Diet and health - Yoga diet based on Ayurvedic principles

I often get asked if I am vegan because I am a yoga teacher. Lets look into why people ask this question and what a yogic diet really means.

Yogic diet should take into account the philosophical teachings of yoga in particular the Yamas – the social restrains, and Niyamas – self-discipline. One of the 5 Yamas is ahimsa   non-harming which  influence dietary choices and often this is interpreted as having a vegetarian or vegan diet, this is one of the interpretations. While food choices reflect yogic personal ethics, in the classic texts such as Bhagavad Gita and Yoga Sutra there is not any specific list of food to be part of a yogic diet.

In Yoga and Ayurveda literature, there are three gunas – virtues, properties: sattva – goodness, constructive, harmonious, rajas – passion, active, confused, and tamas – darkness, destructive, chaotic.

A good Yogic diet is one that is abundant in Prana – universal life-force, the one that is pure, essential, natural, vital, clean, conscious, true, honest and wise. It is a is a diet that restore and maintain a sattvic or balanced state of living.

Sattvic food are natural as unrefined as possible, free from chemicals, contamination, freshly made and prepared with love. Sattvic food includes most vegetables, ghee (clarified butter), fruits, legumes, and whole grains.

In contrast, tamasic foods are heavy food difficult to digest that have a sedative effect on the mind and body (such as processed food, onions, meat) and rajasic foods have a stimulating effect and can increase Hyperactivity  (such as coffee, hot peppers, and salt).

However a yogic diet must take into consideration personal constitution  (known in the Ayurvedic tradition as vikriti) and the current state (prakriti), it doesnt mean eating only sattvic food.

When managing health concern, correcting digestion  is often the first line of management according to Ayurveda medicine. Digestion is said to be the work of the fire element in the body (called “agni” in Sanskrit). By balancing the digestive fire, the body receive the nourishment needed to self-regulate and self-repair, this will improve other health-related issues without any further management.

There are some basic principle that one can follow:

  • All food should be in it’s purest form (organic), freshly prepared, nutritious, and appetizing.
  • Food should generally contain all 6 tastes balanced to one’s needs: sweet, salty, pungent, sour, bitter, astringent.
  • We should leave 4-6 hours between meals with no snacking in between.
  • Eat your largest meal during the day when the sun is at its peak.
  • Relax and enjoy your meals in a calm soothing environment.


  • The 6 Tastes
  • Sweet taste: grains, starchy food, vegetables, dairy, meat, sugar, honey. Effects: balance Vata and Pitta dosha, stimulates appetite and has a soothing effect in the body. Brings satisfaction and builds body mass.
  • Sour taste: tomatoes, citrus fruits, pickled food, alcohol and salad dressing. Effects: balance Vata dosha, stimulates appetite and aid digestion.
  • Salty taste: salt, soy sauce, salted food. Effects: balances Vata, enhance taste.
  • Pungent taste: Pepper, chillies, ginver, mustard, garlic, onion. Effects: Balances kapha dosha, promotes sweating and clears sinus passages.
  • Bitter taste: green and yellow vegetables, beets. Effects: Balances Kapha and Pitta doshas, detoxify the system.
  • Astringent taste: tea, cauliflower, pulses, green apples, grape’s skin, pomegranates. Effects: Balances Khapa and Pitta doshas.
  • “The best of all medicines is resting and fasting.” – Benjamin Franklin

Raffaella is a Ayurveda Yoga Teacher, Yoga Therapy for Chronic back pain and sciatica, Thai Massage, Sound Healing and Reiki Master based in Guildford. She leads courses, workshops and CSBY classes and is Publisher of The Yoga Daily. Her holistic approach invites students to unite mind, body, and spirit.

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