—Yang Liu, Beijing
Aadil Palkhivala's reply:
As an <a href="/health/ayurveda">Ayurvedic practitioner, I believe that a yogic lifestyle and proper eating habits go absolutely hand-in-hand. I recommend that my students eat food that creates balance in their system, for balance and harmony are essential elements of yoga.
There is no perfect diet, and no ideal food. I encourage you to monitor your food intake to determine what works for you and what doesn't—diet has to be adjusted individually. There are, however, rules to go by. First, you should not feel sluggish or tired after a meal. If you do, change what you are eating until meals do not make you tired. Second, there should be no pain, bloating, or gas production after you eat. Third, your bowel movement should be easy and effortless, come out with minimal gas, and when examined, should be light in color, should have a minimal smell, should be smooth and well formed, and should float. The bowel will tell you whether the food you are eating is good for you or not.
General rules for eating include: Eat clean, organically grown food. Avoid all pesticides and artificial fertilizers as well as chemicals of any kind. Avoid tamasic and overly rajasic foods such as sweets, coffee, and alcohol. (In the Ayurvedic system the word "rajasic" refers to foods that are active or turbulent, and that may cause agitation, anger, or fear. "Tamasic" refers to foods that make one feel heavy, dull, dark, or lethargic.) Reduce meat and animal products intake to a minimum. Usually cow's milk is very difficult to digest unless it is organic and unprocessed; it should usually be drunk within 30 minutes of milking, while it is still warm. On a final note, there are certain body types that need a little animal product to feel balanced. Test your diet through the intuition that develops from the practice of yoga, and not what anyone believes is a yogic diet.
Eating right involves the process of eating as well as what is eaten. The yogi eats when he is calm and relaxed, and not when stressed or in a hurry. The yogini chews her food well and eats as slowly as possible, finding gratitude and joy while savoring each morsel. Eating should be done in a calm atmosphere in silence or with slow soft music. This aids digestion, since digestion is a parasympathetic activity, and loud, quick-beat music, tension, and hurry, all lead to a sympathetic nervous response.
In summary, trust your instincts as to what to eat. Eat slowly and peacefully, enjoying whatever is presented on your plate or banana leaf!
Recognized as one of the world's top yoga teachers, Aadil Palkhivala began studying yoga at the age of seven with B.K.S. Iyengar and was introduced to Sri Aurobindo's yoga three years later. He received the Advanced Yoga Teacher's Certificate at the age of 22 and is the founder-director of internationally renowned Yoga Centers in Bellevue, Washington. Aadil is also a federally certified Naturopath, a certified Ayurvedic Health Science Practitioner, a clinical hypnotherapist, a certified Shiatsu and Swedish bodywork therapist, a lawyer, and an internationally sponsored public speaker on the mind-body-energy connection.