Eating healthy and nourishing meals are the best way to reward your body and therefore, your practice. When your body is filled with foods that serve you, you have good energy, healthy skin, better assimilating and eliminating capacities and you honor the mind and spirit.

An Ayurvedic diet should reflect the needs of an individual’s constitution, their dosha imbalances, their current state of life and the current season they are in. The foods that are best for an individual will reflect what best supports their body and their yoga practice. This is determined by their Prikruti and their current state of imbalance. Also to consider is the personal ethics of the yogi. Serving the self, serving the earth and honoring all living things are some of the ethical reasons behind a yogi’s food choices.

The Yogi Diet

1. Include the six tastes at every main meal

    • In ayurveda, foods are classified into six tastes–sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent. Ayurvedic healers recommend that you include all of these six tastes at each main meal you eat. Each taste has a balancing ability, and including some of each minimizes cravings and balances the appetite and digestion.

2. Choose foods by balancing physical attributes

  • In ayurveda, foods are also categorized as heavy or light, dry or unctuous/liquid and warm or cool (temperature), and different qualities balance different doshas. A balanced main meal should contain some foods of each physical type. Within this overall principle, you can vary the proportions of each type based on your constitution and needs for balance, the season of the year and the place you live.

3. Choose foods that are sattvic

  • ayurvedic classification of foods is by the effect they have on the non-physical aspects of the physiology–mind, heart, senses and spirit. Sattvic foods have an uplifting yet stabilizing influence, rajasic foods stimulate and can aggravate some aspects of the mind, heart or senses, and tamasic foods breed lethargy and are considered a deterrent to spiritual growth.
  • Everyone, whether actively seeking spiritual growth or not, can benefit by including some sattvic foods at every meal because they help promote mental clarity, emotional serenity and sensual balance and aid in the coordinated functioning of the body, mind, heart, senses and spirit. Almonds, rice, honey, fresh sweet fruits, mung beans and easy-to-digest, fresh seasonal vegetables and leafy greens are examples of sattvic foods.

4. Opt for whole, fresh, in-season, local foods

  • Authentic ayurvedic herbal preparations are made by processing the whole plant or the whole plant part, not by extracting active substances from the plant. Similarly, from the ayurvedic perspective, the most healthful diet consists of whole foods, eaten in as natural a state as possible, the only exception being when removing a peel or cooking helps increase digestibility and assimilation for certain types of constitutions. If the digestive fire is not strong enough, even wholesome foods can turn into ama (toxic matter) in the body.

5. Rotate menus and experiment with a variety of foods

  • The sages that wrote the ancient ayurvedic texts would be horrified by our current fascination with the low-carb diet or the no-fat diet or the juice diet–from the ayurvedic perspective, any diet that is exclusive in nature is by definition incomplete in its nutritive value and ability to balance all aspects of the physiology. Eat a wide variety of foods for balanced nutrition–whole grains, lentils and pulses, vegetables, fruits, dairy, nuts, healthy oil or ghee, spices and pure water all have their roles in the balancing process.

6. Include spices and herbs in your daily diet

  • Spices and herbs are concentrated forms of Nature’s healing intelligence. They are particularly revered in ayurveda for their ability to enhance digestion and assimilation, help cleanse ama (toxins) from the body and their yogavahi property–their ability to transport the healing and nutritive value of other components of the diet to the cells, tissues and organs.

The Author: Shreelata Suresh is a yoga instructor from the Bay Area who writes for various publications on yoga and ayurveda. For more information on ayurveda, please visit http://www.ayubalance.com