Our diet, according to Ayurveda (Ayur = Life, Veda = Science), not only affects our bodies but also our mental makeup and disposition.
Food items are therefore classified into three categories – Sattvic, Rajasic and Tamasic – depending on the effect they have on our mental and psychological constitution. The term ‘Sattvic’ comes from the Sanskrit word ‘Sattva’ which means purity.
Sattvic foods are those that are healthy, fresh, light, easy to digest and calming to the mind. They promote focus and clarity of the mind, as well as a loving disposition. Rice, milk, ghee, honey, mung beans, fresh fruits (not the sour kind) and vegetables such as carrots, squash, zucchini and sprouts are considered Sattvic foods. These prepare the body and mind for withdrawal of the senses in yoga whereas Rajasic foods like cauliflower, eggplant, sour fruits, poultry, fish and certain spices increase the activity and agitation of the mind. Tamasic foods like onions, mushrooms, red meat and alcohol are heavy and promote dullness and lethargy.
The key to a healthy diet lies in maintaining a constant awareness of our needs and remaining flexible in times of transition as we go through different stages of life rather than following a rigid diet. A bowl of rice and mung beans may be the ideal lunch for a person sitting at a desk all day but may not meet the nutritional needs of a manual laborer sweating it out for eight hours everyday.
Yoga teaches us the importance of being present and adapting, so we can lead balanced and successful lives, which requires a combination of spiritual pursuits, purposeful activity and rest.