Our popular contributor Kara-Leah takes a look at how to eat mindfully using a yogic perspective – combining the wisdom of Ayurveda and the concept of the Gunas.
by Kara-Leah Grant
In an ideal world, everything you ate would be organic and locally grown.
It would be planted, tended, harvested and stored with love and attention. It would be cooked and presented and eaten with love and attention. Nothing would contain additives, or preservatives, nor would much of it be frozen, dried or tinned.
So lets assume this is true – how do you know exactly what to eat? Ignoring the restrictions of eating locally (mountain dwellers wouldn’t be dining on prawns, nor would New Zealanders be drinking coffee), you would eat what you needed most for your particular energetic state and your desired result.
One way to explore our energetic states is through Ayurveda – part of the Vedic traditions of India that include yoga.
Ayurveda divides the body into three different states of being, or doshas – Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
All three are present within us, in different quantities at different times, constantly changing.
The key body qualities of Vata are dryness, lightness and some degree of coldness. If there is an excess of Vata in the body, it might manifest as dryness of the joints – say osteoarthritis.
The key quality of Pitta is heat, and the metabolic activities of the body. Excess Pitta can result fevers, hives, rashes, acne, sore throats, acid indigestion, excessive hunger, profuse perspiration and hot flashes.
Lastly, Kapha is related to coldness, stability and the ability to bind or hold structures together. Illnesses brought about by excess Kapha include weight gain, congestion and lethargy, including allergies. When choosing a diet for maximum energetic vibration, an understanding of the body in Ayurvedic terms helps you choose foods that balance out your natural tendencies.
The three doshas are further expanded on when one starts to look at the three states of mind according to yogic philosophy – the three gunas, Sattva, Rajas and Tamas.
Our mind is in a state of sattva when we experience contentment, clarity and quiet. This is where we WANT to be most of the time – a place when intuition and psychic power can easily flow.
Our mind is in a state of rajas when we are driven to action by desire or dislike. We’re either working to attain something or avoid something. In contrast, our mind is in a state of tamas when we are in a state of lethargy and uncertainity – when we don’t know what to do, or can’t be bothered doing anything.
By balancing out our doshas, and paying attention to the gunas, we can choose our food based on needs. This excellent site will give you more indepth information on specific foods to balance the three doshas – Holistic Online.
When I went and had an Ayurvedic consultation, I discovered that all the foods I was recommended to eat, and to steer clear of, completely matched my natural inclinations and tendencies. However you don’t need to spend a lot of time worrying about which dosha you are and what guna you’re experiencing. One of the many benefits of regular yoga practice, an especially home yoga practice is that you can FEEL what your body needs – that’s what being conscious is all about.
So how do you know WHAT do eat? Simply be conscious.
Take a moment to tune into your breath and body, just as if you were meditating or practicing yoga. Once you feel that level of connection, then:
- Tune into your energy levels – what are they like? High, low, ungrounded, flat?
- Tune into your mind – what state is it in? Content, active, inactive?
- Tune into your cravings – what do you feel like eating?
- Draw the connection between these three things – take your energy needs, and your mind’s present state, and deduce from your cravings what type of food you need to eat.
- Make the BEST choice possible for you at this time – the choice that addresses these needs.
When my energy vibration gets high and ungrounded and I feel all floaty, I know I need to ground myself. I do this by eating heavy, kapha type foods. Unhealthy choices include pastries, cakes and doughy type concoctions. Medium choices include read meat, cheese or wine. Best choices include root vegetables – beet root, carrots, kumara and pumpkin.
When your energy is low and you’re having trouble getting up from the couch an unhealthy choice might be a handful of candy, a medium choice might be a coffee, or the best choice might be a salad with legumes and sunflower seeds and an oil and lemon juice dressing.
By constantly paying attention to how you feel before and after eating particular foods, you can start to notice the effect they have in you. This adds to your wealth of knowledge so that can address your needs with more and more accuracy.
As you start to vibrate higher, you will find your tastes change.
You may find that you develop cravings for different types of food. I was craving asparagus for awhile there, something about it just felt so good in my system. Being conscious as you eat means that you don’t choose food based on habit, but rather need.
Eating for energy doesn’t exclude many foods we’ve been trained to think of as ‘bad’. Your ideal diet may include coffee, chocolate and wine. Yet over time you will also become more aware of how these particular foods affect your state of mind – for example coffee makes the mind rajas, wine make you more tamas.
If you are serious about raising your vibration – at bringing yourself into a state of sattva – eat foods like vegetables, fruits and legumes.
Resist foods that will bring your energy lower such as coffee, caffeine, dairy products, processed foods, sugar, and red meat. All of these tend to make your energy very heavy and dense.
For a specific approach to the energetic levels of foods, check out this short article – The vibrations of food and drink. It suggests using measuring the Bovis unit level of foods using a handmade chart and pendulum. Given that we’d expect fresh, organic fruit to score higher than processed cakes, it would be easy to check it’s validity. (Which I haven’t done.)
If you work as a psychic, or intuitive, your energetic state becomes even more important – and I suspect you wouldn’t need such a device, instead paying attention to what your own intuition suggests. Slade from Shift your Spirits says he’s always paying attention to how food feels, and what works for him.
“Doing Intuitive/ Psychic Readings for large numbers of people has created its own set of body and energy requirements. One thing I can say for sure, 100% of the time, performing a Reading dehydrates me. It’s as simple as that.
I have also observed that in my body a combination of proteins and carbs at the same time makes me stupid on many levels. When I eat meat I combine it with vegetables, instead of with breads or starches.
The Meat and Potatoes staple is psychically inhibiting, while a steak and a salad seems to be fine. One of my favorite positive psychically-enhanced food phenomena is what a friend of mine calls a Sushi Buzz.
A Sushi Buzz is a mild euphoric feeling that I get from a high concentration of beneficial omega fatty acids — found in fish oils, these particular proteins are believed to positively affect brain activity and cognitive functions. Combine this with the Miso Soup appetizer, for the intense soy protein rush.
Caffeine, in moderate quantities, at the right time of day, absolutely enhances my psychic ability.”
I’ve experienced most of this in my own life too – in particular, although wine and sake are both alcohols, each has a completely different energetic feel in the body. Wine is complex, warm and heavy, whereas sake is light, clear, clean and ‘sparky’. Wine puts me to sleep, sake makes me want to chat and dance all night long.
Experiment in your own life and figure out what works for you – what raises YOUR vibration?
And trust your instincts – you KNOW how to eat an optimum diet for your particular energetic state, just as you know that the optimum diet for maximum energetic vibration is 95% raw, live foods. (All organic and locally produced with love…)
But that’s not feasible, or possible for most people – but by being aware of the energetic nature of foods, you can continue to make better and better choices. And who knows, maybe one day, you will find you ARE eating a 95% raw, live food diet because it just feels right to you.
Imagine what your energetic vibration would be like then!
Kara-Leah is a writer and yoga teacher who has always been infinitely curious about the make-up of the human psyche and body. Regular yoga helped her heal and recover from chronic back issues, including a spinal fusion at age 16, and two episodes of psychosis at age 29.
Her daily home yoga practice began in earnest when people kept asking her to teach them yoga. She’s since trained as a teacher with Shiva Rea, and immersed herself in practicing, teaching yoga and writing about yoga. Kara-Leah lives just outside of Queenstown, New Zealand with her son Samuel.
She’s the publisher of The Yoga Lunchbox and has just published her first book, Forty Days of Yoga – Breaking down the barriers to a home yoga practice. She’s also a regular contributor to the Elephant Journal.