It is said that our level of development, mental and spiritual, is reflected in the kind of food we eat and our stage of consciousness is revealed in the nature of that chosen food. Both yoga and ayurveda advice on a sattvic or a pure vegetarian diet. Such a diet, it is believed, encourages the development of the higher qualities of peace, love and spiritual awareness.
Yoga and Ahimsa
The basis of an ideal sattvic diet is the attitude of ahimsa or nonviolence. A sattvic or ascetic diet is first and foremost purely vegetarian, eschewing all such methods which involve the killing or harming of animals. In addition, a lot of emphasis is put on natural foods, i.e., foods grown in harmony with nature, on good soils, ripened naturally, cooked in the right manner and with the right attitude of love. Partaking of a diet such as this helps in the development of prana or vital energy and spiritual consciousness.
Since the aim of a yogic diet is the development of air and ether elements (vata), it is best suited not only for detoxification of the body but also for widening the parameters of our mind (according to both yoga and ayurveda, the mind is basically composed of vata elements). And for the same reason, die-hard yogis recommend raw foods coupled with frequent fasts. They believe that a reduction in the body ultimately results in the expansion and development of the mind—increasing detachment and lowering our physical consciousness while raising the spiritual counterpart.
Nonviolent yogic diets consider not only the doshas or the ayurvedic humors of vata, pitta and kapha but also the role of prana. Good raw foods, such as cucumbers, radishes, carrots, tomatoes, sprouts, cilantro, parsley together with spices like ginger, cayenne, cinnamon and basil, flushes both the mind and the body with pranic energy. Traditionally, raw foods, grains and dairy products are used for cleansing the nadis or the channels of the subtle body because they bring with them an increase in prana. A combination of yogasanas, pranayama, mantra, meditation and a yogic diet works wonders for those intent on cleansing both the physical and the subtle body.
Legends have it that the great yogis of yore lived on air and prana alone! But it is possible for slightly lesser mortals to live on water, a little fruit, milk and clarified butter (ghee) too.
Foods to Eat:
• Fresh, sweet fruits of all types, preferably taken whole.
• All vegetables except onions and garlic.
• Whole grains, such as rice, wheat and oats.
• Ideally beans like mung, aduki and tofu, other types in moderation.
• Not overly roasted or salted nuts and seeds such as almonds, coconuts, walnuts, pecans and sesame.
• Butter, ghee (clarified butter) and all good natural plant-based oils like sesame, olive and sunflower.
•Dairy products like milk, ghee, yogurt and cottage cheese from dairy animals who've been treated well.
• Natural sugars such as jaggery, honey, maple syrup and molasses.
• Ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, fennel, cumin, coriander, turmeric, mint, basil, fenugreek and other such sweet spices.
• Herbal teas, natural water and fresh juices, particularly of the lemony kind.
• Foods prepared with love and consciousness. Top
Foods to Avoid:
• Meat, fish and eggs.
• Artificial, processed and junk foods.
• Canned food, except naturally canned fruits and tomatoes.
• Animal fats, margarine and poor quality oils.
• Factory farm dairy products.
• Garlic, onions and other over-spiced food.
• Fried food.
• White sugar and white flour.
• Artificial sweeteners.
• Old, stale, over and reheated food.
• Alcohol, tobacco and all other stimulants.
• Tap water and artificial beverages.
• Microwaved and irradiated food.
• Genetically engineered food.
•Foods eaten in a disturbed environment or eaten too quickly.
Yogic meditation is a means of training the being to tune itself to the workings of the Divine Being. The central principle of such meditation is to concentrate one's mental faculties upon the object of quest. But it requires long hours of practice for the mind to be able to attain such sustainable levels of concentration and absorption. This discipline, above everything else, is the essence of yoga meditation.
The success of yogic meditation depends largely on the sincerity and strength of the yogi behind it. It is not the duration but the intensity of the aspiring consciousness, which is more important and ultimately effective. Fatigue is to be avoided at all costs, since it weakens the power of concentration and jades the mind.
Yoga meditation puts the being of the meditating yogi in a condition of increased and conscious receptivity to the workings of yoga shakti or the power of yoga. With a deepening of this state of mind there is often a total withdrawal from the external environment.
With the gradual sense of awakening peace and joy, the yogi becomes aware of the powers of the Higher Consciousness in his inner self. In yoga meditation, this condition, experienced uninterruptedly in the hours of samadhi (the ultimate stage of such a meditative technique), is stabilized and organized into a state of liberation in the inner being to the exclusion of the rest of existence. The yogi's ordinary consciousness is completely stilled and immobilized in this state of samadhi.
Yogic Samkalpas For Meditation
Yoga cultivates the will or samkalpa for self-realization, which are spiritually based. They consist of the intention that one will perform various yogic practices in order to grow spiritually. The following are a few simple yogic samkalpas:
• Bhakti Yoga or Devotional Samkalpas:
"OM! I will perform the following yogic practices as an offering to the Divine Beloved. May all the divine powers bless me in this endeavor!"
• Jnana Yoga or Knowledge Samkalpas:
"OM! I will perform the following meditations to gain knowledge of God and the higher Self. May God and the great teachers aid me in this effort!"
• Karma Yoga or Service Samkalpas:
"OM! I will perform the following actions as a service to God and to living beings in order to help alleviate suffering!"
Method of Yoga Meditation
The following are a few easy tips to remember while practicing Yoga Meditation:
•Sit in a comfortable posture with an erect spine, preferably in a specific yoga posture such as the padmasana or the Lotus posture.
• Energize the breath through pranayama.
• Hold a visualization for a few minutes to clear the sensory field and focus the mind internally. This may relate to peaceful colors, geometric designs (yantra), natural images or that of a deity or guru.
• Repeat an affirmation or prayer to increase positive thought power.
• Repeat a mantra such as 'OM' to still the mind. Ideally one should repeat a mantra at least 108 times before the meditation.
• Silently observe the mind and let it empty itself out.
• Depending on one's natural temperament, it would help to try and establish contact with either God or a Higher Consciousness through the natural movement of one's heart.