Yoga and Nutrition

By Jeff Martens

As you eat, so shall ye become.  What you put into your body becomes the building blocks for your physical body.  What are you putting into your body?

We have all felt energized by a good diet.  We have also felt the results of eating unhealthy or impure foods.  A nutritional Yogic diet is most often a vegetarian one that emphasizes “sattvic” foods based on fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, grains, fresh air, sunlight and water.

In yoga the Universal Oneness manifests outward into the three Gunas: Sattva, Rajas and Tamas.  The three Gunas are present in all of creation and in all of our food in some ratio even though one quality may dominate the other two at any one time.  Only the Enlightened find freedom from the three Gunas.  Until then the Gunas are a great tool to learn to differentiate that which supports our path of Freedom and that which plunges us deeper into duhkha or delusion.  All food has prana or life-energy in it.  What you want is to have the highest-quality prana possible so that your body can assimilate and nourish itself without processing toxins or an overload of food.

Sattvic food is “pure” food that nourishes the body and helps to maintain a peaceful state.  Sattvic food calms and purifies the mind while helping to reduce confusion and distraction.  The body’s natural healing powers are empowered and true good health is attained with the soul leading the mind leading the body.  Cereals, whole grains, some “live food”, nuts, seeds, fresh fruit, vegetables, ghee, olive oil, flax and borage oil, legumes, sprouted grains/seeds, herbal teas and healthy water can all be sattvic nourishment.  There are also ways to dive deeper into faith and mirackles with such diets as mentioned in “Quantum Eating”, Raw Food Diets, The Gerson Diet etc. that are designed to heal and will transform your body and your life through what is now still unconventional wisdom.

Rajasic food is food that is hot, sour, salty or bitter in taste.  Rajasic foods nourish the body at the expense of mental calmness and clarity.  Overindulgence in rajasic foods overstimulates the mind and excites the body, contributing to the mind leading the body leading the soul.  Rajasic foods include hot spiced food, strong spices or stimulating herbs, coffee, fish, eggs and chocolate.  Eating in a hurry can make any food rajasic.

Tamasic food nourishes neither mind nor body and promotes a state where the body/senses dominate the mind and the Spirit is often ignored.  When tamasic food is a staple, the pranic energy drains slowly away.  The ability to reason becomes hazy and a deep sense of sluggishness or inertia takes over.  The immune system becomes weaker and the body becomes more susceptible to illness or disease.  Dark emotions related to the senses such as greed, covetousness and lust take center stage giving rise to fear and anger.  Tamasic substances include meat (red and pork/chicken), alcohol, tobacco, onions, garlic, and fermented, stale and overripe foods.  Overeating can help make any diet tamasic.


As noted above, just as important as what we eat is the way we eat it.  Are we distracted or in a hurry when eating?  Do we multi-task by reading, driving or watching TV?  Do we eat only when we’re hungry?  Do we chew our food incompletely?  Or do we bless and appreciate our food before eating.  Do we recognize and imbue our food with divine energy, paying attention to the look, taste and texture of what we are eating?  Do we consciously appreciate all the hands and forces of nature that made it possible for this gift of food energy to come to our plates before us and chew slowly with gratitude and love?