Paalu that the way a person practices yoga tells a lot about the person. Are you someone that rushes into a pose, or someone that practices yoga as if you were entering into a yoga competition? Or perhaps you are somebody that forces yourself into a pose no matter how painful it might take you to do it, or you are just a bystander watching and envying your fellow yogis who could get into that difficult position? Are you always comparing yourself with somebody else? No matter what type of personality you have, the question is: “Are you are aware that you were behaving the way you are behaving?”
Self awareness is the ability to be at the present moment, not past, not future.  While you are holding on to that chair pose, are you in that moment, are you watching everything that is going through your body and mind, or are you recalling about the argument that happened last night? While you were chatting with your friends, are you in that moment or are you planning on what to do next? How many times have we actually lost our present moment when our minds are actually filled with past or future events?
Importance of self-awareness
When you act without awareness, you will never be able to identify whats right or wrong – it is as good as sleep walking, which means your mind actually takes control of you. Controlling your mind is the most important aspect in life and when you act with awareness, you are in control of your mind. And when you are in control your mind, you are in control of your life. When you are not aware of your current situation, you are inviting a lot trouble to yourself. This is especially true when it comes to a person suffering from depression, when they lost it, or reacting inappropriately, chances are they are totally unaware of the way they behave -This is when the mind takes control of them.
Yoga leads you to self-awareness – pay attention to your body and mind
Regular practice in yoga helps you develop self-awareness. Whenever you are getting into any poses, be at the present moment; listen to your breathing, feel your body and mind, what are they telling you? And if there is any distraction that comes along the way, don’t be discourage, just be aware of it and simply bring your attention back to your breathing. When you practice this often, you will find that you will understand a lot more about yourself and your surroundings. And with that understanding, you are in control of many things in life!
Watch your ‘Thoughts’, they become words.
Watch your ‘Words’, they become actions.
Watch your ‘Actions’, they become habits.
Watch your ‘Habits’, they become character.
Watch your ‘Character’, for it becomes your Destiny.
– Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Serene Ang