Monday, December 26, 2011

Food at the Yoga Farm: The yogic diet

Disclaimer: I'm still a newbie on this path, so I might have some facts that are incorrect. If so, please forgive the error and let me know so I may correct it.

In my introductory post about the Yoga Farm, I discussed how my digestive health benefited immensely from food that I ate there. Naturally, I was intrigued by how the food was prepared because the food had the same positive effect on my digestion regardless of the menu.

The diet is a simple lacto-vegetarian diet, but they also avoid ingredients such as onions, garlic, mushrooms, vinegar, fermented/aged foods, and excessive chilis. I later discovered that this is quite a common diet among Vaishnavs (followers of Vishnu), and as such it is commonly referred to as a Vaishnav diet. Yet another name for this diet is the sattvic diet. Followers of ISKCON (more commonly known as the Hare Krishnas) also follow this diet. The goal of the diet is to minimize karmic impact by being non-violent (hence vegetarian), and promote clarity of the mind for advancing on the spiritual path by eating light, fresh, easy to digest foods.

Because of abstinence from onions and garlic, people sometimes confuse this with the Jain diet, but the Jain diet is even stricter than this one and further excludes most vegetables that grow below the surface of the ground such as potatoes.

Additionally, there is a lot of emphasis on fresh food. The life force or prana that we get from the food is highest in fresh foods. The food at the Yoga Farm is usually prepared fresh starting about 2 hours or so before each meal. Any leftovers of cooked food are stored in the refrigerator, and can be reheated and served only once within 24 hours. Anything older than that is composted. Stale food lacks life force and creates heaviness in the mind and the body and that's why it must be avoided. The calories that we get from processed food and the calories that we get from fresh food have an entirely different effect on the mind and the body. It is after this education that I stopped paying attention to the "nutrition information" on packaged processed foods and usually just avoid them altogether.

Finally, the cooking methods are influenced by ayurveda which is a holistic form of medicine from ancient India. They use organic, unrefined oils, and liberally use basic ayurvedic spices such as turmeric, cumin seed, coriander seed, fennel seed, fresh ginger, and mustard seeds that are known for promoting digestion and allowing the body to better absorb nutrients.

More on onions and garlic

Onions and garlic are considered to be disturbing to the mind and hinder the practice of meditation. Perhaps the best article I have seen on the subject of avoiding onions and garlic is "Why no onions and garlic?" by Kurma. A number of Buddhist vegetarians also avoid using onions and garlic.

Personally, I have found several prosaic benefits from avoiding onions and garlic -- no bad breath, food tastes better because the flavors of the underlying ingredients are no longer overpowered by the pungent flavor of onions and garlic, and I have less trouble with heartburn.

Why no mushrooms?

From what I have been told it's because mushrooms grow in the dark and they are a fungus. With respect to food that grows in the dark, wouldn't that be true for vegetables like carrots and potatoes that grow underground?  Not quite.  While the vegetable is underground, the leaves are exposed to sunlight and grow above the ground.

More than just a diet

Of course, the yogic diet is just one of things that is part of the yogic lifestyle. The yogic lifestyle requires being careful of everything that we consume. This includes abstaining from intoxicants such as caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol, but even extends to being careful about what we consume with our other sense organs as well -- movies, books, music, etc. While I've been encouraged to follow the diet because of the more prosaic benefits that I noted above, I'm still not there yet in terms of following the complete yogic lifestyle.

1 comment:

  1. Love their food. The environment and the food make the meals heavenly!