Since a few weeks I am living with my dear friend who is an Ashtanga yoga teacher. Up until now no day has passed without sharing our love for food; we talk about food, we cook together, we exchange recipes and we talk even more about it;). Both of us eat as much as possible organic and plant based foods. However, our diets are quite different. Many discussions are nowadays focused on what you should eat. I don’t believe in the best diet but in the right diet for your body. Herewith a little explanation on the difference between the Yogic versus the Ayurvedic perspective on food.
Let’s start at its roots. Yoga is first and foremost a science of Self-realization. It is concern is mainly a spiritual practice, through meditation. It aims at going beyond bodily limitations. Whereas Ayurveda is primarily a science of Self-healing aimed at relieving dis-eases of body and mind. So where yoga is focused on the development of the mind. In order to expand the mind, the diet should contain foods that have a lot of Prana. Prana is composed of the bhuta’s (elements) air and ether, these are the same attributes as the nature of our mind. Prana foods come straight from the land and are not processed in any way; so no fermentation, no cooking or any other application that changes the structure of the food. This means basically, raw green leafy vegetables, fruits and sprouts that grow quickly especially in spring when Prana is abundant. Besides Prana foods, fasting and detoxification are part of the Yogic diet. Everything is aimed at cleansing the nadi’s or channels from toxins, which occurs through increasing Prana.
Although these methods can be very beneficial for reducing the attention on the physical body and increase our consciousness, they can aggravate Vata. Vata represents the airy or non-physical component of our nature. This means also that its cold and irregular properties will be increased in our body which can affect our digestive system. Our digestive system, or Agni, needs fire in order to assimilate and metabolise nutrients. This is the reason why when we are eating raw or many Prana foods we need to increase our Agni. The Yogic strategy is to increase Agni through internal practises so that Vata does not get aggravated. With a high internal heat we are not so dependent upon the heat in our food and do better with a cooling diet. This along the fact that she is a Pitta - Kapha type, is one of the reasons that my friend can eat all day long raw foods and fruits while I need cooked and soaked foods in order to increase my digestive fire and calm Vata. There is no right or wrong diet, you just need to pay attention to your bodily digestive signs and adjust accordingly.