What we consume directly affects how we act, react, and function in our environment; what we eat influences our physical well-being, thoughts, and emotional and spiritual well-being. Modern science has widely researched nutrition, and there is an immense amount of theories and studies to aid us in following a proper yogic diet. However, this body of growing and ever-evolving knowledge can be pretty daunting.

The variety of influences and personal physical responses of each person makes this science even more complex. One needs to start by becoming aware of what, when, where, and how one consumes food and monitors the outcome of this consumption and energy release process. Yogis are also more interested in the subtle energies and values of food rather than the contained chemical content of the food. If one looks at spiritual scriptures and teachers, they also speak of nutrition:



In the Bhagwat Gita, Chapter 14 explains the three natures (Gunas) of this reality is described as food can also follow these classifications. The three categories are Sattva (quality of life), “Luminous and harmonious due to its essential purity.”

Rajas (quality of activity/passion) “Passion-based and productive of longings for unattainable objects and attachment for those in one’s possession.”

Tamas (quality of darkness) “Ignorance-born and is productive of delusion in all beings.”

The Bhagwat Gita, Chapter 17, further explains how these Gunas relate to what we eat.

The Sattvic food promotes clarity of thoughts and calmness of mind. It is sweet, fresh agreeable. It includes fruits, nuts, vegetables, honey, milk, and grains. On the contrary, rajasic food feeds the body but promotes activity, induces restlessness of the mind, and disturbs the equilibrium of the mind. It includes spicy coffee, tea, garlic, onion, meat, fish, and processed foods.

Tamasic food that should be avoided induces heaviness of the body and dullness of the mind. It includes alcohol as well as foods that are stale and overripe.

Guidelines for Yogic eating:

Timing of Meals: should monitor one’s mealtimes, as eating too late at night causes indigestion. In addition, the digestive system rests when one goes to sleep. Therefore there should be at least 3 hours between your dinner and bedtime.

Check your breathing patterns. According to Swami Rama in “Science of Breath,” If your right nostril is dominant in breathing, it is the ideal time for eating; if your left nostril is more prevalent, then it is the perfect time to go to bed.

Manner of Eating: The ritual of eating extends beyond just the act of chewing and tasting the food on your tongue. One should be aware of the origin and the process of how the meal was grown, picked, processed, transported, prepared, served and eaten. It continues further by clearing the table, cleaning the dishes, digesting the meal, and finally recycling the waste to be composted or disposed of mindfully. Food should be freshly prepared and eaten with attention, respect, and gratitude.

Observe silence while eating and maintain awareness as this turns the process of eating into meditation. Consume fruits and fast-digesting ingredients first and allow the stomach to digest the serving for at least 15-20 minutes. Consume more complex foods, such as carbohydrates and proteins, separately because they need different types of enzymes to break down the food.

According to Dr. Jensen’s Nutritional Handbook, the body is overly acidic. One needs to balance this pH level by consuming the right amounts of green vegetables. Consume at least two-thirds to three-quarters of one’s diet as alkaline-based foods, such as leafy greens. And a quarter to a third of acidic-inducing foods, such as most proteins and carbohydrates.

 Fill the stomach half to three quarters with food. Leave the last quarter empty for digestion.

Drink fluids 20 minutes before and at least 20 minutes after a meal to avoid diluting the digestive juices in the stomach. If one needs to consume fluids during the meal, avoid icy drinks that will put out the digestive ‘fire.’ Take at least one day of fasting per week by only consuming light soups, liquids, and yogurt. This will allow the digestive system to recover and will enable the body to focus on purging impurities gathered in the body.

 Guidelines for what one should consume: yogic diet is essentially vegetarian. It includes very light and easily digestible foods to still the mind and make the body light and unobstructed for physical asanas and pranayama practice. Eating meat violates the first leg of yoga (Yamas) laid down by Patanjali (ahimsa/nonviolence). Protein can be obtained from nuts, legumes, and dairy products.

It is much easier to appreciate and get the optimal nutrition from one’s meals when one consumes slowly, mindfully, and locally sourced ingredients. Thus, a yogic diet is considered healthy, nourishing, and fulfilling for the physical body and the mind and soul.