For the Yogis, feeding is a complete practice in itself. The three dimensions of Hatha Yoga – physical, energetic and mental – thus unite in the action of nourishment.
1. A simple diet to satiate the body
The dietary considerations of the Yogis on the diet are quite meager! Moreover, to the extent that they often live on alms and offerings, they would be uncomfortable to be choosy, except to take the risk of receiving nothing!
The menu of a Yogi is therefore the traditional meal of an Indian that can still be consumed today in any pantry. The “yogi diet” is thus usually composed of dhal (lentils) and dairy products which provide the proteins, these “builders of the cellular tissues”. The Yogi finds in the rice and the pancakes of flour (chapati) the carbohydrates which will bring the heat to his organism. The fats are found in the clarified butter (ghee) and vegetable oils that accommodate the dish. Only very ordinary so, besides, you already knew, Yogis rarely open restaurants!
Remember, however, a tip still relevant for us: “On the occasion of a meal, fill your stomach to half.Fill the third quarter with a glass of water and leave the last quarter empty for gas”. Jacques Chaban-Delmas, who did not practice Yoga, or in secret, explained to a journalist the secret of his astonishing dynamism: “I always go out of bed while still hungry”.
Finally, according to Swami Shivananda: “Excess food overloads the stomach, makes the tongue sticky and the mind capricious”. So, by the way, hi!
More original is the importance recognized by the Yogis to food, conceived as a source of energy (Prana).
2. Food is a precious source of energy
Prana animates living beings. That this Prana is present in insufficient quantity, that it is badly distributed or badly used, and a problem of health will inevitably end up manifesting itself in us.
The sources of Prana that are absorbed by human beings are diverse . We essentially draw our energy from the air we inhale, the food and drinks we eat, and the solar radiation that our skin absorbs or the exchanges we have with other beings: some people inspire you, make you want to do beautiful things, while others pump your energy! Among this diversity, food is indisputably one of our main sources of energy.
Not all foods are a source of energy. Fresh foods are loaded in Prana: fresh vegetables, fresh bread, fresh dairy products … On the other hand, what is fermented, frozen, canned, stale or dead is devoid of Prana.
Animal meat is thus devoid of vital energy, as are tin cans, fermented cheeses and stale bread. The Yogis recommend to throw them away! That this does not prevent you however to taste a good Roquefort, if you appreciate it; just know that it is devoid of vital energy and you will have to find elsewhere. In meat you will of course find chemical constituents, but not Prana. To dissuade you from consuming meat, the Yogis complete this energy argument with a moral justification: animals are rarely willing to go to the slaughterhouse! To take away their life is therefore a negative act that weighs down the karma of the one who kills them, which every meat eater should remember!
Prana is absorbed when the food is on the tongue . Our language is thus an instrument of absorption of Prana. A practice of traditional purification consists besides placing oneself in the sun with the mouth wide open to take a sun bath with the mouth. I recommend it warmly, avoiding however wasps! Unlike Westerners who only care about the outer cleanliness of the body, Yogis ensure their inner cleanliness and practices of purification (Criyas) are not lacking in Yoga.
Once the food is in the throat, the body can no longer absorb Prana. Of course, the digestive system will break down these foods and absorb the chemical components, but this work of assimilation will be reduced to that.
In order to absorb the maximum of Prana, the Yogis are concentrated , collected and silent when they sit down to eat. They also enjoy this food that they enjoy and taste so fully. But they do it without attachment .
It is considered that as long as a food has taste, it contains Prana. So Yogis chew for a long time!
As a result, Yogis rarely need to eat much. They thus reduce digestive work, which consumes a lot of energy, and have much more resources for thinking, meditating and acting.
You will find, no doubt, some Yogis, in love with austerities and privations of all sorts. This is not necessarily the guarantee of a great psychological and spiritual evolution. This attitude is based on the belief – which we have long known in the West – that the flesh must be made to suffer in order to lift the spirit. Personally, I find this belief wrong and unhealthy. To guard against extremes, to develop a caring and protective attitude towards oneself seems to me necessary conditions to evolve with confidence.
Feeding properly allows our energy to be harmoniously distributed in our subtle body. This protective attitude is a necessary phase. But it is possible, however, to go further and to make the act of feeding itself a mental practice in its own right.
3. Make food a real mental practice
Mental practice is a fundamental component of Hatha Yoga: it is it that will allow us to gradually transform our mindand move towards more happiness and self-realization.
This practice can be done at different levels.
First of all, it’s important to have respect for what you eat. If you consume meat it is so good to have a grateful thought towards the animal who gave his body for us.
Eating has also become connected to the entire universe. If you take your coffee in the morning, you realize that its grain arrived by boat from Colombia and that it was loaded on board, in bundles, by a lot of workers and if you remember that farmers tried to pick some the grains on the coffee trees, this will give your tasting a special flavor, which is not just the taste of coffee. You will feel connected to the world, to others. You will feel gratitude for this accomplished work and for the generosity of nature. You will then become more aware of your place on earth: you are an element of a whole, a link of a precious chain. After such a breakfast you will feel rich of a deeper experience and will undoubtedly perform better actions.
Another practice is to imagine that you are making an offering of the meal you are going to take to a being whom you recognize as superior (a deity or spiritual master, such as Jesus, the Buddha or Shiva,). You then imagine that this offering is given back to you and you conceive a lot of gratitude, gratitude. Once this meal is taken, imagine that energy, Prana radiates from youand that you liberate him generously around you. Imagine using this energy to perform meritorious acts that generate positive karma, acts that alleviate the suffering of others, and that make sense to you. You will find that you then have the necessary jurisdiction to accomplish these beneficial actions. You will become more aware that your life depends on others and that you are in a permanent exchange. Your meal will no longer be a selfish act. You will feel really good, in your place in the universe, in harmony with other beings.
Here are some examples that can significantly enrich your meals.
The Yogis teach us that our body is sacred . Yet, too often we treat it like a garbage can. Sometimes taking the time to eat, to enjoy, without being too attached to what we eat is an experience that can bring you health, joy of living and inner harmony.