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What Do Yogis Eat?

Follow that smell and pay the price

Yoga isn’t like the gym where I could eat an entire pizza and pint of Ben and Jerry’s and then spend an hour on the treadmill to burn it off. No kidding. That's how I used to live. But yoga makes me pay attention to reality.

The Wickedness of Cravings

It’s been over ten years since I was a regular coffee drinker. I gave up coffee when I gave up cigarettes (while peanut butter’s okay by itself, jelly makes it a whole lot yummier, you know?). 

The Former Coffee Drinker (me) used to eat a typical American diet showing little discretion about what I put into this sophisticated system known as the human body. I drank coffee all day, ate fast food when I was in a hurry, and while plugged into the TV would munch on anything I found in the snack aisle. Preferably something colored in Yellow #6 - whatever that is - because that color always drew me in (ahem, Cheetos).

I always switched back and forth between America’s two favorite condiments: salt and sugar. I didn’t eat much fruit, but if it was fruit flavored – Jolly Ranchers, Skittles, Mike and Ikes – I was all about it. Don’t get me wrong, I also ate high-class stuff like steak at Ruth’s Chris. And my favorite dessert was Chocolate Mousse Anything - especially with Kaluha drizzle yumminess. Or Bailey’s.

What I didn’t realize is that I had slowly, over a period of over 20 years, completely destroyed my palate. And my insides - they rarely craved anything but salt and/or sugar.

Somebody Throw Me a Rope!

Yogis have an explanation for cause (drinking coffee) and effect (being up all night) that happens in my diet. And in everything else. It’s called triguṇa, or “three strands” of nature. The three strands are as follows: action or rajas (from the Sanskrit root raj = “to be excited”), inertia or tamas, and lucidity or sattva. They all act like threads in a rope, intimately intertwined and, except for mental discernment, are inseparable.

While some people are couch potatoes, for the most part I’ve been a high-energy girl, so rajas is probably my spoiled brat of a mind’s favorite guṇa. Rajasic foods are spicy, salty, dry, sweet, bitter or sour. You know, like coffee, Cheetos... And those yogis claim that eating in a hurry is a rajasic practice. Because I can’t get those Skittles down fast enough. And I wonder why my mind is restless.

For my occasional inner-couch potato, a trip to Tamas City. Ever notice after a big steak dinner and a Chocolate Mousse Kahlua dessert that the couch looks better than bed? Because I’m awake, but miserably full. Because guess what? Overeating is considered tamasic - something I’d always do eating out. Because the portions in this country are big and rich. And now that I’m home I can’t get off the couch. 

Process of Elimination

So, when I embarked on this crazy yoga journey I gradually began cutting things out of my diet. Like Cheetos (rajasic). Like red meat (tamasic). And began incorporating sattvic foods into my diet like broccoli. Like raspberries and blueberries. Like yummy yogurt. And whaddaya know? I began tasting things again. And my mind was clearer… without Adderall! And because I was more balanced on the inside! And most importantly, my moods became less and less the boss of me. Thanks to my diet. Because I paid attention to it.

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