Today we hear about so many different approaches to diet. How can we cut through the confusion and answer the simple question: “What should I eat?” For those seeking “God, Love, Light”, Paramahansa Yogananda offered this valuable guidance: “Material foods impress the mind with certain good or bad qualities, and people’s thoughts, actions and health generally are determined by the foods they eat.” We need to choose, as he put it, “those material foods which emit and lodge spiritual vibrations in man’s mind and brain.””If we eat food with the right energy, it will affect our consciousness favorably.”
The Yogic Diet
Yogananda counseled that, “One’s diet should be foods which are easily converted into energy.” This means pure, natural foods that promote good health and optimum vitality. Even fresh foods have varying effects on our consciousness. The yoga teachings recommend following a diet that promotes harmony rather than stimulation, one that keeps the nervous system calm and peaceful and fills the body with energy, vitality and strength.
Yoga teaches that all creation, including food, is composed of three subtle qualities (gunas): elevating, activating, and darkening. In Sanskrit, these qualities are called sattvic, rajasic and tamasic. When we eat or surround ourselves with one of these qualities, our consciousness is drawn in that direction.
Sattva guna is the positive quality, drawing us toward goodness, truth, purity and spirituality. Foods that are natural, calming, or cleansing are sattvic, as are foods that increase life, vitality, purity, strength, health, and joy. These include raw fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, as well as water, air and sunlight. They foster within us such qualities as expansiveness, intelligence, creativity, love, sympathy, calmness, patience, devotion and truthfulness.
Rajo-guna is the neutral quality – not necessarily either “good” or “bad”. It is however, activating, creating constant activity and motion. Foods that are cooked, spiced, stimulating or gourmet tend to be rajasic, as does food that is excessively hot, bitter, sour or salty. Naturally rajasic foods include lamb, poultry, fish, whole grains, lightly cooked vegetables and fruits, onions, garlic, eggs, coffee, tobacco, reined sugar, soft drinks, fats, and oils. They lead us toward such “movement-oriented” qualities as ambition, curiosity, restlessness, impulsiveness, over-seriousness, or being demonstrative.
Tamo guna is the negative quality, drawing us toward darkness, untruth, inertia, ignorance. Foods that are overcooked, spoiled or unwholesome are tamasic. Tamasic foods include alcoholic beverages, moldy cheese, deep fried food, dried meats, very hot spicy foods, and foods that are over processed, chemicalized, canned or fermented. Tamasic foods lead us toward dullness, laziness, anger, negativity and body consciousness.
Paramhansa Yogananda recommended a diet that includes foods with both rajasic and sattvic vibrations. He pointed out that we need to balance our need to fulfill worldly duties (rajas) with the need to keep the breath calm for meditation (sattva). Therefore his recommended diet included whole grains (cooked), vegetables and fruits (raw and lightly cooked), low-fat yogurt, cottage cheese, milk, butter, nuts and seeds; although today the yogic texts are reconsidering dairy due to the toxicity and treatment of the once sacred cow.
Keep in mind, however, that other factors can contribute positively to your diet. Even though each food has its own innate vibrations according to gunas, there are other factors that affect its vibration. For example, the consciousness and actions of those along every step of the process (farming, raising, slaughtering, packaging, distributing, etc) in getting the food in front of you is infused into the food. Also, we can permeate our food with sattvic vibrations through the way we cook it and eat it. For ways to raise the vibration of your foods, click here.
During the Conscious Cleanse retreat, we go much deeper into the relationship between food, vibration and its affects on our consciousness. Hope to have you join us one day!