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This is the second of a series of articles on how to practise yoga, in consultation with Anantara Kalutara Resort Ayurvedic Consultant and Spa Manager Dr. Pushpika Attanayake. This week the discussion is on yogic diet.

“The primary focus of yogic diet is to facilitate mind towards its optimum state since the mind is the most vital instrument when practicing yoga,” Dr. Attanayake said.

According to her, a yogic diet is Sattvic, which means pure diet or diet that brings harmony. Yoga and Ayurvedic teachings name Sattva as one particular quality present in nature’s creations. The other two qualities are Raja and Tama. Rajasic foods are bitter, spicy, salty, hot or dry. They bring about over-stimulation of mind and excitement. On the other hand, Tamasic foods are bland. These include alcohol, tobacco, meat, garlic, onions as well as fermented or over-ripe substances.

“All three qualities are present in a diet but Sattvic quality should be dominating. It nourishes the body and calms and purifies the mind,” she said.

Sattvic food include fresh fruits, vegetables, milk, butter, cheese, whole meal bread, rice, legumes, nuts,seeds and herbal teas. It is important to eat fresh food as natural as possible. Also, try to avoid processed food.

Vegetarian diet
Toxins and uric acids in animal proteins are broken down by the liver. Some of these are deposited in the joints and tissues and contribute to conditions such as cancer and arthritis later on. Uric acid present in the blood stream acts as an irritant and bars the meditative state of the mind. Also, meat acts as a source of cholesterol, contributing to cardiovascular disease.

“You dont necessarily have to turn vegetarian overnight. Just try to substitute meat with protein-rich sources such as green leaves, legumes, nuts and dairy products as much as possible. These mainly break down to cellulose, which is easily digestible and can be utilized by the body quickly and efficiently,” Dr. Attanayake explained.

Whenever possible, consume organic food. It is important to avoid tobacco, alcohol and caffeine as well as any other substances that artificially stimulate the mind.

Eat at regular intervals
“A yoga student only needs two meals per day. However, do not panic. There is no need to force you to cut down the meals. This can be slowly achieved with time,” said
Dr .Attanayake.

It is also important to regularize the meal times. This will ensure better digestion and utilization of energy. Do not exercise or sleep until two hours after a meal. Digestion needs energy and it is important to ensure proper digestion before sleep for a peaceful night’s rest. This way, tissue repair and fighting infection would be carried out more effectively at night, without utilizing that energy for digestion.

Practise Mitahara
Mitahara is being aware of what one consumes. This includes eating in moderation. “Typically, one should only consume enough food to fill one half of the stomach. Water should be drunk to fill another quarter of the stomach and the other quarter should be empty to help the digestive processes,” Dr. Attanayake recommended.