Pinterest is so confusing when it comes to choosing a Yoga or Ayurvedic Diet. I’ve been a yoga practitioner/teacher for decades and I’m an ayurvedic practitioner, so here’s the lowdown.
But first I’m going to answer the question, “Which is Better, a Yoga or Ayurvedic Diet?”
The Answer: For who? And what are your goals?
The better question is “What is the difference between a yogic diet and an ayurvedic diet AND which is best for me?
If you are like me, you where first introduced to yoga then to ayurveda. I practiced my asanas, postures and discovered recommendations for eating to support my yoga practice.
The recommendations for yogic eating were and still are not eating 1/2 hour before yoga practice. Eat something light after the practice but wait for a heavier meal. Oh and the biggie – Eat a Vegetarian Diet. Make it fresh and make it clean.
When I discovered Ayurveda I naturally assumed that yogic diet was the same as an ayurvedic diet. I transferred my understanding (vegetarian) to Ayurveda and added the principles of eating according to my dosha. After all, Ayurveda and Yoga are sister sciences.
In other words vegetarianism isn’t a required diet style in ayurveda. The differences between an ayurvedic diet and a yogic diet stems from the basic goals of each of these two practices. Once we understand the goal, we can choose according to our specific constitution, lifestyle, environment and goals in life.
So let’s start from the beginning….
What are the goals of each of these sciences?
The Goal of Yoga is:
Yoga’s primary goal is to still the mind.
Patanjali in his famous Yoga Sutras says: 1.2 Yoga Chitta Vrtti Nirodhaha Attaining mastery over the modifications of the chitta, or mind, is the core and goal of yoga.
The Goal of Ayurveda is:
Ayurveda is concerned with everything that is useful or not useful to life.
Acharya Vagbhata in the Ashtanga Hrdayam Su 1.2 writes Purpose of Ayurveda: One who desires a long life in order to attain virtue, wealth and happiness should apply oneself to the teachings of Ayurveda.
Rshi Charaka says in the Charaka Samhita Su 1.41 The science which imparts knowledge about life, with special reference to its definition, and the description of happy and unhappy life, useful and harmful to life, long and short spans of life promote and demote longevity, that which explains medicine, its qualities and functions is called Ayurveda.
We can see from these statements Yoga concerns itself with the mind. The body happens to be the vehicle of the mind, so it must concern itself with the body as well.
Ayurveda concerns itself with life and longevity. The body, mind and all that is contained within life. So there is some overlap but the goals are subtly different.
So a person who practices yoga can easily adapt an ayurvedic food regimen. However a person who practices Ayurveda does not have to practice yogic dietary restrictions.
Sattva, Rajas, Tamas – states of energy
In Ayurveda we want to develop a mind that is serene, joyful and clear thinking, the same is true of yoga. Foods which support this type of mind are light, easy to digest, in appropriate quantities, fresh, clean and so on.
Foods with the above qualities are generally called Sattvic foods as these are what the foods that are light, easy to digest, in appropriate quantities, fresh and clean promote.
Yoga’s ultimate goal is to go one step beyond a Sattvic Mind. The additional step is to quiet the mind so that one can reach enlightenment. In order to do so, the mind must overcome the other two states of mind, rajas and tamas. Therefore they are restricted from eating those foods. Indulging in rajasic and tamasic foods creates energy in the body and mind. “You become what you eat.”
What are Rajasic and Tamasic Foods?
Sattvic foods promote clarity and lightness – Fruits, vegetables, nuts and certain dairy products are part of this category. Yogis prefer these types of foods due the the nature of a yogic lifestyle and it’s ultimate goal. When food is light and easy to digest, the body and mind can sit in meditation longer.
Rajasic foods are foods which promote Rajasic energy. Rajas is the transformative quality of movement, passion and energy.
Rajasic foods are often salty, spicy sour, caffeinated with just enough sweetness to provide energy. Certain types of proteins like eggs and perhaps white meats can be classified as Rajasic foods. Garlic, Onions, Pickled and Fermented Foods are considered Rajasic. Coffee and wine are considered rajasic as they can disturb the mind. Rajasic qualities of movement, passion and energy provide the ability to work, cardio exercise, socialize etc…
Tamasic Foods are foods which promote Tamas. Tamas is associated with the qualities of heavy, dull and ignorance and sleep.
Tamasic quality of heavy, and dull are often foods that are old (leftovers), preserved, difficult or heavy to digest. Red Meat falls into this category. They are foods that build bulk, either in fat or muscle tissue. Mushrooms are considered Tamasic. Tamasic foods help create sedentary lifestyles.
yoga lifestyle vs non-yogis
Yogis who live a quiet meditate lifestyle do not want to disturb the mind, this is the reason for the sanctions against onions and garlic. Ayurveda honors everyone where they are in terms of lifestyle and health conditions.
An example of using tamasic food in Ayurveda may be – someone who has lost a lot of weight due to illness. An ayurvedic diet suggestion may contain bone broth which is easy to digest yet can help with building fat and muscle tissue.
An example of using rajasic food would be for someone who may be in the midst of depression or just needs more energy, a rajasic diet of nicely spiced foods may be called for which may include onions or garlic.
Which is better a yoga or ayurvedic diet? It depends.
I side, with the ayurvedic diet because my goal is longevity until I reach enlightenment, not enlightenment at all costs.
My lifestyle is one that requires me to have quick energy and I don’t have the luxury of meditating or practicing asana (yoga postures) for long periods of time. Until I do, I prefer to focus in on my body’s food requirements which will help my mind rather than my mind’s requirements to the exclusion of my body’s health requirements.
What are your goals and lifestyle requirements? I’d love to know which diet you choose.