Who Wants To Go on a REAL Yoga Diet? Not I!

What should a yogi eat? This is a hot topic, and one that has been written about by just about everyone.  Therefore I’m not going to go into too much detail, I really just have one or two points to make today.

If you want to know what I personally lean towards in terms of proper yogic diet, I find that this is a pretty good overview coming from an Ayurvedic perspective.  I do eat raw food in the summer time and I don’t use cows milk, but I’m not a strict vegan by any means.  I’ve tried various diets at different times, and I’m still exploring to see what works best for me.  I personally believe that it makes sense for yogis to follow Ayurvedic principles because the philosophy of yoga and Ayurveda are directly linked in the same cultural understanding (the Vedas – the original record of Wisdom).

Eating a sattvic (light and pure) vegetarian diet is essential if you are engaged in the spiritually-rooted, purifying practice of yoga (of course, the problem here is what exactly is a sattvic diet? You won’t always get the same answer depending on who you ask).  As a householder and someone engaged in physically strenuous activities, I find it’s also very important to eat some stimulating, more rajasic foods at times so that I feel like I have enough nourishment and grounding energy in my diet.

In my opinion, simply put, diet is like yoga – it’s about balance.  Just as the state of our mind and heart effects the way we practice yoga (and thus the effects it has on us), the way we eat and think (our intentions) about food impacts our well-being and health.   Conscious eating and conscious yoga practice? Same same. 

Today in the Western yoga scene it seems like most people believe that a completely RAW and VEGAN  and GLUTEN-FREE  and SUGAR-FREE diet is the “right” and “best” way for yogis to eat.

But, I’m certainly not one to say such a thing because I actually do eat cheese, yogurt, whole grain bread and sweet things too.  I’m certainly not a stick figure, but I am at a consistently healthy weight and I never feel deprived or weakened by my diet.  I admit though, occasionally I feel as though my bread/cake/cheese-eating makes me less “pure” or less “good” of a yogi.  Silly, right? Well, I’m not alone in this pointless guilt.  It seems like a lot of yoga practitioners feel judged by other yoga folk about the way they eat.  That’s totally lame – and that’s all I’m going to say about that.  What you want to think of me is none of my business!

Anyways, the reason I felt like talking about this today is because I was recently flipping through Yoga Mala again and I came across the section on diet.

Here’s what Guruji had to say about the yogic diet (and believe you me, the words vegan, raw, sugar-free, gluten-free are nowhere to be seen!):

“For the practitioner of yoga, the rules regarding food, sex and speech are very important.  Among the foods, those called sattvic are the best.  Vegetables however should not be consumed much. As the Ayurvedic pramana, “Shaken vardate vyadhih [By vegetables, diseases expand]” and the yoga pramama attest, vegetables are unpleasant for practitioners of yoga. Wheat, snake gourd, half-churned curds, mung beans, ginger, milk and sugar, on the other hand, are best.  Indeed, foods that extend the life span; foods that increase sattvic qualities, as well as strength, health, happiness, and love; foods that are easily digested; and foods that are natural, genuine, and follow the seasons – these are the most suitable, as they are worthy of being offered to God.

Sour, salty, or spicy foods, on the other hand, are not good for any part of the body and should not be consumed much….Foods that give rise to passions and mental darkness or that are fleshy and fattening, should never be consumed, and intoxicating substances, smoking and the like should also be relinquished.

Only half the stomach should be take up by the food that is eaten.  One quarter of the other half should be given over to water and the remaining quarter left to the movement of air.  Consuming too much food or no food at all; sleeping too much or not sleeping at all; having too much sexual intercourse; or mixing with undesirable or uncultured people – all these should be given up as much as possible, as they are obstacles to yoga….

During the period of yoga practice, it is advisable to take in much milk and clarified butter – ghee.  those that cannot afford these should pour a little cold water into some warm cooked rice, mix it togehther and take it before taking any other foods.  In this way, the essence that results from using milk and ghee will be generated and the body will be energized and nourished.”


