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What is the yoga diet?

The names of some diets share clues as to what the diet is about… the “low carb diet” is – duh – about eating fewer carbs. The name “paleo diet” tells us this diet is somehow related to ancient times. The “whole 30” name hints that whole foods might be involved. Remember the “grapefruit diet”? These diet names tell us a little about what we would be getting into if we joined. But what the heck is the “Yoga Diet”?

What is the Yoga Diet?

Also called the Yogic Diet, this way of eating is based on the components of yoga philosophy (AKA “Ayurvedic” philosophy). It is based on nourishing the body and being in a positive and peaceful head space with food. This philosophy describes three things being present in all things, just in varying amounts: Raja, Tama, and Sattva. “Raja” is used to describe spicy, hot and fast. Foods with high Raja are spicy, bitter, salty or dry. “Tama” is used to describe bland and slow, and foods higher in this are fermented, overripe, meat, bland foods, and garlic. “Sattva” describes harmonious and pure qualities. Strict yoga diets focus on foods that are more Sattvic than Rajasic or Tamasic. The belief is that eating this way leads to true health, a healthy mind and body, with a flow of positive energy between them.

Some say that the Yoga Diet is unique in this way: unlike other diets where, other than somewhat individualized calorie or “point” (weight watchers) amounts, a feature of this diet is is that it will feel different and be different for every person. If you have done yoga, you know that those practicing yoga are encouraged to adapt the poses as needed to make it personally meaningful. Yoga instructors regularly remind yogis to avoid comparing to their neighbors, and apparently this is also a feature of the Yoga Diet – avoid comparing to how others are adapting the principles and do what feels right to you.

What foods are allowed and which foods are forbidden?

The Yoga Diet is a type of vegetarian diet, therefore meat is discouraged. This comes from one of the yamas (components) of yoga, ahimsa which means “non-harming”. Harming of animals is avoided, so meat is not allowed. However, the non-harming aspect here also extends to humans, so if someone considers it “harming” to avoid meat because without it they are missing vital nutrients, it would be inline with the Yoga Diet to go ahead and include animal proteins. This an example of the fluidity and flexibility that comes with the Yoga Diet and separates it from other diets which tend to be much more black and white.

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