So, if you really want to eat like a yogi (and a good yogi at that, because good yogis follow the instructions of the guru!) you should only eat:

Lots of wheat, snake gourd (wtf?), half-churned curds (don’t you dare fully churn those curds!), mung beans, ginger, milk (whole for sure!), sugar, and ghee! And for goodness’ sake, no vegetables!

Who is up for some buttery gourd dripping in curds and milk tonight?  Yum!

You eat this, 4th series coming. Tomorrow. Yes!

If I was a real trooper I would actually try to do this for a week…but I’m not…I like my herb-salt covered avocado on toast, green smoothies and raw chocolate macaroons too much…. bad lady!

But, I am a fan of the sentiment that hanging out with uncultured, annoying people is bad for my practice – that’s an excuse I could get on board with!

Any old way, all you yogis out there, what do you eat?


8 thoughts on “Who Wants To Go on a REAL Yoga Diet? Not I!

  1. Hi Lila:) Love your blog:) David Garrigues is THE man:) Thank you for sharing.
    On the diet note, I must say, I’m a huge fan of Starbucks soy latte’s, all Vegan fare and Raw as well, and I am Gluten-Free, ONLY because after much trial and a lot of error and surviving Cancer and finding out I’m Celliac, this works for me:) I have been known to loose myself in Milk Chocolate and Cheese a time or two and yes, I pay the price physically:) I thank krishna for creating digestive enzymes:). I admit, I do find it odd when folks are on the yogic path that still eat meat, but, I try not to judge, I was a meat eater 15 years ago and have never looked back. I find a healthy mix of Macrobiotics, Auyrvedic dosha diet and raw foods really keep my practice humming along, when I divert, I feel it in my practice. One thing that DG had said in his “Diet Video” was to eat to support your practice, it’s so simple and personal. Be well Lila!:)

    • hi joy!
      thanks! love that you read my blog. muchos gracias.
      dg is the man indeed! i’m glad you brought up the point about his diet post…his working with the “circles” is an effective way for me to think about diet too…. it’s important to know what is best for you and your practice, but it’s also ok to give yourself the freedom to occasionally step into the outer circles….in my opinion, conscious dietary restriction is important for health and longevity, but too much restriction can be emotionally/mentally draining which then puts stress on the body too. celliac is a darn good reason to go gluten-free…no need to apologize there! i know most people, even without celliacs, feel better off-gluten, i just haven’t jumped on board yet!
      i think what david says about “eating to support your practice” is totally in line with guruji’s advice to eat:
      “foods that extend the life span; foods that increase sattvic qualities, as well as strength, health, happiness, and love; foods that are easily digested; and foods that are natural, genuine, and follow the seasons – these are the most suitable, as they are worthy of being offered to God.”

      ps – i totally hear you about the vegetarianism thing…can’t really fathom eating meat ever again…yick!

      • If it helps… it doesn’t have to be wheat-free — just hybridized wheat-free. But even then, we eat such bread less than once a week…

  2. I love the reminder that food is an offering, of food that is “worthy of being offered to God” (or whatever you want to call your idea of What’s Out There or In Here, as the case may be). Why would I want to eat stuff that I know is toxic cr@p and that will not biodegrade in a thousand years? That is definitely not an offering! Thanks for the reminder and I really enjoy your blog!

  3. Thanks for starting the discussion! Regarding sugar – Sivananda yogis in India insist that Jaggery should be used instead, it’s unrefined and comes from cane and/or date juice and we’ve been told to only ever use that – or leave out sugar completely. Not sure if this is based on any scientific research though…

    • i love jaggery! i remember having it on pancakes and stuff like that in kerala.
      i never use pure white sugar in our household, especially since most white sugar is not vegan and it is just way too processed. i normally cook with raw turbinado sugar. recently i’ve been interested in trying out coconut sugar in baking….apparently it’s really good and less acid-forming than other sugars.
      i think there is good reason to limit sugar intake, especially for people with inflammatory conditions….personally, i love sugar (dark chocolate bars and crystalized ginger especially) but i do try to use unrefined sugars as much as possible and be mindful about the amount of sugar i do consume….

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